Two weeks ago, on the afternoon of Sunday, September 20, we held an important congregational meeting. In case you were not a part of that meeting, one of the important items on the agenda for that meeting was council’s decision to eliminate the Connections Pastor position at ECC. They made this decision based on past and projected budget realities, and as a part of their council responsibilities to steward over the finances of ECC.
During the meeting, a motion was made, seconded, and passed to reverse that decision. In addition, in order to meet the operating needs created by that decision, another motion was made and passed to give council the authority to tap into our reserves in our Strategic Ministry Fund to fund operating shortfalls. The reality is that doing so means that, until our stewardship practices improve and our weekly offerings are able to meet the operating needs of the budget, the projections based on recent trends show we will experience an average shortfall of approximately $10,000 a month, which we will draw from the Strategic Ministry Fund. The goal, of course, is to get to the place that we do not need to draw on that fund, but can meet those needs with increased giving to the church’s operating budget or other potential expense adjustments to the budget in the future.
We’ve just finished the month of September, and—as the pattern has suggested—our giving was approximately $10,000 short of the need, and we will meet that shortage from our reserves. So, each month, we are going to offer up a few brief stewardship thoughts here on this blog and in our worship services to keep you informed.
During the pandemic, initially, we saw some real rallying by many of you to meet the financial need. Thank you. As the pandemic wore on, however, giving has trailed off.
Here is my challenge—my encouragement—to each of you (and myself) this morning and this month.
- If you have given in the past, but have trailed off in your giving, we need you to answer this call to stewardship and begin to give again.
- If you have given in the past, but have never done so with intentionality and planning on a monthly or weekly basis, we encourage you to do so. Kim and I have our giving automatically withdrawn on a regular basis so that we do not fall behind in our giving. I encourage you to consider using online giving as an option—especially if you are not yet worshiping in person with us. You can do that by going to ecclife.net and clicking on the “Giving” tab at the top of the page. If you do worship with us in person, there is an offering box in the lobby as you enter or leave the sanctuary. Otherwise, you can mail your check to us or drop it off at the office during the week, as many of you have been doing.
- If you have given regularly and remained faithful, first of all thank you for your faithfulness. Second, I ask you to pray with Kim and me, asking God if we should increase what we give each month. To be clear, Kim and I learned to tithe—to give 10% of our income—very early on in our marriage, and we have never regretted it. But at times, we have prayed and sensed God inviting us to go above and beyond the tithe. We have never regretted those decisions, either. Whether you currently tithe or not, I invite you to prayerfully consider increasing what you give by .5% or 1% or more, as God leads you—especially if you do not currently give the 10% of your income traditionally understood from scripture.
- If you consider ECC your church home and you have never given, I invite you to ask God to help you step out in faith to be a part of the solution during this time, and simply start somewhere—1%, 5%, or wherever you sense you can begin.
- Last, we are aware that for some of us, the pandemic has caused financial hardship and we in no way want this to cause you guilt or judgment. If you are not able to give at this time, God’s grace is more than sufficient enough for you! All we ask is that you start with prayer and an openness to give in whatever way and amount God may lead you to give.
Wherever you may fall in the above suggestions and challenges, I ask you to pray for the finances and—even more importantly—the mission and message of ECC as we seek to know God (and help others to know God), to follow Jesus, and to pursue God’s purposes in the world.