I was speaking with my friend Carl today. He lives in Atlanta and attends a Methodist Church. He shared with me that this is a big weekend for Methodists. 864 Delegates will be gathering in St. Louis to consider several plans for the Church internationally related to gay marriage, gay clergy and the Church’s general views of the LGBTQ community.
Carl shared with me that at both the Methodist church he and his family attended in New York and the one in Atlanta they attend now, the clergy and leadership are open minded about these issues. But that is not the case throughout the many, many churches in more rural parts of the U.S. and throughout Europe. Right now, the current Methodist Church Book of Discipline – a pastor’s rulebook – doesn’t allow clergy to perform same sex marriages. Even though that is the law of the land in the U.S.
I shared with Carl that LGBTQ issues regarding the big stuff like clergy and marriage are not really a concern today – for non-Orthodox synagogues anyway. Although there is sometimes a similarly heightened conversation around issues of intermarriage.
This led to a further conversation about how churches and synagogues are concerned about membership and attracting millennials (Carl is in fact a millennial). And younger people tend to have a more progressive view of the world when it comes to such social issues.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Carl about how his church asks for financial contributions. “Do they still pass the plate?”, I asked. He said that his church encourages people to tithe at a rate of 10%. Sound familiar? But he said the church is cognizant of the fact that people have some big expenses – for housing, childcare, healthcare, and life’s general activities. He commented that what one contributes to the church is based on both an internal family conversation and a conversation with God.
Back to the question of how they contribute. He said that they do pass the plate on Sundays. People are also encouraged to make contributions using their smart phones by texting and through Venmo. Carl also said that congregants are encouraged to establish a recurring gift schedule using the church’s website so that contributions are made weekly or monthly.
I was about to ask him about a church stewardship campaign when we both had to end the conversation. Next time.
I once visited a small synagogue in New York City whose primary funding came from “passing the hat”. It is not a payment vehicle often associated with synagogue life. And not a method that allows for much financial planning.
Giving people options to make payments is key, and is really meeting people where they are at.
Someone is moved by the Rabbi’s Shabbat sermon – or even her sermon on Yom Kippur – why shouldn’t we ask congregants to Venmo the temple a contribution? Or send a contribution by text? Concerned about contributing on Shabbat? I went to a Bar Mitzvah at an Orthodox synagogue a couple of years ago. And everyone who was given an Aliyah was given an envelope and asked to press down a tab to make a contribution before they returned to their seat. Really. We shouldn’t always be asking. But we shouldn’t be afraid to ask when people are excited about being a part of their Sacred Community.