January 2014

Post date: Dec 30, 2013 6:56:44 PM

Stewardship at First Lutheran in Ellensburg, WA

A few weeks ago, First Lutheran got a call from Pastor Bullock at ELCA headquarters in Chicago, identifying our congregation as a “stewardship bright spot”, because of our undesignated giving (benevolence) to our E.WA/ID synod and, thus, to the ELCA at the national level. What a pleasant surprise! I was asked to identify our stewardship practices as a congregation. So, here goes, with the disclaimer that I am probably not aware of all the good stewardship practices that take place in people’s lives and homes. This is a rough draft of an article which MAY appear in the March issue of The Lutheran magazine. If I’m leaving something out, please let me know!

First Lutheran has, for many years, given a percentage of our income to the E.WA/ID Synod of our ELCA. We project what our expected income for the year will be and divide that into 12 monthly payments, making up the difference as the calendar year winds down. When the economic recession hit some years ago, First Lutheran scaled back to 7% giving to the synod. Gradually we have upped that by a half percentage in recent years with 8% in 2013 and a projected 8.5% in 2014. The goal is to get back to the 10% (tithing) level we were at before the economic recession. In addition, First Lutheran gives 1% to our companion synod, the Ulanga Kilombero Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. When the Ellensburg F.I.S.H (Friends In Service to Humanity) Food Bank needed better facilities, First Lutheran was one of the charter members to pledge $200 per month to make that possible. First Lutheran continues to give $200/month and some special offerings such as “Souper Bowl” and Thanksgiving time to FISH Food Bank. Christmas Eve and mid-week Lenten service offerings are also given away to worthy charities. This year, they are given to Lutheran Disaster Response for Pacific Typhoon Response following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

What makes this giving possible? People are generous and we try to emphasize stewardship all year long. “Stewardship Stu” (a.k.a. Art Neslund) writes frequent articles for our bulletins and newsletter. I do not hesitate to preach on financial giving whenever the Sunday Bible readings lend themselves to that. I like to mention that Jesus talked most often about the Kingdom of God, but he talked next most often about wealth and the good use or misuse of wealth. First Lutheran does have a two phase Fall stewardship campaign. In October, people are asked to indicate on a survey form, how they will give of their time and talents in and through their church and community. Then in November, people are asked to fill out their intended statements of financial giving for the coming year and bring them to the altar during worship. These pledges are returned unopened to people the following November. Some years on Wednesday evenings in Lent, after the soup supper and before Holden Evening Prayer, the congregation has had a DVD and Bible discussion time on Stewardship, such as, “Biblical Stewardship our duty and delight” with Dr. Mark Allan Powell.

On the income side of things, First Lutheran owns some office space next to the church building, which it rents out at very reasonable rates. These rental spaces weren’t always “money makers”. You do have to be careful about who you rent to. But now First Lutheran is blessed with a good property manager, Glenn Madsen, who handles everything very professionally with written contracts. The profit from these rental units helps finance our youth and education ministries.

Also, an increasing number of people give their offerings electronically through automatic monthly bank deductions. This has helped keep giving steady through the summer slump.

Thank you brothers and sisters in Christ of First Lutheran Church for being faithful stewards of all that God has first given you: your time, your talent and your treasure !

God’s peace and love to you in 2014,

Pastor Dennis