Understanding Stewardship & Church Finances

Stewardship is about being grateful, responsible stewards of the gifts we receive from God. The tradition of giving back to God and to the church comes from the Biblical practice of “tithing,” which means to give back a tenth of our earnings to God (Numbers 18:26). The Episcopal Church sees stewardship as more than simply contributing money to the church; it’s also about contributing time and talents, and volunteering for ministry and mission. It’s about reaching out to build relationships from a perspective of abundance instead of scarcity.

St Ann’s is a young vibrant church by any standard.  St Ann’s is also a family in many ways.  We are also a very active church family for a parish of any size. Maintaining what we have grown to become takes commitment on several levels.

We’ve heard from members that there is a strong sense of connection and energy at St Ann’s, as well as an inclusive spirit.  We hope you agree that it is a great place for sharing, caring, praying, and searching, because it is about the journey together, not just the destination.

Stewardship then is the money necessary to “float the boat”, AND the talent (wiring sound systems, cooking meals, etc.) AND donation of time it takes to get it done. The bottom line is that it takes ALL aspects of stewardship for St Ann’s to maintain our faith community. There are some folks able to give more heavily in one of the three legs of the stewardship “stool”…and for your family, this balance may well change over time. But, there is simply no way to be as active as we are without each of us helping with all three “legs of the stool”.

So, it is clearly more than money; but we do understand that talking about money, asking for money, and being asked for money are sticking points for many of us. We have used much of this hand-out to try to explain the ins and outs to help make folks a bit more comfortable in that regard.

Why is Monetary Investment Important at St Ann’s?

We have committed to a full-time rector, administrator, music director, and a top-notch Christian Education program. Plain and simple, these all take money. No amount of time and talent contributed by our members helps with that part. We are increasing and upgrading our physical space, and both money and talent are necessary for that to work. We engage in special events with Fun & Fellowship, family breakfasts, and more that money just can’t buy…it takes an investment of time. Most programs we do are approved by the members as represented by Vestry, and ultimately, overseen by Vestry or a committee of  parish members. Most programs and events aren’t at St Ann’s because the national church or diocese said “you gotta do this”.  We get what we ask for … then it’s up to us to
support it!

Being realistic with money, and up front with it is a good thing, and should be open to discussion. Both in scripture and practically, there is a struggle over how much discussion about money and fundraising itself enters into church life. That is certainly not new…nor is it confined to St Ann’s. Simply put, the more a church family wants to do, wants to grow, wants to reach out in the community, the more time, talent, and money is necessary. It’s easy to understand for anyone with, or who has managed, a family; if you want to eat out once in a while, it takes more money, more time for everyone, and more commitment – maybe for a special event or movie, then it takes a bit more  Ditto for field hockey; ditto for wanting to improve the house or yard. A church family is really a way we express that beyond our immediate family.

How Does the Budget Work?

Each fall, the elected Vestry approves an operating budget for the coming year. The budget is reviewed with the members of the congregation at the annual meeting each January. Our 2014 operating expense budget is $219,170. We don’t have a Taj Mahal for sure, we don’t have a gold reserve in a Swiss bank. What we do have is a ministry and mission that costs $600.47 per day for 2014. That includes pastoral leadership (42%), liturgical expense (6%),  education programs (9%), outreach (6%), fellowship activities (less than 1/2%), facility expense (9%), Administration and Vestry (14%) and our Diocesan Assessment (13%).

So, we pay money TO the Diocese, we don’t get money FROM them?

That is correct. The money we pay  is used in several ways that directly benefits both St Ann’s and the Episcopal Church in general. The assessment provides for the work of the national church and the diocese; supports those entering ordained ministry; scholarships for Camp Bishopswood; Loring House; Christian Ed collaboration; Maine Youth events; and Safe Church (youth leader) Training.

So, if we Don’t get our Money From the Diocese, what Sources of Income do we Have?

