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Deeper: Assumptions

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  • Thought a lot this week about how to start a sermon like this, which will become the "nuts-and-bolts" sermon for stewardship.
    • "The DrEaDeD stewardship sermon"
    • The Sunday you should try to miss
    • Etc etc etc
    • Some of it is because we're uncomfortable asking for money - we feel like we got to get to know people before we can start even discussing it
    • But all of that obscures a truth we're trying to keep together: that every time we talk about budgets, or finances, it's really another important lens to discuss a vision of ministry.
    • So it'd almost be like saying "here's our awful part of ministry," and I'm not sure anyone would be jazzed about that.
  • It'd also make these texts today seem like something we'd want to hide, but instead, they are ways that we can challenge our conversations about finances and come up with a message that cuts through our concerns about speaking on them.
    • 1 KINGS
      • Elijah at this time is getting geared up to fight against what will be his primary nemesis - King Ahab
      • He just proclaims that there will be a three year drought in the land, and then heads to the widow at Zarephath to be cared for.
      • They were understandably fearful for their scarcity, but trusted God.
      • As a result, they continued to be fed.
    • MARK
      • Mark invites us to challenge all sorts of assumptions about finances:
        • The Scribes treated with respect in the marketplace
          • "scribe" here was someone who could read and write - the successful folk
          • And I think it's part of the culture that if you've done well for yourself you want to be acknowledged
          • But here, Jesus reminds us that's not really what it's about
        • The money in the treasury vs. the widow's portion
          • Notice that the problem isn't the amount, really. It's good that some folks put in large sums.
          • But it's about intentionality, proportionality and trust
            • The connection between widows ought not to be ignored here - I think it's fair to say they both placed their confidence and trust into God and those who were caring for her.
            • She chose to give what she could and even if it wasn't much on the bottom line, it counted
            • There was thought behind it, choice behind it.
  • On our nuts-and-bolts Sunday, we need to have these concepts as a backdrop to have it be something more than a C-Suite budget meeting
    • That it's not about looking good, but about doing good.
    • That it's not about the amount, but the intentionality.
    • That it's not about stuffing the storehouses, but about trusting God.
      • This is one worth teasing out a little.
      • Understanding how churches have millions of dollars and then just sit without doing anything
      • It can make folks complacent, or worse, when a membership dwindles, it's just money doing nothing while people suffer.
      • There is a good balance between having jars of meal and oil and being concerns about feeding a family, and stuffing them because we need to trust that God will continue to provide for our family.
  • So here's the reality of where we were:
    • We used to have about 100 giving units (individuals, families, etc), for some reason this year that decreased.
    • We also had a bit of a shock to the budget in the last couple years - COVID related, but might be some declines as folks waited on the sidelines
      • This meant the church undertook some drastic cuts so we didn't completely empty the storehouse
      • Staff, for instance, took paycuts of 25-30%. THEY STILL CAME WORK TO SERVE THIS CHURCH, and we've been able to make them whole.
      • But, over time, we started to realize that there were places where we could become more and more strategic with our budget.
      • We turned over lots of stones to reduce costs in things like copiers, insurance, etc.
      • In the meantime, we directed more funds to the things that matter most - building out our ministries, telling people our story more.
    • There's a temptation here to continue a story, too, that the reason we tore down buildings was because of a lack of funds.
    • I want to argue instead that it's allowed us to rethink our ministry for such a time as this.
    • We must let death go and be resurrection people.
  • We set a budget this year close to $450,000
    • This budget has had months of reflection by staff, committees, and Session
    • We asked ourselves in every area what we wanted to do as a church in the coming year, but research and time behind it, and created these numbers
    • This lets us create new programming, reach out into the community, spruce up our sanctuary, and continue to have a vibrant staff - it provides the resources to be the vital church you've heard about week after week.
    • It doesn't invite us to dip into the funds from the sale because those are designated for the new building and for some reserves that mean that when we have an emergency or want to explore a new ministry that we didn't anticipate as we built the budget, we can be agile.
  • We want to be 100 at 100
    • We would love to be back to 100 giving units at least, helping us achieve right about 100% of our giving
    • So here's a helpful baseline: if everyone gave about $85 week, we'd achieving 100% of our goal.
      • You in your reflections need to know if that's something you can do.
      • I know there are some folks that can't do that - that's totally fine! Just give, but give with intentionality - even if it's $1/week.
      • There are some of you that I'm sure could give more: what if you think about the more that you give as helping someone who can't give as much. What if it's preparing the way for some other person who will start to attend here yet isn’t able to start giving.
    • This week you should get in the mail your pledge card, the ministry syllabus, and SASE in case you'd rather send it in that way.
  • In the end, this budget, this stewardship season, this way of doing things - it's all to challenge the assumptions we tell ourselves about the how's and why's of ministry. Let's go deeper.

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