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.
During the past decade, the old system of pew rentals has been largely superseded by a system of regular offerings, placed in envelopes, and at short and regular intervals deposited in the collection basket at the stated times of divine worship. The system has met with unrivalled success because of its flexibility, accommodating itself to the diversified wants of the various congregations. It admits of adjustment to a system of quarterly, monthly or weekly payments in different churches, or is suited to accommodate all these classes in a single congregation. It is simple, easily understood by all, and may be rendered effective either with much or little machinery. It is easily introduced, and meets with more hearty approval from year to year. In addition, it has been more successful in securing the amounts necessary to provide for the support of the gospel, at home and abroad, than any other system in use since the apostate church of Rome, three centuries before the Reformation, substituted the unscriptural theory of "Competent Maintenance" for the heaven-ordained law of the "Divine Right of the Tithe."
Besides these, the envelope system, properly worked,
1. Is well suited to reach every member.
2. It secures the small gifts, keeping open the rills which enlarge the stream of Christian beneficence. It has the correct principle of "small gifts from many givers, at regular and frequent intervals."
3. Because of its frequency, it enjoys the advantages of moral discipline, and serves an excellent purpose in abating the force of avarice - "take heed, and beware of covetousness."
4. It elevates giving to its proper place as a part of divine worship.
5. It makes ability the standard of duty.
6. It leads each member of the church to give systematically, as well as introduces method and system into the finances of the church.
7. The first beneficent result of the system was, that it secured "more giving;" but the gradual and exalted tendencies are to secure "giving more." It seems to us to be the forerunner of the church's return to the scriptural standard of giving at least a tithe for the support and spread of the gospel.
The success of the envelope system renders it unnecessary to defend it against the charges of being unserviceable, mechanical, childish, or complicated. Its continued success and increasing usefulness give clear testimony in its defense.
It remains simply to give a few plans, such as may prove suggestive in aiding some to perfect a plan already in use, or may aid others in introducing the system which has secured such desirable results elsewhere.
It might be best for us to remind all that the success of this, or any plan, is in its being thoroughly worked. Some strong hand and earnest heart must be at the wheel, guiding to a successful issue the interests of each congregation, or the finances of the church, like an unguided vessel, will float in the thousand directions of shipwreck, and lose the one safe and only course which leads to port. A poor plan well worked is better than the best plan poorly worked. "The first condition of success is the unequivocal influence of the pastor in favor of some plan of systematic giving. The pastor must devise a plan, must present it, must advocate it, must get the sanction of his church for it, must preach to the people about it, and must pray publicly for God's blessing upon it."
It would be impracticable to lay down arbitrary rules. What will answer in one congregation or community would prove a failure in another, but general principles along with a variety of methods will greatly aid in securing a more universal usefulness among the different congregations.
An Estimate. - The first step in the introduction of the envelope system is to make an estimate of the entire amount necessary to meet all the expenses of the ensuing year. This should include: 1. Pastor's salary. 2. Rent of parsonage. 3. Furniture of parsonage. 4. For aiding the sick and poor. 5. For sacramental purposes. 6. Presiding Elder's allowance. 7. Assessment for the Bishops. 8 Sexton. 9. Fuel and lights. 10. Water rent. 11. Insurance. 12. Interest on debt. 13. Reduction of debt. 14. Repairs. 15. Incidentals. 16. A percentage for unpaid pledges. 17. Sunday-school work. 18. Support of local missions. 19. Taxes. 20. Synodical assessments (not for missions, &c) 21. Any and all other expenses to be provided for. These various amounts added, will give the sum necessary for the work of the year.
Securing Pledges. - The officers of the church, or some judiciously selected committee, may apportion this amount so as to rest equitably upon all members and supporters of the church, and then secure the pledges by dividing the congregation into districts, and appointing judicious persons to canvass the same. Or a more successful method is to send a circular letter to each supporter of the church. The following, taken from "Helps to Official Members," by Rev. James Porter, D. D., may prove suggestive:
Dear Sir: The committee appointed to apportion the amount necessary for the support of the ------------Methodist Episcopal Church for the present year among its members and the congregation, have con-cluded, after due deliberation, that you can afford, and will be willing to pay the sum of ---------dollars. If you acquiesce in this conclusion, you will please to pay the same in monthly installments, inclosing the amount in an envelope, writing your name, with the amount inclosed, upon the outside, and depositing the same in the basket or box on the first Sabbath in each month, when it will be passed around in the church to receive these monthly payments. If you demur at the apportionment, you will please inform A. B., our treasurer, immediately, stating to him what amount you will pay in the manner aforesaid.
Yours truly, for the committee,
C. D., Secretary.
The pledges may be secured without the apportionment plan by circulating cards, or circular letters, something like the following:
The reverse side of the card might contain the following:
1. Every believer is bound by the positive command of God to give for His cause.
2. Each is required to give according to his ability.
3. Each is to give habitually, as he can thus do it most effectively, and that he may constantly honor God.
4. God calls for our gifts as a mark and as the measure of our love: "God loves a cheerful giver."
5. God makes the salvation of our fellow men dependent on our fidellity.
The other form of circular letter might be something like the following:
To the Members and Friends of the Main Street Lutheran Church: Dear Brother:
The Council of the church with which you have the privilege of being associated, after a careful survey of the whole field, find that it will require the sum of $_________ to pay our pastor's salary, and to meet all the other expenses of the church for the current year. This sum, if divided equally among our entire membership, would be $ per annum, or cents per week for each member. This amount, though above the ability of some, is doubtless much less than others can pay, so that the average may safely be relied upon, provided each will give in accordance with the Scripture rule - "as God hath prospered him' - not less than one-tenth, and as much more as the prosperity of the week will enable him.
To secure this average weekly contribution, and to do it, too, in such a way as will be most easy for yourselves, your brethren of the Church Council have determined to introduce and to thoroughly test what is known in church financiering as "The Envelope System."
Hoping that you will cordially co-operate with us in this effort, and that as soon as convenient you will notify us by letter or otherwise, of the amount you will probably contribute weekly, we have enclosed to you, in connection with this circular, a package of fifty-two envelopes, each of which contains your register number, with a blank for date and amount of contribution.
Into one of these envelopes we ask you to deposit weekly the amount you feel you ought to give for the support of the church, and having dated it, and placed on it the amount enclosed, deposit the whole in the basket on Sabbath morning or evening. Or if you cannot be present at the service, send your envelope by the hand of a friend, or else double the amount the following Sabbath. And let this be done, week by week, till you have formed the habit, like the worshipers of ancient times, of always taking with you an offering of some kind whenever you appear in the courts of the Lord's house. By doing this you will be personally benefited, the treasury of the church will be able to meet all the demands against it, special efforts will be avoided, and the cause of Christ saved from reproach and greatly advanced.
Confidently relying upon your co-operation in the plan adopted, we subscribe ourselves, Your brethren in Christ,
January 1, 188. The Church Council.