As of 2014, the annual stewardship drive accounts for about 81% of our operating income; special events (right now the Christmas Fair is the only event dedicated to the operating budget for less than 4%), weekly donations in “the plate” account for around 8%, facility rental of space for just under 3%, investment income for under 1/2%, and faith-based gifts for just over 4% of the total.

So, as you can see, a very significant part of our income is derived from one drive each fall. In that drive we ask our family members to prayerfully reflect on the value of St. Ann’s to them and their families.

What happens at St Ann’s is paid for at St Ann’s, just as who cooks in the kitchen at family breakfast are folks from St Ann’s, not staff from Friendly’s (although we wouldn’t trade the staff for anything!). Our Vestry is exploring other fund-raising opportunities, but the goal is to minimize income-producing events to a few per year so that we aren’t “always about the money” while recognizing that we need money to cover the basic costs that cover and support our ministry.

Who Supports our Church?

In a nut shell, each of us does. We, the present and past members of the St Ann’s family invest the vast majority of the financial support to keep it all running, maintaining who we are, growing into who we become. Unlike some other denominations, the Rector is our employee, not the diocese or national church. We pay our Christian Education Director, Administrator and Music Director, we pay 100% of the bills that come in. Everything else is possible due to the dedication of church members who volunteer their time and talent; and that includes our Deacon and her outreach ministry.

Who Knows Who Gives and What is Contributed?

Members of the stewardship team, which includes the Rector, and the Assistant Treasurer know who has pledged. One person on the stewardship committee maintains the database and knows whether a given contributor is new, has increased, decreased or kept his/her investment the same. But, only the Assistant Treasurer knows specifically who gave how much. As a practical matter, many folks will want to be able to take advantage of their generosity on their tax returns, and that requires documentation. Limiting the specific $$$ information to one person, does that and allows those donors who “don’t let the left hand know what the right had is doing”, have that intent honored as much as practical.

Why is it so Important to Invest Specifically in the Annual Drive?

First, a pledge in any amount shows a commitment to the work and value of St Ann’s and says I (we) belong to St Ann’s. Second, it shows your willingness to share in the parts of parish work and life that require money. What we expect is that you will do the best you can, and that will be different for every family, and as noted earlier, it will be different for the same family over time.

We’re often asked about just giving in the plate. The plate is certainly helpful. But, there is no “predictable” commitment to St Ann’s in plate giving. There is a Sunday storm; there is a power-outage on Sunday at church; Aunt Mabel dropped in unexpectedly at your house Sunday morning. If you are struggling with factors in your life that make predictability difficult, we suggest you consider pledging a somewhat lesser amount than you give in the plate and would plan for the plate over the coming year. Then you can make up the difference as is possible in the plate or by increasing your pledge investment when you are comfortable that things have settled down, but in a very real sense pledging is a commitment to belonging.

Pledging provides the stability of weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual contributions that are easier to rely on and plan more solidly, same as would be the case for your family budget (it allows better planning and predictability both for your immediate family and your St. Ann’s family).

Lastly, precisely because a pledge is a commitment, the Vestry depends on the status of the annual drive to establish, modify, and approve an operating budget. Yes, there is certainly a “faith-based” element to constructing the operating budget, but just as you wouldn’t plan a large percentage of your home budget around the hope of gifts or the like, neither can our Vestry.

But, Aren’t you Always Asking for Something?

We’re a busy family with a lot going on. It is easy to feel that way with all the outreach efforts, the Christmas Fair, the annual drive, a very busy Fun & Fellowship program, food for Monday Meals, youth efforts…WOW! But then, giving is what Christians are called to do. We all need to receive help or reserve more for ourselves at times, but what we’re about is giving back for the blessings we have received. There are clearly other possible mechanisms for our programs, such as charging fees to users of Christian Education. Our heritage at St Ann’s has been to embrace the dynamic of giving according to ability (time, talent, and money,) and receiving according to need. It’s always a difficult balance.

Probably the most important question…Why should I give money to St Ann’s at all ?

