Jeff’s Jottings

Our Devoted to Generosity pledge campaign wraps up on November 3, Pledge Sunday. Join us for a blessing-filled worship service and a baked potato bar lunch following worship (see story, page 1).

You’ve heard me talk (as one of your pastors) about the spiritual discipline of generosity, about the value sharing brings to the spiritual journey. This column is much more practical. This column isn’t about deciding how much you’re going to share; it’s about deciding how you’re going to share.

The simplest way to give money to the church is a write a check and drop it in the offering plate during a worship service. This was a practice I had for many years. I would receive my paycheck; I’d deposit it; and the first check I would write would be to the church. Then I would write the other checks that were needed to pay my bills.

Then I started paying bills online through my bank. Rather than me writing the check, I go online to my credit union’s website and pay my bills. I simply created an account for the church (just like I did for PG&E) and scheduled the bank to automatically write and mail a check to the church. If you do online bill paying through your bank or credit union, you can do this, too.

Another option is to give online. If you go to our church’s website (, you’ll see a donate button as an option among the menus at the top of the page. Click this and you’ll end up on a secure site (run by Vanco) where you can make a gift toward your pledge, a special offering, our Scouts campership fund, our memorial fund, and/or some other option. You can even set this up as a recurring gift. When you set up your profile, you can have the gift charged to a credit or debit card.

This interface isn’t very easy to use on a smart phone, so our Finance Committee is investigating contracting with an app service. We’re looking for one that has good security, a friendly user experience, and minimal fees for the church. Once a selection is made, we’ll start advertising it here in The Bell and in worship announcement folders.

For the past two years, I’ve paid my pledge differently. I have some stock that has significantly increased in value. I could sell that stock and use the money to pay my pledge to the church. The thing is, I’d also have to pay the capital gains tax on the sale of that stock. So instead, I have my broker transfer the stock to the church’s brokerage account at United Church Funds. The church sells the stock at market value, and, because I didn’t sell it (the church did), I don’t have to pay any capital gains tax. I also get a charitable contribution credit for the market value of the stock.

If you want to do something like this, you need to start by talking with Barbara P. King, our church Treasurer. She will give you the instructions to give to your broker and she’ll notify the church’s broker to look for the transfer of stock.

If you invested in an IRA and you are over a certain age (I think it’s currently 70½), you are required to make a minimal distribution from the IRA. Instead of withdrawing the money from the IRA yourself, you can do a transfer like I described with stock and have that count toward your minimum distribution. The details may be a bit trickier, but the concept is the same: you get to support the church and avoid some taxes. Again, start by talking with Barbara if you want to do this (or learn more about it).

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of planning for the support of the church after you die. I know that sounds strange to read; it was a strange sentence to type. It is, nonetheless, an important thing to consider as you do estate planning. Whether you have a will or a trust, you can include instructions about supporting the church after you die. This typically is a lump sum given to the church, often for the endowment fund, though there are other ways to structure this. Talk with your attorney to figure out what options are best for you and your family. There’s a story on page _ about how one family’s estate planning led to the solar array on the sanctuary roof (and a negative electric bill this year).

Pastor Jeff

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