Making Church Matter Stewardship

Obedience To What God Tells Us (about money)

November 1, 2009

We are into the second week of our annual Stewardship Series.  This message is so important in any Church setting, but especially in a Catholic setting.  In Catholic Churches the message of giving has been confused with fundraising for schools and capital projects, rendered less critical because Churches were staffed with free labor (and Catholics got used to free), and probably other reasons too. But the main reason its a problem for Catholics is that, as far as I can see, there has never been an obedience to what God tells us about money and giving.

As a result, Catholics usually rank at or near the bottom when it comes to giving patterns among religious groups.
For the past few years we have been trying to lay out a clear and consistent Biblical message about Stewardship and how it fits into the correct approach a Christ-follower has to their total financial picture. 
When it comes to the finances of this Church, I have a serious responsibility, and I need to take that responsibility seriously.  I am happy to say that our finances are in solid shape. We are doing well in view of what is going on around us and in a time when so many Churches are failing financially. We are not hosting a “money” series because we’re planning to spring a “great gotcha” at the end and lay out all kinds of financial woes and troubles.  How counterproductive is it to preach about money and then admit that the management of the Church hasn’t followed sound practices itself?  We will be ending this series with our annual Stewardship Sunday making our case and inviting support and stewardship in the coming year from our members, but not because we have financial problems.  We don’t have financial problems, we have financial needs. And as a growing Church, we have growing financial needs.  If anyone is interest in learning about our finances, we have an annual business meeting on Stewardship Sunday run  by the members of our Financial Council. 
The past two years I haven’t even attended myself, and neither does anyone else, beyond a handful of the curious and those actively involved in our finances.  I think that is a sign of Church health…we have a Church that is transparent about finances and a congregation that trusts Church leaders to take care of it.
And that trust is well placed: we have no debt, we have a modest cash reserve, we have a balanced budget and we are on budget for the current year.  All of this is no thanks to me: we have a financial team that includes staff, the Financial Council as well as our “Corporators” (Church of the Nativity is a corporation and two of our parishoners serve with me as officers of the corporation).  They look after everything and keep me updated on how they’re doing.   
That said, we do have financial needs.  The most pressing one is staffing: for a Church our size we are dramatically understaffed. I would love to have a full time staff person for service and outreach, young adults, pastoral ministry and recovery ministry…and that would just be covering the basics.  We could also use more support staff (we do not even have a full time secretary, nor do I have an assistant at this point).  Besides staffing, we need to continue to work on staff salaries, to provide fair and living wages. We are critically short on space and we have a 40 year old church nave that is going to start needing some work at some point.  So we have our needs.
But the biggest need is to help more and more people understand what God is calling us to do with the money he had given us. And giving in our place of worship, as an act of worship has to be a priority. Obedience to what God tells us about money is key to financial health and financial blessing.

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