Below is audio and text by Susan Rucker, originally read in worship on Sunday, October 4, 2015.
Recently we discussed the church budget in our Sunday School class. A question was asked that puzzled many of us – What does our church really spend money on? As church members, we get great detail on how our money is spent through the church financial statements. The dollars and cents are well accounted for, and clearly labeled. This was explained to the class, but it was clear that it did not answer the question.
It seems to me that the question really being asked was – How do I know that the spending in our church budget makes a difference, and why should I support it? This is an entirely different question. Here are some thoughts on how I would answer it.
The dollars from our church budget help provide:
- The joy felt at weddings in our beautiful sanctuary;
- The comfort provided by staff members and Stephen ministers to those in the hospital or the funeral home that are struggling with loneliness and loss;
- Support for Sunday School classes and youth activities where our youngest transition from the simple belief of a child to the more mature faith of an adult;
- The sounds of beautiful music heard at concerts, worship services, and small groups;
- A space for us to come and spend time in worship, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life;
- The development of community where we can laugh and cry and play with friends;
- Medical care at clinics for the uninsured, food for the hungry, and a place to sleep for the homeless;
- Support for those that carry the word of God to people that need to hear it – here at home and abroad.
- When you answer the question this way, we can see that the church budget supports our members and many others as they go through all of life’s stages. The church is here in time of great joy, in times of deep sadness, and in the everyday rhythm of life. The church is a constant in a world of constant change. The church is here to perform the work of God’s kingdom.
This year, as we think about our financial commitment to the church, though, we need to recognize that our church as an institution is also in transition. Mike Clingenpeel, our pastor, has announced his retirement. Many people are working on plans for leadership that will help carry on the work of our church. Others are asking “What does this mean for me and for our church? Are there changes ahead?”
The fact of the matter is that just as we as individuals go through transitions on a constant basis, so do organizations. The retirement of a pastor is a notable and obvious transition and, yes, there will be change. It may be less obvious to us that we have been changing as a congregation slowly and gradually over the years. Our worship attendance is down. Our pledging families and pledges are down, and we are able to pay our bills only with the support of the Endowment Fund.
We have challenges, but we also have opportunities. We have new members joining us, we have beautiful facilities, we will soon have a new organ, and we have an active missions program. There is unmet need for us to minister to – both inside and outside of our congregation. There is much that we can do and that we are called to do, both as individuals and as a congregation.
We have been a strong and vibrant congregation for decades. It is up to us to renew that commitment to our church on a continual basis. This year, as we renew our commitment, we need to recognize that we are in transition. The future is in our hands. We can sit back and wait, or we can step up and carry on the work of the church – through our dollars, our time, and our discipleship. We can exit this transition stronger than we entered it – if we choose to make that happen. Stewardship is a part of the commitment we all need to make to have a strong and growing church. The stewardship campaign is the time when we ask you to act on that commitment and turn in your pledge card.
To answer the question that was asked in our Sunday School class, I believe that yes, you can be assured that your contributions to our budget do make a difference. Thank you for your contributions – both now and in the future.