What is Stewardship?
It’s that time of year … the fall, when many churches observe a season of stewardship. If you’ve been part of a congregation before, you’ve probably heard about this; but if you haven’t, “stewardship” and “pledging” can seem like code words for insiders. So, let’s break the code.
The meaning of “stewardship” sometimes is sadly diminished, especially when churches use that word when what they really mean is financial giving. Actually, stewardship is a rich theological idea describing the relationship between our lives and God, the ultimate provider. The idea is that God gives us everything we have – tangible and intangible blessings – and that God asks us to manage, or steward, what we’re given in ways that reflect God’s desires for us and for the world. Part of our holy management of God’s resources is giving back to God, as a thank offering, some part of what God first gave us. So, stewardship does involve making gifts to God from our time, talent, and treasure. But the idea is much bigger – that everything we have comes from God; that God entrusts all those blessings to us; and God asks us to use those blessings to bring God’s desires to life.
So, during “stewardship season,” many churches (including Episcopal congregations) ask their members to make a “pledge,” or a financial commitment to the church for the coming year. The pledge reflects our thanksgiving for all that God gives us to steward; it’s an outward and visible sign of that gratitude. Practically, pledges are also an essential part of how church leaders steward the church. Members’ pledges are the basis for each year’s budget. So, we ask members to make a pledge as a token of their thankfulness, as a sign of their commitment to this parish family and God’s work through it, and as a practical estimate of giving to help the church build a budget for the coming year. (See the FAQs for more information about St. Andrew’s ministries and the generosity that makes them possible.)
Of course, the question arises: How much to give? Traditionally, churches have said the Bible describes grateful giving at the 10-percent mark, but immediately we wonder, “10 percent of what? Net income? Gross income? Wealth?” I think a more helpful way to think about it is to make a pledge that’s proportionate to your income and reflective of your gratitude for the gifts God gives you. Someone blessed with resources can probably give a higher percentage of income; but a comparatively small gift may reflect a deeply loving and sacrificial commitment for someone whose financial life is more of a struggle.
So, let us leave it this way: We hope you’ll consider making a pledge to pass the peace in an outward and visible way in 2022. It might be through a St. Andrew’s ministry like serving hungry people at the Free Store downtown, making meals for parishioners going through a hard time, greeting neighbors at Strutt With Your Mutt in Brookside, or serving as a greeter for worship. Or it might be through an action you take on your own. But please let us know how you plan to take the love of Jesus on the road in the coming year. Or you can make a pledge of financial support for St. Andrew’s ministries that pass the peace to our members, our community, and our world. Literally, a pledge can be for any amount, and every gift matters. How about $5 a year? We’d be very grateful for that.
As the first letter of Peter puts it, God asks us to “maintain constant love for one another…. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received” (4:8,10). Or, we could put it this way: Love lives here at St. Andrew’s, but let’s not keep it to ourselves. Let’s pass the peace.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is the church doing financially?
The short answer is this: Very well, thanks to God and to you. As of September, pledged and non-pledged giving are slightly ahead of budget, which is not necessarily typical for the church’s cash flow at this time of year. This good news reflects our members’ commitment to God’s work and their desire to make a difference in challenging times. Of course, income from facility rental (primarily HJ’s) continues to be down compared with pre-pandemic use.
How are attendance and participation?
A two-platform approach to church is the way of the future, even once the pandemic’s greatest challenges are behind us. Hybrid worship, meetings, and classes may have been spurred by something we’d rather forget, but God uses even our hardest times to bring forth new life. We’re seeing both negative and positive trends in attendance. Participation in children’s ministry, youth ministry, and young-adult ministry remain considerably lower than pre-pandemic levels, and we’re continuing to seek new ways to help people feel safe about gathering in person. Interestingly, participation in adult spiritual formation (classes, groups, prayer) is up this year significantly. Part of that increase comes from Pray at 8, our live, online opportunities for morning and evening prayer. Still, even factoring out Pray at 8, participation in adult learning is up by about 15% from last year. But the greatest increases we’re seeing are in Sunday worship participation. Combining in-person and online attendance (and counting online attendance conservatively), worship participation is up by about 25% from last year.
How is Trailside going?
Trailside, our new worship experience at HJ’s, kicked off Sept. 12. A team of about 15 hosts share God’s love and hospitality as they serve as greeters and Eucharistic ministers. The worship is informal, the language is clear and direct, the music is upbeat and accessible, and the preaching is brief and relevant. We celebrate Communion each week, reinforcing the message that God loves all; and we end our worship by passing the Peace. About 25 people are coming on a typical Sunday at this point, some from the parish and some from the community. With a new worship opportunity like this, the key is patient perseverance as the word spreads – through social-media marketing, mailings, signage, and the most important medium: personal invitations from you.
