by Courtney Stringer
I often am asked, so what is Stewardship? One definition of stewardship is the willingness of church members to take active responsibility in the service of the church through voluntary contributions of time, money and natural gifts. These gifts include vocations, passions, opportunities and talents of all kinds.
Throughout the year, the stewardship ministry team is focused on three key messages which will shape my talk this morning:
- Communication of stewardship facts and telling the story of St. Mark’s
- Gratitude for our past gifts of time, talent and treasure; and
- Invitation to be generous in the future
The first key message is communication of stewardship facts and telling the story of St. Mark’s.
A big push in our increased communication has been mission moments – where a member of the congregation will speak in church about why St. Mark’s is meaningful to them or a way in which our ministry has touched their life.
Stewardship 101 and Stewardship 102 which are often found in the Bridge aims to keep the congregation informed about stewardship at St. Mark’s. Increased communication enables us to be transparent about the needs of the church and Church Council has a responsibility to report to the congregation how we are doing.
And then finally, communicating different ways in which a member at St. Mark’s can make a gift through the new online giving portal, an IRA rollover, a gift of stock, bank bill pay or envelope offerings – our goal is to make it as easy as possible for members to be well-informed about the ministry at St. Marks, what they are supporting and how they can do so.
And through tools like Learn, Serve, Grow [which we are still collecting] we enable our members to use their gifts to not only engage in the life of the congregation but to serve, lead and make a significant impact on the church, our community and the world.
The second key stewardship message, is gratitude for our past gifts of time, talent and treasure.
Last year, in January 2015, when we had a 6% increase in budget, we came to the congregation with our growing needs within our ministry and people stepped forward in faith. You increased your giving, many of you made plans for giving who had never done so in the past, and you sustained your commitment to St. Marks. We ended up at the end of calendar year 2015, not only meeting our increased budget, but exceeding our budget. THANK YOU! Thank you for the incredible generosity and the way in which you stepped forward.
Recently, the congregation voted to change our fiscal year from the traditional calendar year to a more common year fiscal year for churches, July 1 through June 30. This change in the fiscal year will align our programmatic year, like the school year. Additionally, the new fiscal year will greatly enhance our ability to plan. For instance, we often receive a generous bump in gifts during Christmas time. These amounts while they are large, they can also vary greatly. It will be a big service to have a fiscal year, where we can continue to plan for another six months after Christmas, based on what is received through offering and gifts during that generous period of time.
A special thank you to the many families who helped us these past six months with their continued commitments by completing 6-month plans for giving. We know that the change in fiscal year has been confusing at times and we appreciate your patience, generosity and care as we seek to grow, and explore ways to better our financial planning at St. Mark’s.
The final key stewardship message is our invitation to be generous in the future.
We aim to be bold in the invitation to, yet again, fully fund our mission.
As we move into the conversation about the budget, I want to stress the commitment to mission and our ability to stretch to reach our goals of mission and vision through discernment, like bringing Pastor Shjerven’s position to fulltime. Throughout our history at St. Mark’s we’ve been able to do things that are important to our community and the world because we haven’t been afraid to step forward.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who have already completed your plan for giving in support of the ongoing ministry here at St. Mark’s. Plans for giving are extremely important for St. Mark’s budgeting process, as we try to plan for the upcoming year.
Currently, we are above where we were last year in pledges and for the first time, we have a record number of households who have submitted their plans for giving.
This means that for those who have yet to turn in their plans for giving, we ask that you thoughtfully and prayerfully consider your plan following your heart, and trusting in God’s promise to provide for all that you need and more.
We are a growing congregation, and you’ll see the proposed budget for this fiscal year is larger than in the past. As a healthy, vibrant community, we have many expressions of ministry that have a profound impact, not only on us but also on our neighbors. Each year, increased giving means that we are not only able to support all that exists but to develop our ministry in broader ways, and like our vision states, “St. Mark’s is a church that is part of a larger, more diverse human community in which we both offer and receive gifts.”