When last we met, we were talking about the phenomenon of helping someone whose pledge checks are bouncing. This week, we shift focus slightly to the matter of whether *our* checks--or those from our churches--might bounce as well, and whether we should be expected to "pay our own salary."
Okay, so I know stewardship season is past for most of us. We are finishing a tally and discovering that we are well below last year's numbers. I have not turned in a pledge card yet because it feels a little bit awkward—knowing precisely that my pledge is one that could make up some of a gap in basics (like, say, my own salary). Should pastors pledge to their churches? Should we be a leader of the giving in our churches? (a tricky question, since no one will know where the money comes from!) I can't make up my mind about how to approach this, since I know that I'm basically paying myself when I pledge to my own church. I have other charitable organizations to which I give during the year, and another church (where I used to be a member before the whole being-a-pastor thing) to which I contribute, but I'm just not sure how to approach this pledging thing, especially this year when I'm so aware of the gap we have in current pledges and budget needs. Help!
Several years back I was in a similar uncomfortable position. The church board was discovering that actual money received was lagging a certain amount behind what had been pledged. A quick mental calculation on my part told me that my household's unpaid pledge balance made up for nearly half the gap. We had sustained a financial blow midyear and were not able to give what we'd planned. Only I and our treasurer would have been able to connect those dots, but still it felt very weird.
Regarding pledging to your own congregation--I do know several clergy who pledge to our denomination's general mission fund directly rather than to their own church, for the reasons you state. I feel differently. Rather than seeing our family's pledge as "paying my own salary" I look at it as contributing to the overall mission of the church--only part of which is paying staff to facilitate that mission.
Ann says(note: I'm paraphrasing her slightly):
I think the pastor should pledge a percentage to the church where one is the pastor. It should be for your own spiritual health, not for other reasons, such as the budget gap—otherwise it's not stewardship, which is a year-round thing that is entrusted to you: Time, talent and treasure, as the saying goes. Decide the percentage first, rather than when you see the gap that exists.
We're looking for questions for upcoming weeks, as well. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.