How is the church keeping members safe while welcoming people in?
The pandemic continues to complicate some of our most important work – gathering for fellowship and connection with each other and with God. So, we’re offering in-person worship and meetings as well as providing all worship, and many meetings, online. This hybrid approach is here to stay, as some members feel comfortable gathering in person, others remain cautious about the risk of infection, and still others enjoy the convenience of taking part in the church’s life from home. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve followed the city’s requirements and public-health recommendations. Masks (currently required, according to regulations) and individual cups of Communion wine are likely to remain with us for some time. As the pandemic’s intensity waxes and wanes, we’ll continue to balance the need to protect one another with the need to engage with one another.
How is the church helping others in the community?
Despite the pandemic, we’re blessing the world by supporting and working alongside our Outreach partners, including Banneker Schoolyard Garden, Clement Waters, EPEC/The Grooming Project, Freedom Fire Urban Ministries, Gordon Parks Elementary, the Kansas City Community Garden, Nourish KC, the Rose Brooks Center, St. Augustin’s Episcopal School in Haiti, St. Paul’s Pantry, i58kc, and Welcome House. We also serve people through St. Andrew’s own efforts, including Fabric of Life (a quilting group), the annual Free Store serving homeless and working-poor people in Kansas City, Sister Berta’s Friendship Circles (supportive relationships with moms at Operation Breakthrough), and the Pet Project. We’ve expanded Andie’s Pantry, a ministry with families at Benjamin Banneker Elementary, to encourage parishioners to get to know families there and shop for groceries with them. We also provide funding for families in crisis at Banneker. In all, we’ll give away more than $60,000 in 2021 to support our partners in ministry and make a difference in God’s world.
What are the financial goals for this year’s stewardship season?
Here are three answers, all equally important.
- 100% participation among members. A pledge can be $5 a year, but the act of making a pledge matters. It’s an outward and visible sign of commitment to God and this parish family.
- A 10% increase in support for our ministries and operations in 2022. Although HJ’s has reopened for community events and rentals, the pandemic continues to slow our rental income. We had planned for about $60,000 of annual HJ’s income before the pandemic hit, and we project about $22,000 in HJ’s revenue this year. So, we begin planning for next year knowing we’ll be “behind” a similar amount in 2022. In addition, we’ve had one full-time staff position funded through special giving beyond regular pledged income, and that special funding ended this year. Finally, we’ve increased staff hours in communication, worship technology, and contemporary music to build our capacity to reach people through social media, livestreaming, and our new Trailside service. A 10% increase in pledged income ($147,000) would go a long way toward supporting these vital needs.
- Proportionate, loving giving. Sometimes, when we think about giving, we get stuck on percentages and definitions. Do I have to give a true tithe, 10%? And, if so, 10% of what – net or gross, income or wealth? It’s easier to think in terms of holy giving as being proportionate and loving. If I’m someone who struggles to make ends meet, my pledge probably will be a relatively small percentage of what I earn; but that gift may be a deeply loving and sacrificial commitment. If I’m someone blessed with resources, I can probably give a higher percentage; and that might be a percentage not just of income but of wealth. In either case, the goal is to increase our giving each year to express our gratitude for the life and hope God gives us.
Where Does the Money Go?
Combining funding for programs, as well as staff and clergy salaries that catalyze ministry, St. Andrew’s spends 41% of its $1.96 million budget on God’s work within the parish and our immediate community. This includes the heart of our parish’s life, worshiping God; our outstanding music program; engaging with newcomers and members to build their participation; ministries to lead children, youth, young adults, and adults deeper in their life in Christ; communications and community relations, including ministry in Brookside and Waldo; hospitality and parish gatherings; and pastoral care.
We also make a difference serving people in need in Kansas City and in Haiti, as well as helping to empower the ministries of our Diocese of West Missouri, allocating 17% of our resources in these areas. This includes financial support for our local outreach partners (see above) and for our partner school in Haiti. It also includes our giving toward diocesan ministries, such as regional youth groups, resources to help smaller congregations build children’s and adult learning, hunger ministries in Kansas City and Springfield, leadership training at the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry, and ministries that bring worship to rural areas of the diocese.
We also commit money and staff time to stewarding our beautiful facilities – both our church with its stunning worship space and HJ’s Youth & Community Center. Twenty-five percent of our resources support our facilities so they can support us in living out God’s call.
Finally, 16% of the annual budget goes toward leadership, development, administration, and miscellaneous costs – the work of the Vestry, the work of our administrative staff, our stewardship efforts, and office expenses.
Although this is “where the money goes,” it’s more accurate – and closer to God’s heart – to say this is where your generosity goes. Every pledge and every gift to St. Andrew’s, regardless of size, empowers the work we do here to love God, love our neighbors, and love one another.