As this is the time of stewardship campaigns and budget battles, I post the follow thoughts. You are welcome to use them; please credit the thoughts so as to not confuse people.
What does stewardship mean to me? What should stewardship mean to you? These are questions that have perplexed churches since the first church budget was ever proposed. It is not a subject that many people like to deal with since money and budgets are not “proper” topics for church members to discuss. We believe that God will provide.
So why have Stewardship moments; why have a Stewardship drive?
Stewardship is more than just giving money so that the church can stay open and pay its bills. Stewardship is about returning to God what God has given to us. Stewardship is our responsibility to see that God’s work on this earth is done. Unfortunately, that does require money. It also requires our participation.
There are two things that you need to know about me. First, I am a second generation military brat. For those who may not be aware of this term, it means that both my grandfather and father served in the military and that much of my early life was spent traveling from air base to air base. As such, I do not have a home church; a church that I could say to others “This is the church where I grew up.”
But having a home church is something that I never worried about. Having a church home has. There was a period of time that I call my “wilderness period.” Things were not going as I hoped and if it had not been for my church home, I may have truly become lost in the wilderness. So, it was very critical that, whenever I moved, I find a place that I could call my church home. For the past six years that has been Fishkill United Methodist Church.
Please don’t get me wrong. This was not a superficial choice. It was based on prayerful consideration of what Ann and I needed in a church, not what we wanted in a church. So, Fishkill is our family’s church home, as it is for you. For many of you, it is also your home church. We are asking for you to consider that home.
But a church, just like any other business, must have some idea of what its income will be so that it can plan its coming year. Ask yourself if there is any business that operates on the basis of not knowing what its income will be during the coming year. Ask yourselves what happens to such businesses. I spent most of my high school teaching career in farm communities and I didn’t know of too many farmers that did not plan their crops in advance without some idea of what the market will bring and what the weather is likely to be. Similarly, you don’t take care of your own home without some consideration for what moneys are available.
We have to take care of our church home. In planning the budget, the Finance Committee wanted to insure that no work area would be put in the position of ignoring the needs of the church. But if the Fishkill Church is to grow, there must be a plan for that growth. The moneys for each work area take into account the growth of the church and provide for the basic needs of the members of the church.
There are going to be those who wonder why I would offer thoughts about stewardship for the church. Though I have been a member of Fishkill United Methodist Church for over six years, I have not been a regularly attendee or participator in church activities. I know that it is going to sound rather lame but I haven’t attended church on Sunday mornings for most of that time because I was working on most Sunday mornings.
How many times have we heard that excuse? Sometimes it is true and, if you have to work, it cannot be helped. But too often the excuse is used to justify the unjustifiable.
When I was in college, I thought I would enjoy the luxury of finally getting to sleep late on Sunday morning. My mother wasn’t there to tell me to get up and get ready for church. But somehow I couldn’t do it; something inside me kept me going to church. And after college, during that time in my live when I could say that I was almost lost in the wilderness, I felt a nagging pull on me when I missed church.
And for everyone who skips church, there are those who make the effort to attend. At the church that I belonged to in Memphis, there was a lieutenant in the Memphis Fire Department. By regulation, he had to be at the station when on his shift so he couldn’t always be at church. But on those Sundays when he was not working, he was in church with his family.
Or maybe you know someone like a friend of mine in Minnesota who worked the 3rd shift at the State Prison He was a prison guard and there were some Sundays when the night was not as calm and peaceful as he would have liked them to be. Yet, he came to church every Sunday and served as the Liturgist, even when his body was crying out for sleep.
Yes, there are going to be days when we would just as soon roll over and go back to sleep when the alarm goes off on Sunday morning. But like these two individuals, if we give ourselves to Christ and let the Holy Spirit direct our lives, we have the strength necessary to make it on those mornings when our bodies don’t have the strength.
Yes, I haven’t come to church most Sunday mornings over the past six years because I was preaching, first at Walker Valley United Methodist Church and then at Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church. That nagging feeling I felt while in college so many years ago, the feeling that just never seemed to go away was the Holy Spirit, pushing and pulling me towards the path of the ministry that God wants me to follow.
My decision to pursue an active lay ministry began because I found churches in Texas and Minnesota that supported and “pushed” me to go where the Holy Spirit was leading me. If the members of those churches had not been good stewards of the faith, I might not have gone into lay speaking. We have no way of knowing who will be affected but if we are good stewards, then there might be one individual who might miss God’s call. That is not good stewardship.
Good stewardship is about caring for people and God’s work. God’s work is not the building but one cannot meet in God’s building if it is not maintained. Efforts to reach out to individuals in the local community, the state, the region, the country and the world cannot be accomplished if we are not good stewards.
But these plans are limited to the amount of money available. By now, you would have received your estimate of giving card. The purpose of this card is to provide the finance and stewardship committees with an estimate of how much income this church can expect in the coming months. Without those cards, decisions about the health of this church cannot be made.
In returning the card, you are helping with that plan. We are not asking that you tithe though if you can, you should. We recognize that, for many of you, a tithe is not possible. We are simply asking that you give, as John Wesley asked, all that you can.
I am still relatively new to the Fishkill Church. As such, I know that many will hear these words with some pessimism. So all I ask is that you listen carefully to the voice of God speaking to you this day. It is that same voice that nagged me to go to church when I was in school; it is that same voice that pushed me from the pew into the pulpit. It is the Holy Spirit asking you to do only what you can, not what you cannot do. Listen to the Holy Spirit and pray about what you should do. Consider the works of God that will be accomplished because you decided to become a good steward. If you do this, you, along with the Finance Committee, will help make this Stewardship Campaign for Fishkill United Methodist Church a success.