The experience of introducing the Parish Giving Scheme
When I was an incumbent in Derby Diocese in 2017, the Diocesan Synod agreed to introduce the Parish Giving Scheme and parishes were invited to be involved in a pilot study.
At one of my churches, St Andrew with St Osmund Derby, an urban parish on the highest deprivation index, the Sunday offering was almost entirely cash giving through the plate using an envelope scheme. The small but very faithful older congregation were largely on fixed pension incomes and distrustful of direct debit as they saw it as a commitment they would find it difficult stop if they needed to. This seemed like an excellent pilot for PGS and I signed us up!
I introduced the scheme and the thinking behind it at a PCC meeting. Predictably the members were very suspicious and thought it was not for them. However, once I explained that registering to be part of the scheme did not mean any financial commitment on the part of the PCC or having to have x number of people signing up – in fact we could simply register but have no donors at all – they reconsidered. I pointed out that as a church, it would make us ready for when someone came along who did want to make a commitment to give regularly through the scheme. The PCC passed the resolution and I sent off the paperwork.
At the next PCC meeting the Treasurer arrived excitedly waving a bank statement. “This money has appeared in our account!” “That would be me” responded our PCC secretary. “I thought I would give the PGS a go. It was very easy to set up.” We then explained to the Treasurer that this donation has the accrued Gift Aid attached to it. She did not need to reclaim it, and that this would happen every month. One by one during the year others followed suit. It just took one to make a difference, and in fact it is very easy to stop a donation if you want to.
I joined Norwich diocese in April this year and saw we were just introducing the Parish Giving Scheme. I registered nine parishes here in the B&B benefice in North Norfolk, following a meeting with all our Church Wardens and Treasurers, who recommended to each PCC that they register with the PGS. In our benefice of many villages we wanted to use the scheme to reach out to parishioners who may not come to church but do not want to see their village church in financial jeopardy as some of them are. In October I wrote to each parishioner with a letter tailored to that village and its church’s headline incomes and expenses. It was easy to see that some churches were living on borrowed time. With each letter was a leaflet about the Parish Giving Scheme and a form. Results are beginning to come in: emails, letters and phone calls of support, some people saying they are going to sign up to the scheme, others wanting to make one-off donations at this time, others offering help in other ways. Now our churches are registered, the PGS will be central to our stewardship renewal programme as we gradually move our congregations from plate to planned giving through the PGS, one-by-one-by-one.
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