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 a congregation is composed of such as have no accumulated property, but are dependent upon their daily labor, it is well to use a sinking-fund plan. This consists in the appropriation of an annual surplus to the reduction of the debt. It may be a plan like the preceding envelope subscription, or it may be an annual surplus from pew rentals, or any other revenue the church may have.
A very good plan was tried by Rev. G. W. Enders, and by request of the editor of the Lutheran Evangelist, was written up for publication in that paper. As it is full of energy and suggestion, we insert it here in full: "Mr. Editor:
"I propose to fulfill my promise by writing, at your request, an article of our method of paying our church debt. It is one of the good signs of the times that churches are bestirring themselves to be up with the apostolic injunction, 'owe no man anything.'
"I found every church, of which 1 have been pastor, in debt My experience bears me out in saying that a debt is one of the most serious hindrances to the prosperity of the church. Does the pastor want to make any local improvement, or take up a collection for missions or any other benevolent cause, he is met with, 'But we must pay off the debt first, charity begins at home,' &c. But that debt is carefully preserved to furnish excuse against charity anywhere.
"Well, I found my present church in debt about $4,000. My first endeavor after settlement here was to pay the debt. But various "I pray thee have me excused,' met me at every turn. Some said, 'Can't be done these hard times,' others, 'We've paid our share already, let others pay up;' others,'We've paid to the church for years, now let this debt alone and our children will pay it when they grow up.' and others still pleaded, 'It's not good for a church to be out of 11 debt, because so long as a church has debt it won't go into new undertakings and expense; and so money is saved by having a debt,' etc.
"I found it, therefore, impractible to pay off our church debt in the usual way. I cast about, resolved upon and carried out, and 'propose to continue the following plan, viz:
"I districted my congregation by streets and squares in the city, and those in the county by neighborhoods. All this I put on paper.
"Then I called a meeting of all my young people and all unmarried communicants, excluding everybody else. To this assembly ray plan was submitted, with suitable instructions and explanations. A young people's society was immediately organized, the young-ladies electing one of their number as treasurer for their portion of the lot. Similarly a young man was elected treasurer for the young men. Collectors were appointed in every district according to my written programme, and it was agreed that each one ought to give at least one cent a day towards the payment of the debt, and the collectors were instructed to make a list of all church members within their respective districts, and to call regularly once every week for contributions. My young people took hold of this work with enthusiasm, and with what result the conclusion will show.
"Next I called a meeting of all the married ladies of the congregation and proposed my plan. They adopted it and at once proceeded to appoint collectors to make the weekly collection.
"Then I organized my Catechetical class, in like manner electing a girl and boy respectively, treasurer for their sides, and one exercise of the meeting of the class was to take up the collection wherever the class met. Next, younger children were appointed in various parts of the congregation to gather the children's offerings. (But to date I have been unable to see my way clear to organize the fathers into active companies.)
"During the last week of each month the collectors report to their respective treasurers and pay over the money. Then on the first Sunday in the month a service appropriate is held in the church, and each treasurer and all persons wishing to make gifts are invited to arise and bring their offering to the altar and lay it thereon, after which a general collection is held for this same object.
"We began this work last January, and have not omitted a single week or month. Of course, it requires tact, care and labor to keep so extensive a machinery in running order. Feeble objections, and sometimes obstructions arise, but a little oil prevents much friction. But some will say, 'What, a penny a day, and every day, week and month? It's too silly; and won't work or it won't pay.' Well, to satisfy all such, let me say that I esteem it to be God's plan, 'here a little and there a little.'
"And I give you here the monthly results. We began about the middle of January, and the first Sunday in
February was our first collection......$ 80 27
March................. 231 02
April................ 130 80
May.................. 124 13
June (including $100 given by one member). 208 34
July.................. 64 65
August................. 112 16
September (including $207 15 from railroad excursion).............. 291 37
"Moreover, several hundred dollars of old sub scriptions have during this time been paid which were considered void, but these regular collections stirred and quickened several consciences into financial rectitude.
"The result among my people is universal satisfaction with this method. All give regularly, and no one feels as if he had been injured by giving too much. All is voluntary. Our collections for other general benevolence have increased in spite of hard times. And in July my people felt that this plan was working such admirable results that they took courage to build a parsonage, which is now under roof; we like our plan so well that we shall keep on till the old debt and parsonage are paid for.
"And now, my dear brother pastor, is your church in debt? Then try faithfully our plan, and 'despise not the day of small things,' and you will be more than gratified with results.
"--------- Ind. Geo. W. Enders."
As these plans are likely to extend through a series of years, they are apt to weary both those who contribute and those who have the matter in charge. The result, however, is good, in that it enables a congregation to cancel its indebtedness, and tends to discipline a congregation in constant giving, and then, when the debt is paid, they will more naturally contribute toward other objects worthy of aid.