This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
As some pastors prefer a system which will provide for both the home and foreign work, we present in full a system introduced by Rev. W. T. Wylie, and known as The Bellefonte Method.
There are two sets of cards, or, for greater convenience, one card printed on both sides. On one side, under the head of "Support of the Gospel," an estimate is made of the money required for the year, including pastor's salary, sexton's services, Sabbath-school work, fuel, light, repairs, etc. This divided by 365 gives how much is needed every day for the year. This result divided by the number of communicants shows the average per day required of each. Some, of course, can give far more than this average amount, while others fall below it. The contributions of friends, adherents and children, in addition to communicants, will almost certainly secure the average required.
The second side is for the "Spread of the Gospel." No estimate of any amount is placed on this, but each communicant is enjoined to give, as God enables, a daily sum, to which from time to time may be added as a special contribution whatever the giver is able to set apart. Every friend is also invited to join in this. The sum total of this fund is before the session, who appropriate as they think best to the different boards and other claims which are brought before the church, and report their action to the congregation.
Two sets of envelopes accompany these cards One package of twelve, or one for each month, of a dark color, is furnished by the trustees. The other package also contains twelve envelopes of a light color, the different colors being used to distinguish them.
The cards are distributed to the congregation, and given to every member and adherent, and also the children of church members. The object is explained, and each is urged to make his duty a matter of careful and prayerful study, and then to fill up the blanks in each card, sign his name, and return on the next Sabbath. It is very important that families so divide their contributions that each member, even the little child, has some share in the work.
When the cards are returned, the names are entered in the treasurer's book, together with the sum subscribed by each. Then twenty-four envelopes are placed with each card in a neat box prepared for this purpose (twelve dark for Church Support, and twelve light for Spread of the Gospel), and given to the person whose name is on the card. On the back of each envelope is written the person's name, as on the card. At the close of each month every individual places the amount of his contribution in the envelope, seals it, and drops it into the collection on Sabbath. The treasurer opens the envelopes, credits each with the payment made, and thus the work goes on to the close of the year.
In case some members of the church have not sent in their cards at the first, as is likely to occur through delay or carelessness, they should be called on by a committee of session for the work of benevolence and by a committee of trustees for church support.
Not one member of the church should be left whose name is not enrolled as giving, if only one cent a day.
Advantages of the System. - These are numerous and decided, both as to the individual giving and the cause. They are even more important in a spiritual point of view than in a pecuniary.
1. Every one is called to do his share in the Lord's work.
2. Each gives in the easiest way - day by day, little by little.
3. Each is called to exercise conscience, and act habitually as towards God, thus educating himself in God's work.
4. Daily thought and daily prayer are directed to our first great work in life, sustaining and spreading the Lord's cause.
5. The session can see just how each member is performing his duty.
6. There is no annoyance from collectors, each being his own collector, and the account can be prepared so that a glance will show how it stands.
7. The poorest member of the church can do his share just as well as the wealthiest, and feel that all are helpers of Christ's work, "each as God enables."
How to Introduce the System. - Let the session and trustees each examine the method pertaining to their several departments.
It is better to adopt and introduce them at once, but if the trustees prefer some other way, the session may adopt and work the scheme for the benevolent contributions of the church.
When the plan is decided on, get your cards printed so as to have one for each man, woman and child in the bounds of the congregation.
Distribute on a Sabbath when there is a full attendance, and collect on the next Sabbath; be prompt in getting all the cards in, then fill out your treasurer's roll, prepare and distribute the envelopes, and keep the business up square.
We append also a brief extract from another very excellent development of the same plan, prepared by "Z. W. B." and published in the Congregationalist:
"In our local field we have to provide (1) for the public preaching of the gospel in God's house, for the prayer-meetings, for the Sabbath-school, and for the various other agencies which a live church will employ in strengthening itself and in reaching the community around; and (2) for aiding the poor whom God's providence has placed among us. The ormer, including warming, lighting and care of the house, pastor's salary, etc., will cost say $5,000. As the Master's command is to preach the gospel to the perishing, and as the whole tenor and spirit of the New Testament shows that He would have the poorest and humblest sinner made welcome to come and listen to the glad tidings of salvation ('to the poor the gospel is preached'), so we should have no caste in the house of the Lord (see James ii. 2, 3), no exclusive pews, no hired or purchased seats, but every seat should be free, whosoever will, may come and take of the water of life freely. This will necessitate regular contributions. If all the three hundred persons whose names are on the church records could be counted as 'paying' members, thirty-two cents a week from each would meet this demand; but as, for various reasons, a large number cannot be so counted, let us suppose that two hundred and fifty will be regular contributors; then it will take an average of thirty-nine cents a week from each.
" For the relief work and local charities a competent relief committee could expend to advantage $500 during the year. Four cents a week from each paying member will give this."
The Home Missionary Work, the Foreign Mission- ary Work, the Work Among the Seamen, and the Distribution of Bibles and Religious Literature - each is presented clearly and fully in a lengthy but most excellent circular, and the claims of each cause is estimated as follows:
I. The Local Work.
For church expenses, per week .............
For Relief Fund ........................
II. The Home Missionary Work.
For Home Missionary Society ...........
For American Missionary Association
For Congregational Union ........
For College and Education Society. .
III. The Foreign Work.
For A. B. C. F. M.........
"This would make the weekly sum for a family having two church members (the average number), $1.15, amounting for the year to $59.80, which is the 'tithe' of an income of $598, or five per cent of an income of $1,196. There are those among us who will undoubtedly (at least for the missionary objects) give twice, thrice, five or ten times the amount named. - "The sum named for the local work (43 cents per week, or $22.36 a year for each paying member) will of course vary from these figures in those churches where the membership bears a different ratio to expenses. Thus a church having five hundred paying members and the same expenses, would need but half the sum named from each.
"For all the other channels of our work the sum named (14 1/2 cents a week, or $7.54 a year, for the work in all the world) is the very lowest which will pay our debts. And the size of the local church makes no difference as to this. It is the minimum which the 'paying members' of any church should average.
IV. The Work Among the Seamen.
For Seaman's Friend Society....
V. The Distribution of Bibles and Religious Literature.
For Bible Society ..............................
For Congregational Pub. Society. . ....
For Tract Society ..............................
"Pledges and Collections. - For the efficient accomplishment of the object in view, we would propose that the church resolve itself into a missionary society. Let the executive committee procure a supply of cards something like that below, and distribute them to the members and among the congregation, together with a circular stating the needs of the church for the ensuing year.