Stewardship isn’t just about money but about using well all the currencies God has given us. Over the next six months let’s look more closely at each and see how they can help us fulfill our mission. This month the focus is on the currency of time and place. Trinity’s physical assets of property and location are invaluable gifts from God enabling vital ministries to happen. Time is another priceless currency that must be used wisely and with care. To make a difference at Trinity in April prayerfully consider:
“To be a Christian is to receive God’s good gifts and enjoy them the most, need them the least, and give them away most freely!” - Keven DeYoung
We want to thank all who completed their pledge cards and turned them in already. It is so encouraging to see your faithful commitment to the ministry of Trinity.
If you haven’t turned in your pledge card yet, we are counting on you to do this as soon as possible so that we can responsibly build our budget for next year. You can place them in the pledge boxes or offering plates next Sunday or turn them in to the office. Your support, understanding, and action matters a great deal.
If you currently give through the EFT system, please make sure that you also fill out a pledge card for next year so that we will have a hard copy for your record and ours. In January we will be changing our EFT system to a more convenient, flexible and less expensive system known as VANCO. For those of you who are currently doing EFT, we will provide simple instructions or help you make the change to the new system by the end of this year. So leave your current EFT in place for now and you’ll be getting more information in due time.
If you choose not to pledge for next year, we would appreciate it if you turn in your pledge card anyway so we can plan our budget around this information and not contact you further about it! We do hope that you will give generously to the support of God’s ministries and mission at Trinity and beyond.
The Stewardship Commission
Although I’m not personally a “cradle Episcopalian” I’m always impressed at a baptismal or confirmation service with the covenant promises that are rehearsed by the participants and the congregation as well. These promises that we can so easily recite are really quite daunting and powerful in their reach if we take them seriously.
The first promise we make in the Covenant Affirmation is “Will you continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?” It seems to me that inherent in this question is a willingness on our part to not just be observers or pew sitters at church but to actively partner with the ministry and mission of our parish and to support it generously and faithfully as well. This promise is a call for each of us to prayerfully consider our part in enabling God’s work through our parish to continue and flourish.
I fully realize that when we consider our pledge for the coming year with all of its uncertainties for our lives that we can easily start worrying about our own needs and be tempted to hold back. But through the years I’ve learned that God is no man’s debtor and the promise to us as believers when we share sacrificially is as true today as it was when the Apostle Paul first wrote to the church in Philippi in response to their sacrificial support for his ministry, “My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19).
When King David purchased land to build an altar for sacrifice in Jerusalem he said, “I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21: 24). Later this very spot became the site for the temple that Solomon would build to God’s glory. David was committed to giving his best and not just left overs. So our covenantal promise should be no less. As we make our pledges this Sunday as part of our stewardship at Trinity Church may it be our best as well. May we each pledge “I will with God’s help.”
Come be our guests for a wonderful dinner on Saturday evening, October 15 in the Glover Community room from 5:30-8:00 pm. Plan to join us for a special evening of:
As a close to our 2016 stewardship year we want to celebrate God’s gifts to us and reflect on how God has worked and provided. We want to hear something of how our stewardship this year made a difference in lives and furthered our mission as a parish. You don’t want to miss this evening. There will be special activities for youth and children as well.
RSVP by October 8 to Marcia DeBrock ( 203-304-9385 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Over the last several months we have looked at a new framework for thinking about stewardship here at Trinity and in our personal lives as well. We’ve used Eric Law’s stimulating and challenging book Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries as a guide to help us assess our strength and weaknesses in each area and to consider ways to be better stewards of all that God has provided for us.
Often we think of money as being the most important currency for a church. Our yearly stewardship campaigns focus on pledges and income. However, author Eric Law helps us to understand that there are actually 6 currencies which are available and as good and faithful stewards, we need to use all of them. In addition, Eric challenges us to not only consider a financial pledge but to consider pledging annually in each of these holy currencies. What might that look like and what difference might it make for us as a parish? What are you willing to commit to or pledge additionally in this coming year?
Time and place –Are we willing to offer our time to participate in ministry needs and services here at Trinity and beyond? Are we fully utilizing our property and assets? Should we be doing more?
Relationships – What am I doing to build relationships and reach out to others so as to build genuine community in which we can all spiritually thrive?
Gracious leadership – Am I willing to learn and grow in my ministry gifts and skills so as to be more effective in influencing and helping others towards God’s purposes for them?
Truth – Are we listening carefully to God and our context? Are we open to feedback and input so as to be aware of problems or needs and then to acts responsibly?
