An Invitation to Stewardship, by Jerry Barton
For those of you new among us, I’ve been supporting this church almost as long as this congregation has existed. I play the organ, I sing in the choir, I’ve served on committees, and occasionally I’ve helped out in the pulpit. I’ve been here through financially good times and financially struggling times. I’ve been here when the church has prospered and when it has been challenged.
This church has several re-occurring events throughout the year: Advent, Christmas, Easter, Harvest Festival, and yes, also the annual Stewardship campaign.
You may think that the reason we have an offering during the Sunday morning service is because the church needs to pay its bills and also wants to do good things with the money that is collected. Our church does need to pay its bills, and we do good things with the money you put in the offering plate … but that is not why we have an offering during the Sunday morning service.
During the service, we are called to respond to God’s love through prayers, communion, and giving.
The offering is a part of our response to the love that God has shown us. It is an act of worship, a time in which we are invited to give up something that we value—our money—as a sacrifice to God. It is an important part of our response. It is one way to reach out. We reach out with giving hands.
We are invited to pledge and to put money in the offering plate on Sunday morning not because the church needs our money but because we want and need to give it. The motivation of the giver is what counts most, not the size of the gift. Church offerings are not just fund-raising rituals but to me are acts of worship in which we are invited to express our devotion to the God who is so good to us.
When we reach out, as a church and a community, we are participating and thanking God for the grace and love that goes before us. There is great need in the world today. Our need is to open ourselves so that we can experience God’s love and participate in the wonders this love can create.
There are many ways to give – to be good stewards. Participation, sharing your skills, helping before, during, and after the service. There are large and small contributions – even just holding the door with a smile is giving. Giving to the church is one way to reach out. There is a hymn, “You are the church, I am the church, we are the church together” – but I believe this is only partly true – we are the stewards of the church, a church that was active before we were here in the congregation and will be, with your loving stewardship and God’s grace, for a long time in the future.
When you pray about giving, and when you give, do so with a joyful and loving heart. I pray that you will act boldly, letting your light shine and being a blessing to others. I thank you for the blessing of being an open and loving community, for your support of each other, of neighbors near and far, and of this congregation of the United Methodist Church.