Commentary by David Stotts
• Editor's Note: Fifth in a series of articles on the A2 Indicators.
One trait of a healthly church is “possessing adequate resources for ministry.” A2 Indicators 8, 9 and 10 are about resources. I would like to share a few thoughts on those items.
When we talk about resources in the local church, think of all we have to give. We promised to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts and service when we joined. This is not multiple choice; it is all inclusive.
Sharing our resources often means giving our money. Money talk in the local church makes most all of us nervous. We often mention “stewardship” yet hardly ever say the word “money.” I contend that money is the fuel that powers the vehicle that delivers mission and ministry.
In number 8 of the A2 Indicators, a “giving unit” is defined as a regular attendee or household that gives to the church on a consistent basis. When gracious givers find a church home that matches the call on their lives to be in mission and ministry, then the gifts they give to God through that church become fuel for mission and ministry. As they get more involved in the church and become active participants in its mission and ministry, their desire to give grows.
As a local church’s giving units increase over the years, it is evident that the leaders understand the shared vision of the congregation.
Indicator 9 is about fiscal development and budget analysis. How many of us look at our own personal financial well-being each month? We reconcile our bank statements (or at least we review them), pay our bills and make adjustments when necessary. How can we do less when we are dealing with the gifts gracious givers have given to God through our church?
The financial leaders of the church must pay the bills, provide second-mile giving opportunities and build endowments for the future. It is not good enough to just pay bills; we must work for the long-term security of the mission and ministry of our local church. We know that some times we will have plenty and other times we will have needs. We must be ready for both.
A healthy congregation is providing for the present as they move into a secure future. The church, our ministry vehicle, depends on the fuel to be available.
Indicator number 10 deals with connectional stewardship. Through the United Methodist connectional system we can be in big ministry together.
None of our congregations alone could build a camp like
Strive to pay the budget in full each year, and seek to understand where the connectional dollars go. When we look at what the United Methodist connection has done to help rebuild churches and homes in the Katrina-devastated area, we see the power of being connectional.
We present-day United Methodists must begin to teach stewardship again as John Wesley and the early Methodists did. I believe that our future, in part, rests on how we rise to the challenge of teaching stewardship. Model stewardship for yourself and all those around you. Don’t let the collection plate pass without giving back to God your gifts.
Each of us can pray without ceasing, attend regular worship and give of the bounty God has given us to serve our risen Lord and the least, the last and the lost. Then, as healthy individuals, we help form healthy congregations, and at the end of the day our answer to the question, “Did you make disciples of Jesus Christ?,” will be emphatically yes!
• Stotts is conference treasurer and director of Finance and Administration.