As the new programme year gets started in churches across the country, there’s a phrase that’s started its annual whispering into our ears, and I’ve been thinking about the idea of sacrificial giving, and how we present our requests for financial support, aka the stewardship campaign.
There is a school of thought that feels that our culture is not accustomed to the idea of sacrificial giving, and that even the biblical tithe is not the standard that it once was. I don’t disagree – but the Bible teaches us that it may be just those people who are least able to give who are most likely to sacrifice.
I’m thinking of the widow and her mite (Luke 21:1-4).
In a strange way, it makes sense that those who have the least are the most likely to hear the call to the financial giving which we call stewardship.
Because when the rector or stewardship committee chair tells the congregation frankly that they are responsible for paying the bills for the services and utilities that the parish uses, it is those people who struggle to pay for their own heat and light who will understand most clearly reality behind the appeal.
When the buildings and grounds committee points out that repairs are essential, let alone improvements, and that the parish must foot the bill, it is those people who have already had to compromise on their own care and maintenance – from annual physicals to haircuts – who will nod in sympathy with their beloved building.
When the spectre of staff cuts is raised, unless revenue is raised, it is those who are without sufficient paid work who shiver.
And it is when that rector or that committee chair points to the doors and says, “It is up to us all to keep those doors open,” it is those whose doors are at risk of shutting them out of foreclosed homes who know in their bones that it is true.
And, it is true.
Fortunately, there are those joyful givers who are willing to share out of their abundance. Others of us (I include myself) could perhaps contribute more. But I worry about those who feel called to give more than they afford.
So (one of) my question(s) to myself and to anyone who’d like to contribute an answer is: how can we combine a call the people for stewardship -real support, commitment, care – of our churches as institutions with a call to our instutions for stewardship – support, commitment, tender care – of its members?