Friday, December 03, 2010

Stewardship Campaigns

The Estimate of Giving Campaign is coming to end at the congregation I service.  In the middle of this recession, this year’s campaign is the second largest and could be the best campaign ever as late estimates continue to come in.  I have always been overwhelmed at the response from our congregation. 
 One of the purposes of a stewardship campaign is to ensure that we build a responsible budget.  Whether we like it or not, people vote with their checkbooks.  These campaigns not only allow us to plan for the most effective ministries possible, but they ensure we have our finger on the pulse of the congregation. 
I have served in previous congregations that did not do campaigns.  They felt that a better approach was to “trust in the Lord.”  I understand the sentiment, but what it generally led to was an oligarchy, or the running of the church by a few.  Many congregations that do business like that will often overextend themselves and when they find themselves in a position where they can’t make ends meet, they will extend a call to the congregation.  Since funding often requires planning, most people who had a readily available cash flow to meet emergency needs where a select group.  Soon, those families began to feel a sense of entitlement to decision making or worse, abused by the congregation.  Our Estimate of Giving campaign provides an opportunity for everyone to faithfully plan their finances for the coming year, a good idea for givers and non-givers alike.  Building a budget within those parameters then preserves the ideals of congregationalism, where every voice and every member, becomes a part of the planning process.  In short, a stewardship campaign protects the ideals and integrity of the priesthood of all believers.
Our campaign also forces us to think about what it means to be stewards ourselves.  Jesus talks about money and hell more the any other topics and yet, it is those two topics that are most avoided by the modern church.  Personally, I believe every Christian needs to give something.  It is a part of what it means to be a Christian.  In my own life, it has been proven over and over again that if we tithe, God always make sure we have enough.   Tithing reminds me that God is the source of my needs.  It also reminds me to live within my means.  Now for many throughout the world and in our own community, their basic needs outstrip their income.  Many of these folks still give through volunteering or other active ways.  For most, however, it requires us to think twice about eating out or buying items that we may not really need.  The holiday season is an ideal time to take stock of our life.  Am I living beyond my means? Could I give something to someone else whose needs are greater than my own? Can I endeavor to reorient my life and place God first…in everything, even my checkbook? 
As a spiritual leader, I am convinced that members have a right to know how much we give to the life of the congregation we serve.  If we are going to model the Christian life, including stewardship, we have to set the tone for Christian giving.  Our family tithes (10%) on our gross income, including cash gifts and extra money that comes in.  Why?  God demands and deserves our first fruits.  I also know that God will make sure I never miss it.  It is amazing how liberating a properly oriented life can be for the mind and soul.  Now, don’t get upset with me, I’m just trying to tell you the truth as I understand it and have experienced it.  However, I know my congregation understands.  Their generosity is one of the signs.

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