This was one of a series of articles I wrote for the parish newsletter of my Episcopal church in Shenandoah County, VA, as part of our annual “Joyful Giving” campaign. Our leadership group is called the Vestry, and the regional organization of the church to which we belong is called The Diocese.
I share it here because I feel so strongly that regardless of which church we attend…or whether we attend church at all…our Connection with God is directly related to our willingness to give back from the abundance with which we've been blessed…not from obligation but from a natural outpouring of gratitude and joy.
Forget about the church budget!
Forget about the church budget when you think about your personal Joyful Giving.
I hope our church Treasurers (past and present) will forgive me this rather flippant statement. I appreciate that the Vestry is required to be a good steward of monies it receives from various sources, and fiscal responsibility must go hand-in-hand with faithfulness.
When it comes to deciding how much I give back to God in the form of an annual church pledge, however, a decision based on church need drives me towards obligatory giving rather than joyful giving…towards a mentality of scarcity rather than one of abundance.
After all, the Church is in the love-spreading, life-empowering, relationship-building, Christ-sharing business. The church should not be in the fund-raising business. Yet far too often, stewardship campaigns and programs are little more than glorified fundraisers with an added layer of guilt applied. Banish that mindset!
What does God care about?
I doubt if God cares whether we get enough pledges from our parishioners to pay our electric and fuel bills. But I believe He deeply cherishes what goes on within the walls of our churches and parish halls:
- The joyful and enriching opportunity we offer weekly to worship God
- The availability of our sanctuaries for silent prayer and contemplation
- The nourishing and raising up of young people who are learning about the Bible and faith and how to love others
- The fellowship we exhibit to visitors
- The fellowship we exhibit to each other that may be, for some, the social high point of their week
- The serving of food to members of our neighborhood and community
- The outreach activities and fundraisers that touch the lives of those less fortunate
- The community functions to which we lend the use of our facilities.
Like ripples from a pebble thrown into a pool of calm water, love, generosity and caring within our churches move out far beyond their walls. They are manifested in the support we give each other in the various crises of our lives: illness, death, tragedy, loneliness, suffering. Through the remarkable leverage of our churches’ gifts to the Diocese, these ripples meet needs greater and farther than we could ever do on our own.
The holy connection of joyful giving
As I think of my giving to the church as a way to connect with God and his eternal purposes, I begin to glimpse the miracle that occurred with the loaves and fishes when Jesus fed the crowds of hungry people. What joy to be able to be a part of this…joyful giving, indeed!
How do you decide what to give back to your church or to charitable work in the world? Do you find it difficult to accomplish the scriptural tithe (10%)? Do you give with joy or with a sense of obligation? How can we change our attitude about money and giving? Please comment below or join the conversation at my Facebook Page.
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