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.
Where the people are fully awake to the duty of giving, no easier, more convenient, or efficient plan can be used than the printed circular, or pastoral letter plan. It does away with all undue pressure, unscriptural arguments, personal appeal, and personal influence. The success of the plan is made to rest, not upon impulse, but upon conscience and principle. This was the method used by St. Paul in collecting the alms of the Christians at Corinth to aid the poor and persecuted Christians of Judea. They were not to wait until the apostle stood before them in person, and with an appeal of moving oratory or tender pathos, played upon their emotions and secured their contributions, but they were to give from principle - from a sense of Christian duty - laying by in store as God had prospered them, that there be no solicitation and no personal appeals when the apostle should come.
Much might be said in favor of this method. It must, however, be distinctly understood that its success is dependent upon an enlightened sense of Christ-tian duty. If this is wanting, but little can be expected to result from the use of the pastoral letter plan.
We have known this method to be used with great success, and in an enlightened Christian community, exercised in the grace of giving, there is no system which so nicely meets the want, doing away with all soliciting and subscription committees, and accomplishes the result so efficiently and pleasantly as this very method. To any one who has suffered the unkindnesses attendant upon the circulation of a subscription during long weeks, and even months, of arduous toil, it will be a sufficient recommendation of this plan to say that it does away with this necessity.
In addition to the following sample letter, we refer the reader to another specimen under the head of "Pastoral Letter Plan," Chapter V:
Dear Brethren in Christ:
Ten years ago, by the united effort of all the people, we were enabled to erect our present large and prized church edifice. The total cost of the building, when complete and furnished, was $42,496.25. Of this amount, $17,600 was subscribed before awarding the contracts, and $14,250 was added on the day of dedication. Of these amounts, $28,417 was paid in, making a loss of $3,433 on unpaid subscriptions. This left a balance of $14,079.25 unprovided for. The increased expenses and many needed repairs upon the roof have nearly exhausted the annual income of the treasury, and left much of the interest to accumulate, until the entire debt upon the first day of next month will amount to $23,791.67.
It is proposed now to make a final effort to cancel the entire amount, and to aid in accomplishing this most desirable result, you are asked to contribute in a liberal, Christian spirit. In order that you may not, upon the one hand, wrong yourself and family, or upon the other, withhold from God that which is justly his, your pastor desires that you make this matter a subject of earnest prayer for two weeks, and that at the expiration of that time you fill up the accompanying blank and lay it upon the collection plate the following Sabbath. As ye have freely received, so freely give.
First Presbyterian Church,
October 12, 1880. 12
The accompanying is the blank to be filled up:
----------------Pa., October 26, 1880.
After prayerfully considering my ability and duty to contribute toward the liquidation of the debt resting upon our church, I will and do hereby.cheerfully subscribe the sum of thirteen hundred dollars ($1,300, to be paid in four quarterly installments, the first to be paid one month from this date.
John Stillwater. monthly collection plan.
In a congregation of wealth, we have known $8,000 to be raised in a single year, by setting apart the 'offerings placed in the collection boxes upon the first Sabbath of each month, for the payment of a church debt.
There are but few congregations in which this plan would accomplish the end to be attained. In its use, great caution would need to be used lest the result should be so meager as to belittle the cause and defeat the success of this, or any plan which might be used subsequently. In most congregations the results of this plan would be disastrous.
Where the claims against a congregation are held by people of wealth, or liberality, or both, it occasion-ally happens that a debt has been canceled by inducing such person, or persons, to surrender their claims.