A Spirituality of Stewardship

September 27, 2015

When you hear the word stewardship, what is the first thought that comes to mind?

More than likely, it is time talent and treasure. You sigh deeply and wonder how much are they going to hit me up for this year? As far as time goes, I’m already on this or that committee and I don’t have another minute to spare.

 

Talent? I’m already teaching in Sunday school or singing in the choir.

 

I used to think that way also. And I was working for the church and should have had a different understanding. But no matter the denomination, time, talent and treasure are what comes to mind first, we bristle a bit. When we pay our pledge it is treated as just another bill. I am here to tell you that stewardship is so much more than that.

As Christians we know that everything we have, our homes, job, IRA’s, good health, talents, and list goes on, comes from god. There is a spirituality to stewardship that comes first!

 

If you have been listening carefully to the sermons for the past month or so, You have recognized that the theme of stewardship has been running through all of them – without using the word stewardship. Our priests were talking about and asking us to reflect on the spirituality of stewardship.

 

Henri Nouwen in his book, The Spirituality of Fundraising, states that stewardship is grounded in gratitude, revealed in prayer and lived in faith. What does that really mean?

 

GRATITUDE

I am grateful for my health – family – relationships - job and my material things. In this parish I am grateful for this community, our worship space, meeting areas and last but not least our priests.

 

To be a good steward means that I must not only be grateful for, but I must take care of my health – family – talents – communities - material things - parish and my priests.

I must not take them for granted.

 

That, as a good steward I have regular health checkups, am present to the needs of my family and friends, make necessary repairs to the things I own, so as not to continually replace items, because I have been careless.

 

I must volunteer in the parish to help bring about the kingdom of god in gig harbor.

 

I am willing to share with others who have less. In fact I should be seeking them out.

It does not mean that I can’t enjoy a nice vacation or have dinner out. It is ok to recognize that I have worked hard for what I have. It does mean that I must recognize that without god I would have nothing, And I am truly grateful to god for what I have. Gratitude releases us from the bonds of obligation and prepares us to offer ourselves freely and fully for the work of the kingdom.

 

SEWARDSHIP IS REVEALED IN PRAYER.

 

Prayer uncovers the deepest roots of our identity in god. In prayer we seek god’s voice and allow god’s word to penetrate our fear and resistance. In that way we can hear what god wants us to know and do.

 

God loves us just the way we are, but loves us so much, that he wants us to grow and expand our vision, to recognize where change is needed, not only personally but in our communities, so as to make the world a better place.

 

These answers do not appear the minute we say amen. For me, it often comes into my consciousness when I am doing the laundry, taking a walk, while reading a novel, talking with others, or playing with my great granddaughter.

 

LIVED IN FAITH.

In prayer we learn to trust that god can work fruitfully through us no matter where we are or who we are. Our faith calls us to reach out to the poor, sick, imprisoned and others who are disenfranchised. In fact, each Sunday as we are dismissed, we are told to go forth into the world to love and serve god.

 

This year we are taking a different approach to stewardship. In the past, in late October you received a letter from the parish with the enclosed pledge card and asked to pledge and increase your pledge as you are able. The actual amount needed to maintain the staff, building and programs was not given.

 

This year, in late July Fr. Eric established a stewardship committee. This committee will have a consistent membership. It will operate much like the vestry, each year as members come to the end of their term, new members are elected.

 

In Fr. Eric’s second year in the parish he established ministry teams. Each member of the vestry had oversight of one ministry. The concept is a good one. It struggled to get on its feet, but this year it is working well.

 

The stewardship committee spent some time in prayer and researching The concept of stewardship, its meaning and implications. After much prayer, and what seems like hundreds e-mails, we arrived at a plan.

 

First we asked the ministry teams to look at the 2015 budget in their area of responsibility. To look at the team’s mission statement and to dream big. Each team has a mission statement. If money was not an issue, how could this ministry grow in the coming years? To strengthen our faith and bring about the kingdom of god in Gig Harbor?

