(Note: The Rev. Thaddeaus Allen is regional minister and president of the Christian Church in West Virginia. He also serves on the Christian Church Foundation's Board of Directors.)
The Saints of God are still speaking! This is a phrase that one of my mentors in ministry and closest friends, Darwin Collins, Foundation vice president for the Great Lakes Zone, has taught me. I have heard him say it, and I have heard the voices myself. Not only are they speaking, but one has the strong hunch that they are asking us to participate in the chorus. They invite us to do many things, but they also call us to be generous and to support the church long after we leave the Church Militant and take our rightful place in the Church Triumphant.
One of the things that I have noticed as a regional minister (and I think there is plenty of evidence to support this finding) is that congregations not only miss our members’ presence, but that congregations also miss the offerings that the departed faithfully shared week after week after week. Congregations are resilient, but eventually the gifts are missed. Sometimes this is not noticed for months to come, but eventually it catches up with us. Congregations are forced to respond by trimming important work, withholding staff increases, and by reducing resources designated for mission (specifically, in some places, Disciples Mission Fund offerings, which is voluntary.) This hurts the mission and weakens the witness.
Each and every week Disciples are gathered around the table of our Lord, and we know that the Saints are somehow (mysteriously) gathered with us for the feast. This is wonderful, and it is also very exciting to realize that the Saints can still speak in the offering. If approached now, and in a particular way, the Saints can still place gifts in the offering plate. This has the power to be a tremendous witness to the faith, and a powerful resource for the church.
By making a pledge or offering replacement gift through our Foundation, we can bless the church with our financial support forever. The Foundation is helping our members put plans into place that will help us join our voices with the Saints who are still speaking! Is it not powerful to consider the connection between life eternal and offerings eternal? This possibility brings life and joy to the faithful who love the church and want to see it in ministry for years to come. It is a witness that can truly help Disciples make a difference.
The process is simple: In your estate planning, set aside an amount that is 25 times the amount of your annual pledge, and make that an endowment gift to your church.
For example: Your annual pledge is $500. By leaving a gift in your will to the church, or naming the church the beneficiary of a retirement account, in the amount of $12,500, your congregation will start receiving $500 a year in your name. This assumes a 4% payout and a growth of principal to keep pace with inflation. As the fund’s value grows to keep pace with inflation, your perpetual gift to the church also grows.