Monday, September 27, 2010

#267 Be faithful. “…fix your attention on God.
You’ll be changed from the inside out.”
(Romans 12:2 The Message)

Cindy and Steve were making final plans for their summer vacation. They had considered some trips close to home, yet their dream trip to Yellowstone kept bouncing back into the discussion. They thought about the uncertain gas prices this year, the fact that their oldest child will start high school in the fall and wouldn’t be available for family vacations much longer, and the fact that they usually traveled home to Michigan to see family. Finally they decided to “go for it” and head west to Yellowstone.

The next Sunday, Steve started writing the check for their offering. He found Cindy and asked, “What do you think about giving less to the church this summer to make sure we have enough money for our vacation?” She said, “I guess it’s okay…I don’t know,” as she ran off to comb little Lily’s hair.

When it came time for the offering, their 10 year old son took his turn at putting the envelope in the plate. Steve noticed that he was studying it pretty closely. When they got out to the car, Tyler asked, “How come you gave less to the church today, Dad?” Steve looked at Cindy, who stared straight ahead at the road. He replied, “Well, your mother and I were thinking about taking a special vacation this summer. You know that Kristy’s going to high school next year and…” Kristy interrupted, “Mom said you were thinking about taking us to Yellowstone instead of going to Grandma and Grandpa’s this year. Why would we want to do that? It doesn’t seem very faithful to me for us to give less to the church just so we can take a trip to see Old Faithful!”

After the kids were in bed, Cindy brought Steve the checkbook and said, “I just went online and signed up to have our regular tithe sent to the church every week through online banking. Do you want to write a check to make up the difference this week or should I?” “I will,” he said. “And I’ll call my folks to make sure we can come during our usual week in August. Maybe we can take the ferry or do something special while we’re in Michigan this year and start a new tradition.”

--Wisconsin UMC Stewardship Message

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Car without a Battery?
The importance of your financial gifts to our church

Picture this: with great diligence you’ve worked and saved up money for a brand new car. It has all of the bells and whistles you’ve been hoping for – a well-built body, the best engine available, a very comfortable interior, great fuel efficiency, and the latest in navigation and entertainment gadgets. But, on the day you go to pick it up, you discover that it doesn’t have a battery. This one omission means that you won’t be able to drive your dream car off the lot.

The “car” in this scenario represents all of those life-giving organizations and institutions we know to be a blessing to God’s world. These efforts are definitely worthy recipients of the financial fruits of our labors and good stewardship.

Recently, following an endowment workshop in one of our local churches, a generous United Methodist commented that he didn’t know he could leave money to his church through his will. He went on to share how he and his wife had included Deaconess Family Services, the University of Puget Sound, and Heifer Project (three great examples of the “car”) in their estate plans, but not their church. Following his comment someone else in the group raised a hand to ask, would any of these great institutions exist without the church?

In the previous car analogy, local churches are the “battery.” After all, it was local churches who generated the vast majority of educational, health, and other beneficial institutions in existence today. If the church ceases to exist, who will power these crucial institutions and generate new ones? Indeed the local church remains the heart and soul of countless charitable efforts that the world desperately needs.

If the solution for our car dilemma is to invest in a battery, then the solution to our charitable institution dilemma is to give effectively to our local church. It doesn’t take a lot of money from any one individual – but it does take all of us investing in our generative “church” together.

Here are some of the simple things that we can all do to keep our ministries running for generations to come:
  • If you’re creating or revising your will, consider naming our church as a beneficiary.
  • Consider giving a gift, of any amount, to help birth or grow an endowment fund for our church.
  • If you’re 65 or older, and in need of an annual income, please consider the benefits of a Charitable Gift Annuity (with our church as the named “charity”).
  • Consider donating stock and/or assets (e.g., life-insurance) that you no longer need to our church.
  • Seek out members of our church’s Board of Trustees or Endowment Committee for more information and ideas.

--adapted from the Pacific Northwest Ann Conf website

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer

Monday, September 13, 2010

Faithful, Effective Giving
In Hard Financial Times

While it might make sense to “hunker down” when money is tight, our faith continues to call us to practice radical generosity. John Wesley (the founder of the United Methodist tradition) passionately urged his followers – rich and poor – to “Give all you can” and “‘Render unto God,’ not a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God’s, be it more or less.”* And, it’s not our faith tradition alone – take for example the witness of our poorer sisters and brothers who model radical generosity in the midst of grave financial hardship. (“The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of U.S. households contributed an average of 4.3% of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1%.”**)

In difficult financial times, it seems that the issue isn’t whether or not to be generous, it’s how to be most effective in our giving. On the back of this bulletin insert, you’ll find a few ideas for making the most of your financial gifts to our church and the ministries and organizations that help to express your care for God’s world.

Ideas for Making the Most of Your Financial Gifts

The power of pooling
  • In the face of many pressing ministerial needs, one $20 gift may seem insignificant. But, combined with similar gifts from others in our church, it can become a micro-loan (see, grant (see, or endowment that directly benefits our most valued ministries. For example, one United Methodist (UM) couple decided to set up an endowment fund – through the Northwest UM Foundation – to receive the financial gifts ($5 –$100) that others ordinarily would spend on gifts to honor their birthdays and anniversaries. Today, this endowment holds over $20,000 and its income blesses the children of a UM mission school that is very dear to the couple. If one couple can do this, just think what might happen if 50 people added to such a pool!
The little things that build legacy

  • It’s easy to designate our church as a beneficiary in your will – as simple as adding a line like: “I give __% of my estate to_________ [church name], at ___________ [church address].” If you’re over 65, you may also want to consider tools like a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) – an ideal plan for people who want to effectively provide for their financial needs (and those of their loved ones), while simultaneously making a significant gift to the ministries they value. (Potential benefits of a CGA include: guaranteed, partially tax-free annual payments of 5% and higher; immediate income tax deduction; and capital gain reductions.)
Treasures in the attic

  • If you have a life insurance policy, an IRA, or other assets that you no longer need, you can gift these to our church and/or the ministries that matter most to you.

--The Northwest United Methodist Foundation

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

As a pastor, I have heard many people’s opinion on Connectional Giving (apportionments) within the United Methodist Church. (For those who are not UM, we are a “connectional” church, which means that all of our churches are connected under the banner of the District that the church resides in. The District is part of the Conference and the Conference is part of the General church.) The opinions have ranged from being unfair and to a tax on local churches. I believe that some of these opinions are formed due to not having an understanding about what Connectional giving actually entails.

As a pastor, I believe that ONE of the signs of spiritual maturity is giving of one’s resources (money, time, resources) to God. It is Biblical that as disciples we give at least 10% of our earnings back to God. Is this because God needs our money? NO! It’s because money can so easily become lord of our lives and God’s desire is to be first in our life, not our money. I believe Connectional Giving is one of the signs of spiritual maturity in the life of a church. It’s a way for us to give back to God a portion of the blessings He has given to us. That reason alone should be reason enough for all UM churches to strive for 100% connectional giving. However, I want to (over the next several weeks) share with my readers how what we give is used.

One of the ways that our givings are used is to fund the Ministerial Education Fund (MEF). The MEF is used to help people who are called to go into the pastoral ministry fund their seminary education. In my own career as a minister I can tell you that there would have been no way for me to go to seminary without MEF. Not only was I able to go, I was able to graduate with next to no student loans. Praise God and thanks to all the churches who paid their apportionments. I owe a great deal of my seminary education to them.

--Rev. John Hill, pastor of The Bridge UMC, N AL Ann Conf.

God Is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications