Friday, January 30, 2009


A problem, I think, with being in a different culture is not so much picking up the new culture, but learning to let go of one's own - especially when the two contradict each other. So coming from a church culture that tithes, one wants to tithe and then is distressed when expected to give at numerous fund-raising collections. We try to tithe AND give to collections. We need to let go of the tithing and give as the new culture gives. The same with time-keeping and commitment. I have to be in two places at once tomorrow. Somehow I must fit them in. According to my values I am going to let both parties down - but it is not my fault. Somehow I need to appropriate the values of those who set up the system. If I'm late that's ok. If I don't do the job fully well at least I showed willing.
Not so easy at all.


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Fund-raising collections are not as healthy as the tithe. However, I would think that, short of inviting a revolt, one can only sow seeds -- which one should never underestimate. I was once "consulent minister" of a Church near you (Zwelitsha). I counted thirteen collections in a single service!

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thirteen! No, I haven't seen that yet. But yes, proportional giving is the way to go. Church leaders also need to be properly accountable for stewarding God's money - before people can be asked to give more generously!

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Related to this, people need to have confidence in the set-up. An unconstituted Church, for instance, may not engender the confidence.

Steven Jones said...

I'm also struggling with this one, but I'm also wary of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The accountability that forms part and parcel of the pledge system can be a good thing, provided that it is not abused. (Withholding Communion, the right to have one's child baptised, and the right to be buried because the pledge card is not up to date is, in my opinion, abuse).

On the other hand, the concept of taking the annual budget and dividing it equally by the number of members is also wrong. Those who are unemployed (and therefore have no income) are put under extreme pressure, whereas those who are holding down good jobs contribute at a level that would be considered an insult.

I have also only seen ONE church during my time as Circuit Treasurer that uses this system yet remains financially viable. The fact that the two congregations that use it here are now being served by a Phase One probationer (me) is also testimony to its failure.

Having said that, in my experience whenever one has tried to impose a switch from a pledge system to that of planned giving, what little giving there was dries up completely (in protest?).

Clearly I'm going to have to tread VERY carefully here...


(PS: Please could you drop me an e-mail at steven[at], as I don't have your contact details. I was thinking of taking a drive through to Grahamstown on Monday to claim that burger you were bragging about last year, assuming that you are available and willing to host me for a few hours?)

Jenny Hillebrand said...

I think the solution may be in a tiered pledge system. One needs to fully immerse oneself in understanding the way an organisation-based church works before making big changes. I know already that to try to change to planned giving or tithing is starting at the wrong place! But I'll blog more about it later.
We can't say we're not learning, hey Steve?!

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

The Methodist terminology has me befuddled now. We speak of a planned giving system, which works on the basis of pledges. The Methodist Church appears to make a distinction between planned giving and pledges. I'd be interested to know what it is, if you have the opportunity.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Yes, Thomas, they have unique meanings in the Methodist context. The pledge system is used by traditional, black African churches (and others?). The church stipulates the amount that should be contributed by each member to the church. This money is collected in the 'class meeting' and recorded and signed off by the minister. This lets the more wealthy off very lightly, but is a burden for the unemployed. Those who do not pay their pledge risk losing their membership of the church and thus the privilege of a funeral conducted by a minister - or even in the church at all. Be horrified - it happens. Planned Giving is used by the other Methodist Churches (not white - they are multicultural). Here each individual promises to contribute a certain amount every month based on their income - tithing is encouraged. This helps with budgeting as well as being a spiritual discipline. It is normally recorded in absolute confidentiality and if your situation changes financially this is understood. Love not duty!

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Ah, you Methodists have some bright ideas. We could solve all our problems with pledges. ;-)