Don’t Pledge Like a Ferret!

Some of you know that we recently adopted two ferrets. However, please know that we’re not not turning into eccentric “ferret people.” I’ve told my parishioners that if they ever see me walking Mimi and Caspar on leashes down Main Street, they’re welcome to form a new Rector Search Committee.

I was especially concerned after watching a PBS documentary on ferrets and their owners titled “Ferrets: The Pursuit of Excellence.” It followed several ferret enthusiasts preparing to show their ferrets at the annual Buckeye Bash — the largest ferret show in the country. If I had seen this two days before adopting our new pets rather than two days after the fact, we might have guinea pigs or turtles or whatever. Although the boys were relentless in their pursuit of ferrets and ferrets alone (thanks again to our friend Jen — watch your back) so I don’t think it would have turned out any other way.

Now I admit that they are very cute and playful. And I love the fact that they sleep for about 20 hours a day. But there’s a fine line between being devoted to your pets and being, um, insane. Particularly memorable was the ferret lady who writes and sings songs about her ferrets. Click here for a sample. Again, if I ever start composing St. Francis Day hymns about ferrets, kindly have me taken away by a pair of burly acolytes dressed in white albs. It would be for the best.

Most clergy have financial stewardship on their minds this time of year. I’m no exception which is why yesterday I offered you, dear reader, “A Dozen Ways to Avoid Stewardship.” But I’ve also been thinking about stewardship in light of my new status as crazy ferret owner. One of the characteristics of ferrets is that they exhibit some hoarding behavior. They like to stash things away whether it’s food or socks or keys. The good news is that they tend to ferret things away to the same location every time. So if you can’t find your remote control, it’s likely to be found in the same place where they’ve stashed your left slipper.

Now, I don’t have such practical problems at this point because it’s not as if we let them run amok in the rectory. They live in a giant mansion of a cage in our family room that is actually larger than married student housing at most seminaries. Sure we let them out into a caged play pen and let the boys interact with them in there but they won’t ever have free reign as do some of the ferrets in the documentary.

But as I’ve thought about our relationship to money in this context, one thing has become clear — it’s hard to be in a fruitful relationship with God when we act like hoarders. Money is ultimately a gift to be shared rather than a resource to be hoarded. Which is why I find myself telling people not to approach stewardship like a ferret. A right relationship with God involves a generosity of spirit which can never be fully realized by literally or metaphorically hiding all your money under the mattress.

So that’s the message this year — don’t pledge like a ferret. And if you find yourself overflowing with generosity, feel free to send a check to the Rector’s Ferret Fund. Mimi and Caspar thank you.

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A Dozen Ways to Avoid Stewardship

As stewardship season rolls around in churches throughout the country, I thought I’d update last year’s tips on how to avoid pledging. With a little creativity, you too can do your part to avoid furthering the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

Here we go. A dozen ways to avoid stewardship:

1. Tell the rector that you are “morally opposed” to pledging. After all, shouldn’t the church live up to its name as a community of “faith” and take it on faith that there will be enough money to pay for the rector’s health benefits?

2. Don’t show up to church in October. In fact, just to be safe avoid church in September and November as well just in case the ubiquitous Stewardship Sermon is preached early or late this year.

3. Tell the rector that you’d like a podcast of his/her stewardship sermon and then turn it into a drinking game — take a swig every time you hear the words “abundance” and “scarcity.” By the end, you won’t even feel a whit of guilt about not pledging.

4. Tell the poor sap who calls you to follow-up on the stewardship campaign that your time and (especially your) talent more than make up for your lack of willingness to part with your treasure. Who cares if your real “talent” is avoiding contributing to the life of the community?

5. Move, but neglect to give your forwarding address to the church office. “Stewardship packet? No, I never received one.” Then tell them to resend it to your old address.

6. Assure people that, while you don’t pledge, you give generously to the plate. Especially on the one Sunday a month you find yourself in church.

7. After using the advice from #6, practice  folding a one dollar bill to make it look like a thick wad of cash. It may end up looking like an $11 bill but whatever.

8. If you do pledge, make sure that you never give more than the five dollars a week you gave in the mid-1970s.

9. Switch to a new church every Advent and you’ll be sure to “just miss” the stewardship campaign. Of course you’ll need to avoid going to church in the fall but that’s just the price you’ll have to pay. So to speak.

10. Tell the treasurer you’ve decided to donate online this year. Then explain that there was a mix-up and the automatic deduction went to your health club rather than the church.

11. Don’t pledge but still ask for envelopes — you can usually finagle them out of the church office — so that people think you do.

12. Use the money you don’t pledge to donate a memorial gift of velvet liners for the collection plates. That way the change you toss in won’t reverberate and cause you undue embarrassment.

I hope these dozen tips have been helpful as you prayerfully discern your pledge amount this year. Until churches start publishing the names and amounts of givers (like every other charitable organization) you should be safe.


How to Avoid Stewardship

As stewardship season rolls around, I thought I would offer some tips on how to avoid growing your faith through financial generosity. These are practical applications for those who prefer King Midas’ touch to the healing touch of Christ the King.

1. Tell the rector that you are “morally opposed” to pledging. After all, shouldn’t the church live up to its name as a community of “faith” and take it on faith that there will be enough money to pay for the rector’s health benefits?

2. Don’t show up to church in October. In fact, just to be safe avoid church in September and November as well just in case the ubiquitous Stewardship Sermon is preached early or late this year.

3. Tell the poor sap who calls you to follow-up on the stewardship campaign that your time and (especially your) talent more than make up for your lack of willingness to part with your treasure.

4. Move but neglect to give your forwarding address to the church office. “Stewardship packet? No, I never received one.”

5. Assure people that, while you don’t pledge, you give generously to the plate. Especially on the one Sunday a month you find yourself in church.

6. After using the advice from #5, practice  folding a one dollar bill to make it look like a thick wad of cash. It may end up looking like an $11 bill but whatever.

7. If you do pledge, make sure that you never give more than the five dollars a week you gave in the early 1960s. It was generous back then, you know.

8. Switch to a new church every Advent and you’ll be sure to “just miss” the stewardship campaign. Of course you’ll need to avoid going to church in the fall but that’s just the price you’ll have to pay. So to speak.

9. Don’t pledge but still ask for envelopes — you can usually finagle them out of the church office — so that people think you do.

10. Use the money you don’t pledge to donate a memorial gift of velvet liners for the collection plates. That way the change you toss in won’t reverberate and cause you undue embarrassment.

I hope these ten tips have been helpful as you prayerfully discern your pledge amount this year. Until churches start publishing the names and amounts of givers (like every other charitable organization) you should be safe.