Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Spring has sprung! We’re coming through the somber days of Lent, and preparing for Easter. We’re ready for Jesus to rise again and bring new life to all the world.
In many ways, this can describe St. Paul’s’ ministry over the last year. Having spent so much time in pastoral transition and dealing with uncertainty, the church has been excited to rise again and bring new life to various ministries and projects. Attendance has been up, participation in ministries has increased, and I am currently especially excited to see renewed interest in Lenten Luncheons and Thursday morning Bible Study.
At the Annual Meeting at the end of February, we had the opportunity to celebrate this new life that we’ve experienced over the last year. At the same time, there are particular needs within the church as well. Many of these needs have to do with stewardship – how we use our time, money, and gifts. As the people of God, we are called to live generously and trust in God’s abundance. Meanwhile, there are many common misconceptions that invite us to talk ourselves out of living generously. Trusting in these myths, we can easily convince ourselves that our generosity of time, money, and gifts is not truly important.
Here are some of those myths:
The church doesn’t need me. The church is not a building; it is the community of faithful people gathered together in Christ’s name. You are part of St. Paul’s community, and you are part of the body of Christ. Your presence makes a difference, even when you don’t realize it. In addition to your presence and prayers, the church is always seeking volunteers to serve in worship and help with projects, and any way that you can give is greatly appreciated. The church ALWAYS needs you!
There are more people in church, so giving must be up. The saying in seminary was always: butts in the pew does not equal bucks in the plate. Just because there’s more people in worship, that doesn’t mean giving increases. In fact, some research has shown that giving increases tend to lag at least three years behind increases in attendance. Usually, the long-time members are the most significant source of giving within a church.
All my giving is going to legal expenses. As Don noted at the annual meeting, only 7.9% of expenses in 2022 were for legal fees. All other giving supported the life and ministry of St. Paul’s. Yes, the legal case is an unfortunate reality. But, St. Paul’s continues to look to the future, and that future is not possible without your support. The Holy Spirit is still moving here at St. Paul’s, and I invite you to continue to be part of our shared mission.
I only need to give when I go to church. If the ministry of the church is important to you, it’s important to give even when you can’t attend. Unfortunately, some people think of their offering as the “price of admission” for attending church. But your giving is worth far more than a movie ticket. By supporting St. Paul’s, you’re giving to continue our congregation’s vital presence in the community. Even more, by thinking about how much you want to give, and planning for it, many people find that they are able to give more than they realized!
My giving doesn’t make a difference. Your giving makes ALL the difference! I’ve seen so many fundraisers—even here at St. Paul’s—that have raised hundreds or thousands of dollars, even when any single donation might seem small or insignificant. Even if you can only give $5 or $10, your giving contributes to the abundance that God provides for us, just like the feeding of the 5,000 with just five loaves of bread and two fish.
These myths only have power over us if we choose to believe them. Instead of believing these myths, I invite you to trust in God’s abundance, to give thanks for the gifts that God has given you, and to give generously to the mission we share. I am thankful for all those that already give generously, and for those that continue to pray and serve within the body of Christ. In the past year, I have witnessed that the Holy Spirit is alive and at work here at St. Paul’s, and every one of us is valuable as we carry out our mission to Celebrate God’s Love through Service.
Rev. Jessica Hahn