Wellness – Am I willing to participate in efforts to help create wellness for our members and others in the community? Should I be doing more?
Money – Am I willing to give generously and faithfully to support God’s work through Trinity? Is my giving truly proportionate to what God has graciously provided me?
We see many Episcopal churches running into financial trouble or not growing because of a lack of awareness of all six of these currencies and how they can be exchanged to advance vital ministries and God’s Kingdom purposes through us. It is the flowing of these currencies that gives them value. It is the dynamic exchanges of these currencies that circulates and regenerates resources making a ministry such as ours sustainable and missional.
God is calling us as a fellowship of believers at Trinity to an even great generosity so that we can see God’s mission through us truly fulfilled. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:6-8).
I’m convinced that when all of the five previous holy currencies we’ve discussed are flowing and we are alive spiritually, that money will flow as simply one of the links of exchanges. Church members will give when they realize how church ministries have fostered wellness for them and their families. When there are strong relationships and mutual trust among our members, where truth events continue to surface issues or needs and then are adequately addressed, faithful and generous stewardship happens naturally. Still it is important to think further about our last holy currency, money, as many of us struggle with this one. In fact Jesus spoke more about money than any other issue so we need to put it into perspective.
I don’t know about you but some biblical stories really trouble me. Take for instance the account of the widow’s mite as told by Jesus in Luke 21:1-4. “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."
So how do I know if my giving measures up to God’s expectations? Would Jesus praise my offerings and gifts the same way as this widow? Here is a poor woman, at the bottom of the social scale, whose gift is praised above the more affluent majority, even though their gifts were objectively much greater. Jesus makes clear, however, that the bottom line for measuring giving is not the amount of money given but rather the devotion of the heart and the cost to the giver. What does my giving really cost me is the operative question for each of us.
I once heard a preacher say, “Give until it hurts! And then give some more until it starts to feel good.” Does that sound like a bit of a stretch or emotional arm twisting? Well, compare that preacher’s claim to the Apostle Paul’s example of generous giving by Macedonia believers. “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3). Again, the question to each of us when it comes to considering our giving it is not the amount we give but the personal cost to us. If we hardly notice what we’ve given, I suspect that we have not really grasped yet the principle of sacrificial giving. Paul would graciously encourage us, “But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us --see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
“Are you keeping well?” How often we use this greeting with friends or acquaintances in polite conversation. I think we all have the desire to be “well” and wish it for others also. But what do we really mean by well? In one of John’s short letters in the New Testament he writes, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 1:2).
Wellness as a currency means creating opportunities for people to be restored and renewed both spiritually and in other ways. We need to develop this currency in order to help accomplish God’s desire for each of us to experience his shalom (wholeness, wellness, peace). Growing spiritually is a key contributor to personal and emotional wellness. Seeing the wellness of people increased is an important and desired outcome of our ministries. How do we do this?
As Eric Law states it so well in his book Holy Currencies, “Developing the currency of wellness means creating opportunities for people to rest, play, celebrate, give thanks and encounter each other…” As part of a church’s agenda, we need to plan for “wellness events”, and think of wellness as an outcome or goal for an activity both for our members and others in our communities. For example, recently Trinity hosted and facilitated a special workshop on the topic of “How to support a grieving family member or friend” and was held at the Newtown Library. This was designed to bring wellness to people struggling with grief issues.
Wellness events come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Church or personal retreats are one example. Providing pastoral counseling, spiritual direction and programs like Stephen Ministries are another. Small groups and fellowship gatherings are helpful as well. Each of us as members of Trinity needs to take seriously the biblical principle of sabbatical rest in terms of a healthy rhythm of work/rest/re-creation. We need to pay attention to our physical well-being which so affects our emotional and even spiritual well-being.
The currency of truth is the primary exchange in the development of wellness. Internally truth events serve to diagnose the wellness of our church community. When there are conflict and hurts, lack of unity, or discouragement we need to be aware and seek to address these as a path to wellness. Externally, truth events help us to discern the needs that exist in the wider community. The currency of truth pushes us out of denial and helps us to see the reality of our church or wider community. Wellness is God’s intention for each of us. We also need to infuse a commitment to wellness in everything we do.
Jesus promised that “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:33). Does that mean we are set free to do whatever we like or to abandon our responsibilities? Hardly! He sets us free to be able to experience God’s best and blessing for our lives. We are set free to be able to truly align ourselves with God’s good and perfect will. Truth is a currency we cannot live without.
