The economy is on everyone's mind. Tough economic times have significant impact on churches as well as individual members of those congregations.
The Church belongs to God but God allows us to manage it. It is the money that God provides that funds the ministry and maintenance of the work of the church. Many parishioners have lost their jobs. Many have lost their home. Investments have dwindled. As a result of this economic downturn many churches have cut staff and adjusted spending.
During the past couple of months most churches have been developing budgets and implementing stewardship campaigns to gather commitments for the needed finances to underwrite them.
Last week a pastor told me of the adjustments that had been made by the congregation he serves. He said, "In spite of the hard times it has caused us to reassess our priorities."
I made my annual pledge to the church last month. Many of you have done likewise or you are preparing to make yours. I have not suffered the hardships that many have faced but given the current reality I thought about how I could do more with less.
I could drive my car less and save on fuel costs. I could eat out less and even when I do eat out I could use coupons or take advantage of other discounts. My wife and I could share an entrée and pass up dessert. Entertainment expenditures could be reduced by staying home and renting a movie instead of going to the theater. Vacation and leisure spending can be cut without any real negative consequence. Do I really need a new automobile or could I keep my car one more year? Thermostats could be adjusted. Clothing costs could be reduced by shopping at thrift and consignment stores or during end of season close-out sales. I might save some money if I did comparison shopping for home and auto insurance.
This is not an exhaustive list and these suggestions certainly do not represent sacrifice. They actually seem trivial but they are simple cost cutting measures that can make a difference. It is better to make these adjustments rather than reduce our commitment to the work of Christ through the church.
I recently heard a story about one of our pastors in North Georgia whose father was the town drunk. He was regularly arrested and jailed for public drunkenness. On occasion the sheriff took him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting rather than to jail. As he learned the 12 Steps he realized that his life was out of control and that a Higher Power (God) could help. He sobered up and told his family that they were going to church. His son asked, "Why? We have never gone to church." The father replied, "Because God has rescued me and we are going to thank God."
My giving is done in response to that "rescue mission." I remember long ago hearing someone say, "God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us." I give because of that great love and the gifts of grace that I have received.
I want to be a good steward of the resources that have been entrusted to me, whether that is a lot or a little. It really boils down to priorities--and an attitude of gratitude for what God has done for us.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," the email newsletter of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, 11/16/10]