 

The teams came back to stewardship with their hopes and dreams and what they thought it would cost. Stewardship took those numbers and the rationale seriously. It was hard not to say “oh wait a minute, here is a number needs to be adjusted downward”.

 

Hard to do, but we stayed the course and came up with a narrative budget. You received it this morning with your bulletin. If you have already looked at it, you may have started to shake your head and wonder if this team needs a reality check.

 

But before you make counseling appointments for each of us, we want to point out a few things. This document is a narrative budget. It informs us as to where we have been, where we are now and what the vision for the future could be.

 

We divided the budget into five principle areas – worship, outreach, spiritual formation, pastoral care and parish life. The staff was asked to give us a percentage of how much time they spent in each of the areas. The cost of that time has been divided proportionately between the five areas.

 

This explains why each area looks extremely high. You will receive actual line item numbers in late October. ut, if you prayerfully read and reflect on the mission statement you will see that there is an exciting vision for our future.

 

The mission of our parish is

  1. JOHN’S IS CALLED

TO WORSHIP GOD

TO LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS UNCONDITIONALLY

TO BRING OUR CHILDREN AND OURSELVES INTO CLOSER UNION

WITH THE HEART OF GOD

TO CARE FOR EACH OTHER IN DIFFICULTIES

AND TO CELEBRATE OUR LIVES WITH EACH OTHER

AS BEFITTING THE PEOPLE OF GOD.

 

The vestry and stewardship committee have identified three particular areas of mission that we feel called to develop more fully in the coming year: second priest, music and outreach.

 

Last week some of you responded to a survey the stewardship committee developed to get the pulse of the parish in those areas. To the question would you support the position of a second priest? There were many wonderful remarks about our curate, Laura, and her contributions.

 

All but one recognized that we need to be good stewards of our staff. You recognized that the parish is growing and one person cannot do it all, never mind do it well.

Regarding the strength of the parish today, we heard we are proud of our children’s ministries and our outreach in the community. Regarding what do you want to see in the future, the answers were overwhelmingly to increase our outreach into the community of Gig Harbor to immigrant families, working poor and the elderly.

 

There was not a question regarding our music but many of you made comments citing this as a strength of our parish. ur music is traditional, newcomers are commenting that they cannot find this music and its quality in other churches in the harbor.

All wanted to see the quality continue. When we sing we pray twice.

 

Through these responses, the stewardship committee recognizes that this parish has a generous heart and knows how to live in faith. When you look at the total difference between 2015 and 2016 you will see that the budget reflects an increase of 15.3%. Per $100 of pledge, it is a $15 dollar increase. It costs more for a couple to go out for dinner and a movie, or your weekly coffee drinks at Starbucks.

 

Now here is where you are thinking, now she is going to ask us for money. Don’t panic, that is not my job. Someone else will do that later in the month. Stewardship is asking that you look at the vision of the ministry teams and vestry. Talk to other parishioners to share thoughts, and ideas.

 

We are asking that over this next month you look at how you have been cared for, and loved by the parish, its staff and the programs. Do you see the need for these ministries to grow? We ask that, in prayer, you ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in how you can become a part of the vision using your time talent and treasure. What of yourself are you willing to give, do for god, to invest in your community of St. John’s?

 

By asking the spirit to give you the wisdom, knowledge and courage in this important area, you can be sure that whatever the amount, you will not be putting your family finances in jeopardy. You will give of your time and talent without neglecting your health, job and family responsibilities.

 

We want you to enjoy your child’s extracurricular activities, participate as a family in leisure and fun activities, and to enjoy a nice vacation. But remember it’s through our stewardship, as a community and as individual believers, that we tangibly demonstrate gratitude to god, and a sacrificial heart. A very close friend who happens to b e a priest, told me one day that he had asked his parishioners to name the most important part of the church.

 

He received all the usual responses, the Entrance, the Altar, Tabernacle, Communion Rail and Baptismal Fount. Then told them:

 

The most important part of the church are the pews. The pews are where the heart of the parish sits.

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