If you accept St Ann’s as part of a larger family that includes you and provides meaning to you and your immediate family, this may seem like an odd question. But it’s really not that odd. After all, we’re asking you to invest more than money, or even time and talent…you are investing part of yourself, like any family.  Funds are needed to support the many wonderful efforts, below are just a few:

Pastoral Care & Healing Ministry
Christian Formation for Youth (averages 50 per week attending)
Adult Christian Formation/discussion groups
Fun & Fellowship events
Family Sundays, often including a breakfast
Windham Correctional Center Ministry
15 Baptisms
6 Weddings
10 Celebrations of Life (funerals or memorial services) & collations
18 Confirmations/Reception into the Episcopal Church
Tuesday Liturgy offered to smaller groups
Sunday and Holiday Liturgies, with Sunday average attendance of 140 (8am & 10am) and Easter and Christmas averaging 380
Coffee & Social Hours after each service
Supporting Monday Meals to 70-85 local folks in cooperation with several other local churches
Book and Bible Study Groups
Vacation Bible Camp attended by 50 youth

What we don’t ask is that our members tithe. There are variations of tithing, but if you aren’t familiar with the concept, to belong and participate in a tithing church you must pay a set percentage  of your income to the church, usually 10% of one’s annual income, but sometimes other percentages are specified. Some churches that tithe even require copies of tax return information to set the amount…that is definitely not us at St Ann’s. What we do ask is to do your best to give back to the church family for gifts and grace you have received.

Past Members? How do Past Members Support our Church?

Although no longer able to contribute in other ways, some of those who have gone before us have named St Ann’s in their wills. Some have designated how funds generously invested can be used, such as for the Memorial Garden. Another is the gift of life insurance, where a parishioner establishes and pays for a policy that has St Ann’s as beneficiary. If these devices interest you, please speak to a member of the stewardship team.

How Does the Annual Drive Work?

Although the exact timing may change, here’s the process:

An introductory letter is sent to all parish family members from the updated church directory. This is the best time to be thinking about your contribution and get any questions answered.

A pledge or commitment form either comes with the letter or follows in the mail, with forms also available in the Narthex. A completed pledge/commitment form must be submitted for accounting reasons in order for donations to be counted as pledges.

You pick the schedule (monthly, quarterly, etc), amount, and format (check, electronic transfer, cash). No money is paid up front.

A word of caution about checks and cash:  When paying your pledge by check, please be sure to designate  it was for your pledge on the memo line.  When paying by cash be sure to place into an envelope with your name and “pledge payment” on it…there is no way legally possible to credit undesignated unidentified cash payments for tax purposes or pledge tracking.We have an ingathering. Typically, ingathering is somewhat like a harvest celebration, it’s used for collecting the harvest (in this case your pledge form) and celebrating. It may be done as a separate “get together” after the service or cycled to happen on a “family” Sunday with a breakfast.

Reminders start the week after in gathering. Everyone who has not yet pledged will receive an email reminder. The following week most folks who haven’t yet pledged will receive a single phone call. If there is no answer a member of the stewardship team will leave a message after three attempts. The purpose of the call is three-fold. First, it lets the team account for differences that do happen (mostly that you have pledged, but it appears to be amongst the missing right now on our end). Second, it serves as a reminder if you haven’t pledged. Third, it lets us help folks that still have questions or concerns. The amount that has been, or is to be, pledged specifically will not be solicited by the team member.

The drive closes, typically four weeks after the in-gathering. Folks always ask what happens if they decide to pledge after the holidays, and the answer is, to meet standard accounting requirements, your intended “pledge” can’t be counted as a pledge but is counted as a general donation.

We have a chance to thank you, typically with a note-card. By the way, many of the expenses of the annual drive (such as the printing of letters, thank you cards, ingathering costs, are frequently donated.

In conclusion, Stewardship plays a vital role at St. Ann’s. Without a commitment from our members, we would not be able to maintain the church and all its activities. Spirit-led miracles  happen each week in our Godly Play and youth group gatherings, our outreach at Windham Correction Center, at our Essentials Pantry, to list but a few. Our support to those in need within our community and beyond is what stewardship is all about.