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What Development Means to Me

By Mary P. Walker, Petrus Blog Contributor & Local Charity Board Member

What Development Means to Me

I was blessed with generous parents. At a very young age, I learned that development is a family project that requires planning and commitment.

When I was kid, before paychecks were automatically deposited, my dad would cash his check at the bank every other week, and bring a stack of money home. My mom would divide the cash into piles: for food, utilities, mortgage, kids’ allowances, savings, and the parish pew collection. At the time, I didn’t realize I was absorbing a lesson that has shaped my own giving. 

You are more likely to give to a ministry, others, or to a good cause if you PLAN ahead and are committed.

My parents also “made” us put some of our allowance in the collection basket. The message was clear, “YOU are part of this Church, and YOU have a FINANCIAL obligation toward her mission.”

One day when I was complaining about this, Mom told me a “true” story. “True” is in quotes because I’m not sure it was factually correct, but it certainly communicates a fundamental truth of our faith. The story goes like this:

As a young single adult, Mom was in church and the collection basket was on its way toward her. She had one dollar in her pocket, and that’s all the cash she had for the week. All her bills were paid, and there was food in the fridge. BUT that dollar, in the 1950s, would have purchased some nice treats for the week ahead. After wrestling with her conscience, she put the dollar in the basket. Later that very day, a friend who had borrowed $5 from her so long ago that she wrote off the debt, showed up at her door and paid her back! The message is clear: If you give to God what belongs to God, he will take care of you beyond what you can imagine.

Planning and commitment are much easier now than when Mom divided up the piles of cash. Fifteen years ago, direct debit monthly giving was just beginning to take off. Now most ministries have that option—and it is one that I wholeheartedly endorse. Prayerfully giving in this way encourages you to think about where God is calling you to share the financial resources he entrusts to your care. It helps you make room in your budget for these gifts, and empowers you to make an ongoing commitment. Also, you get the joy of knowing that a small gift each month has a great impact over time.

Pledges for campaigns have the same effect. A pledge inspires you to dream and envision a better future for the ministry. Pledges invite you to prayerfully consider participating in God’s creative force, by joining with others to bring about something that currently doesn’t exist. While pledges are entered into with the intent to continue the payments throughout, unexpected “bad things” can happen. Health problems, unemployment, or business reversals, may cause you to delay paying off the pledge, or even make it impossible. God understands, and the ministry will too. 

The example of Mom and Dad sharing the decisions about the piles of cash taught me that development is a family affair. Together they made the commitment to their parish and drew us into that commitment through our allowance giving—a practice my husband and I used with our kids. As a couple, we also discuss where and how much we want to give. Those who know us would not be surprised that we sometimes have different perspectives. I feel especially called to help with grassroots projects, while he likes projects that focus on universal principles of justice. These discussions have been a good exercise in learning about each other and compromise.

What did your family teach or model to you about charitable giving?  What does development mean to you?


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