Material History of American Religion Project

The New System

Like many American churches, St. Pauls Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago had been dependent on pew rentals to support its work throughout much of its history. But economic changes (in particular, wartime inflation and post-war depression) and social changes (including a greater number of young adults away from their families) led the church to institute a pledging system in 1919. Several years later the church started using offering envelopes, described as "The New System" in "St. Pauls Boat," the church newsletter, in March 1924. (The church, located in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, is now known as St. Pauls United Church of Christ.)

Every modern church has given the subject of consistent, regular support of its work most careful study. The result is, that churches, which a few years ago, vegetated and worked with perpetual difficulties, because they knew not how to meet their obligations, today are relieved of all these embarrassments. For a number of years it has been the aim of the Committee on Pledges in St. Pauls Church to profit by the experience of others and institute in our church the best, practical and satisfactory methods of raising funds, wherewith to carry on the work of the church. But a few years ago, all members in good standing paid their pew rentals and as we could then control more readily this once very beautiful custom, we had no difficulty in raising such income, as was necessary to continue the church's ministrations. Even today we have a large number of members who pay us their pew rent once a year and consider their duty done. On the other hand, we are glad to announce, that we are bringing into the church a new constituency, which makes regular and liberal church support its conscientious aim. Many of our members have taken our monthly envelopes and make consistent use of them, thereby enlarging on monthly income. And now we have an increasing number of members who are making weekly offerings the rule of their lives. They are given the new Duplex envelopes, which name indicates, that there are two envelopes in one. The first envelope is used to receive the dues for church membership, some remitting a small sum every Sunday and some larger amounts, as God has prospered them. The fine and commendable feature about this system is, that members holding these envelopes, making it their business to bring them personally to the services and to place them into the plates as they are passed n the services by the elders of the church. It is all so simple and so easy and it generates a spirit of happy giving, which in time will become more and more an essential feature of our worship. But there is also a second envelope that is attached and printed in a different color. This is provided for all such as desire to add an amount for other Christian purposes within and without the circle of the local church activities. Thus the habit of regular, joyous giving is formed and the givers are conscious that they are real members of the church and not occasional visitors, who come and go as their comfort and desire may dictate.

There have been as many as 250 sets of weekly envelopes [out of a membership of roughly 1000] distributed among members, old and young, and for the approaching Easter season the Committee on Pledges has again ordered 100 new sets of these popular little messengers, that do not alone contain cold coin, but the warmth of the love of good people, who desire on every Sunday to give to the Lord and to the work within His blessed vineyard, as they are able to give.

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