Truth is what energizes a church to carefully observe, ask questions, and to seek to understand needs and opportunities within or without. It is what ignites the desire in a church to engage in implementing change and seek to improve, restore or help.
The currency of truth challenges church members to rethink how they use their money, time and the places to which they have access. It also ignites a passion for justice, that is, to a commitment to address problems and face up to issues with a view to doing something to correct or improve.
In the past year the Visioning Team has worked hard in discerning where we are as a parish and what is happening around us. It is the truth of those reports and observations that is now propelling the Visioning Management Team to identify areas of weaknesses and improve them along with targeting strategic opportunities to seize.
Our commitment to the refugee resettlement project is a good example of our parish responding to the currency of truth about important needs in our community. The desire to improve Trinity’s pastoral care ministries is another.
The currency of truth is the commitment to stay aware and alert to needs or problems within the church that might hinder its welfare, but also to discover what leads to the well-being of members and the ministry. Likewise, the currency of truth can be used to discover needs and opportunities within the community or beyond that God would call us to address.
The currency of truth easily flows into the currencies of wellness and relationships. When our church is a place where truth is spoken, we learn vital facts and grasp more fully our context. We understand and seek then to increase our leadership capacity in order to act and mobilize resources accordingly. We need regular truth events to help us learn from each other and to discern what God is then calling us to do as a parish and as individuals.
In recent weeks we have been looking at the 6 holy currencies introduced by Eric Law in his challenging book, “Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries.” These currencies provide us with a helpful framework to see both needs and opportunities within our church and in our community. These currencies also help us to assess how well we are using all of our resources.
We believe that Trinity has a God–given purpose and mission. Scripture makes clear that God has provided all the resources we need to carry out his work here. As the Apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” His resources may not always be discernible on the surface but they are there if we would prayerfully and carefully follow his leading and trust his promises. Let’s look at another currency that is vital to the cycle of blessings.
3. The Currency of Relationships. Believe it or not, money is not the primary issue in most financially struggling churches. The deeper issue is relationships. Having strong relationships and mutual trust among members of the church is essential for a sustainable ministry. These relationships are primary to accomplishing the ministries of the church by being exchanged for the other five currencies. Church members will gladly offer their volunteer hours for ministries when they have strong ties to the church community. Through healthy internal networks of the church, recruiting leaders for ministry is more easily accomplished, usually by friends asking friends to take up responsibilities. Members can offer their gifts and skills when they sense a strong tie to others and buy into the mission and vision of the church. Church members will offer financial support for a church that provides them with a meaningful supportive network of relationships.
The key purpose in developing relationships internally is to create wellness, unity and trust within the church community. In that environment, church members can mobilize other currencies (time and place, gracious leadership, wellness, truth and money) in the cycle of blessings.
Activities or programs that help create positive and constructive relationships within the church are not optional. Investment of time and resources to strengthen relationships both within and without can translate into spiritual growth of members and positive impact within our communities. The new small group ministry that Trinity will launch this coming October is one means of generating deeper relationships that hopefully will lead to wellness and increased ministry impact. How well are we using the currency of relationships?
Probably most of us have never thought of leadership as a currency of stewardship, but a closer look will reveal just how important it is for the effective stewardship of our God-given resources. Knowing how to empower members to share their gifts and experiences and to do it in a way that is beneficial to the community is crucial.
As Eric Law puts it in his book “Holy Currencies”, “Gracious leaders think of their leadership roles as water. They use their skills, knowledge, experiences, and disciplines to “flow” through a community, interacting and connecting different people, groups or gifts, thereby causing new things to happen.” Gracious leaders know how to generate and use all of the Holy Currencies. They help create gracious environments within which mutually respectful relationships and the discernment of truth across differences can be built among members and the wider community as well.
Investing in developing our ministry leaders at all levels is vital for building an effective parish ministry. Gracious leaders typically don’t grow on trees but are nurtured and developed through modeling, adopting biblical principles and values, and taking opportunities to learn. Good stewardship then includes the development of the gifts and skills of all our members and especially of those who have leadership functions.
In thinking about leaders, don’t just focus on clergy or vestry members. In a sense any of us who are seeking to influence God’s people towards God’s purposes are acting as leaders. This means that we all need to consider committing to mentoring or training that will enable us to be part of the gracious leadership pool of Trinity. For us as a church to be truly missional and move towards greater sustainability, we need to invest time and funds in the development of effective leadership.