Connect 52

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Sunday marks the beginning of the 2019 KPUMC Pledge Campaign, called “Connect 52.”

In the past, our pledge campaigns have focused entirely on financial pledges. We come up with a budget, we ask you to fund it, you return a card with your weekly or monthly pledge to pay.

The truth is that giving your money to the church is only part of the membership experience — an important part, for sure, but not the entirety.

This year, I’ve asked the Finance Committee’s permission to focus on the gift of time during our pledge campaign.

Did you know that when you joined KPUMC, you pledged your “presence” to the church? That means that you committed to spend time with your brothers and sisters in Christ, not only for your own good, but for theirs as well.

Not only that, but when you made your own personal commitment to Christ, you also made an implicit pledge about how you would spend your personal time. To follow Christ means to spend your time in conscious, intentional discipleship. It simply means that you have new priorities in how you spend your time.

That’s why I’m making a very special “ask” in this year’s campaign.

I am asking each and every one of us to give one extra hour per week to God in 2019. Thus, the name of our campaign — Connect 52. If you give an hour per week, then you’ll be giving a total of 52 additional hours to God’s work.

What you do with that hour is between you and God, but I encourage you to think carefully about what you want to do with that hour. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be musing on the subject of time and our use or misuse of it. Perhaps you’ll decide that you need to spend your hour in quiet prayer, sitting in God’s presence with no other objective or agenda. Or maybe you will get involved in some ministry that the church offers, such as reading at Hogg Elementary. Perhaps you will decide to join a weekly Bible study at the church. Or maybe you will simply decide to start attending Sunday School!

More than anything else, I am simply inviting you to spend time reflecting on how you use your time. If possible, keep an hourly time diary for a week — mark down how you spent each hour, what you accomplished, and how you felt. At the end of the week, go back over the diary and review how you spent that time. Tally up totals if you wish.

How much time did you really spend at work? in leisure time? in scrolling through Facebook? in wasting time? in conversing with family members? in watching reality TV?

Most importantly, ask yourself, “How much time did I spend with God? in improving my discipleship? in serving others selflessly? in prayer?”

If you’re not happy with your answers, then the pledge campaign is an opportunity to set things right.

What are you going to do with your 52 hours?

A Newbie's Guide to Pledging


If you are new to the church, or have never made a pledge to the church before, this column is for you. Because the church “stewardship campaign” can be intimidating. You might wonder why we spend a couple of weeks talking about money so much.

You should think of it like a public radio pledge drive. It can be annoying to have NPR’s Morning Edition interrupted by pledge requests; and I don’t like hearing about pledges in the middle of This American Life, either. But it’s better than the alternative!

Like public radio, we aren’t a market enterprise. Thus, you’ll never hear commercials in the middle of a worship service. (And no, we’re not going to ever consider it. Even if you’re looking to promote your new pop-up goat yoga studio …)

And we’re not selling anything. If you haven’t heard me say it before, the grace of God is free. That’s the whole point — God’s love is freely given, freely received. We have nothing to sell, and we’re not planning to operate as if we do!

So the primary way the church funds its ministries is through asking people to pledge, just like the radio station. You could call it “crowdfunding.” In other words, we ask our members, friends, and visitors to help us do what we do. We always go through a budget process to plan for the coming calendar year, and attempt to finalize it before the end of the preceding year. The budget includes all the necessary items, such as property maintenance, utilities, office supplies, program materials, and, of course, personnel. Plus, we include strategic pieces and new missions that we would like to initiate.

A key part of the budget process is assessing how much income we can expect to generate in the coming year. That’s why we ask members to pledge. We need to know how much you all expect to give, so that we can plan our ministries and pass our budget.

Every year around the month of October, then, we spend a few weeks asking you to make your pledge. We accumulate the pledges and fine-tune our budget based on the total pledged amount. This is why pledging is important to the church; it is the way in which church leadership assesses how to proceed.

But a church pledge is only that — a pledge. It’s a matter between you and God ultimately. It’s not a contractual agreement. And we’re not going to send a bill collector after you.  We will send you a quarterly giving statement, which will let you know how much you have paid on your pledge year-to-date. But we won’t keep bugging you about it, like a public radio station might.

We can also make giving to the church an easy matter. On our website, you can make your pledge an automatic monthly or weekly payment. Just follow this link to automate your giving.

So far, I’ve described the pledge campaign in a purely functional and practical fashion — we’ve got to pay the bills, and this is how we do it.

As your pastor, I need to let you know that giving is about far more than just making financial donations. When you give to your church, you are not merely helping pay bills, pay the pastor, or even fund a particular mission of the church; you are literally performing an act of service to God. When you give to the church, you are giving to God, and you are giving to God’s mission in the world.

One of the most common images found in the Bible to describe the church is “the body of Christ.” Christ is still present in the world, but he is incarnated in the church; he lives and moves and has his being, in us! That’s not mere hyperbole, either. There is something very real about the concept that Jesus is alive and working through us.

It’s not really like making a pledge to a public radio station at all, in the end. For one, we don't give away tote bags ... I love public radio, and I think everyone should support it. But Kessler Park UMC has a greater mission to undertake, and a greater God to serve.

So I hope you will consider making a pledge for the first time. Let’s kickstart God’s work by Kickstarting KPUMC!

Kickstart KPUMC

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Eight years ago, a couple of young guys in Brooklyn were trying to answer a simple question: How can a struggling artist with a great idea or a prospective project or a creative inspiration find money to pursue his or her dreams?

The guys wondered how they could quickly and efficiently connect people with money with people with big ideas. They created a very simple website called Kickstarter in which artists pitched their projects, asked for funding, and then waited for people on the internet to agree to donate.

The concept was simple: every project had a funding goal and a deadline. If the goal wasn’t met by the deadline, then no funds were collected at all.

The first fully-funded project was little more than a joke — “Drawing for Dollars” collected $35 from three people to draw a couple of simple sketches. But the concept caught on. 

The idea went “viral,” as they say. In 2012, the site celebrated its first million-dollar project, and has never looked back. 

I bring this up because I’d like to suggest that “crowdfunding” is not all that original. Local churches have been “crowdfunding” since the day of Pentecost. In fact, every time any church anywhere has an annual pledge campaign, they are “crowdfunding” — we are asking people to make a financial commitment to the church so that we can together accomplish our mission and reach the goals which God has given us.

That’s why we’ve decided to call the church’s 2018 pledge campaign, Kickstart KPUMC. Over the next three weeks, I’ll be preaching on three different stories about crowdfunding in the Bible (can you guess what they are?). Next week, you’ll receive a mailing in which we propose an ambitious 2018 budget.

I asked each of our staff department heads to propose at least one new programming initiative in order to “kickstart” their ministry. That means the proposed budget is a little higher than last year’s, but it also ensures that we will have some energy going into 2018.

And we will unveil a new page on our website which will keep a live, running total of the amount of money pledged. It will only be live for 21 days, during which time I hope that we will receive at least $385,000 in pledges — that’s our goal! Last year, we had $361,000 pledged, and I am convinced that we can easily reach this goal. I am so certain that I am ready to initiate a “stretch goal,” which is a term used when Kickstarter projects surpass their funding goal, and their creative team decides to raise the bar and go for more, offering new incentives to backers to reach an expanded, “stretched” goal. 

There’s a kind of joy and excitement that comes when a group coalesces around a common purpose, and works together to accomplish that goal. I hope that happens in this year’s pledge campaign. 

I hope we all get “kickstarted” to become better disciples of Jesus, and better stewards of God’s gifts.