What Is God Saying to Us in the ‘SPAN III’ Pledges?

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

In October 1987 we voted to build a new worship center. For over 100 years Bethlehem had worshipped in the present sanctuary which holds 450 comfortably and 500 crowded. In March of 1981 we went to two Sunday morning services and in March 1986 we went to three. So we have been worshipping with three services for five years. Our attendance average for the spring and fall of the past two years has been somewhat over 1100. The new worship center will have seating for about 1300, a large commons, a book store, a full basement of new nursery facilities, plus prayer, music, and storage space.

Our first fund drive to raise money for the new building was called SPAN the Nineties – Spreading Praise to All Nations. It began in March 1988 and ended two weeks ago. The pledges were $1,618,000 above our usual budget, and the actual giving was $1,564,000. Which means that we missed our goal by only $54,000 or 3%. What makes this so remarkable is that all this was given totally up front, before we had any use of the building or any long term mortgage. This is a great blessing from the Lord and we should thank Him for it with all our heart.

The pledges for our recent fund drive, called SPAN III – Finishing the Task, have come in at $1,007,000, which is less than half what we were aiming at ($2.1 million). 365 giving units (couples or singles) plus 43 children pledged to give this amount over the next three years. Along side these pledges there were 184 units (plus 7 children) that pledged $168,000 to the organ fund.

Thus, the pledges for SPAN III were 35% under the actual giving to SPAN I, with about 14% fewer people pledging to SPAN III than to SPAN I.

Those of us in leadership have been struggling with how to interpret this turn of affairs. We submit to it as from the Lord in his overall providence and grace. But we would really like to know what he is telling us. Can you help us?

We would like to hear from those of you who chose not to make pledges and from those who gave significantly less. You don’t have to sign your letter. We are not trying to find out who didn’t pledge nor to blame anybody. I pledged less this time because I stretched so far the first time, and with Karsten in college we simply have less to work with. Is this the case with everybody? We really want to know what the meaning of the shortfall is. These are some of the possible reasons I can think of why there would be fewer givers or less given:

  1. People don’t have as much discretionary money as they did three years ago.
  2. People are more hesitant to commit to the future because they are less certain about where the church is going.
  3. People intended to give but did not pledge because they did not like the way we sought pledges.
  4. People are less supportive of the idea of building or of the Worship Center that has actually been built.

You could address your notes to Gene Sprinkle or Bob Wykstra as chairman of the SPAN III steering committee or to me.

One reason it is important for us to know what happened is that we will probably have to seek funds beyond the end of SPAN III. Perhaps we should go about it in a radically different way. What do you think?

Your servant,

Pastor John