Stewardship at FUMC

download (1)At First United Methodist Church of Bakersfield stewardship is taught as a Christian lifestyle. All year our people get the message that God gave His own Son for us. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price,” 1 Cor. 6:20; and God wants us to become generous as God is generous.

In 2009 FUMC completed the construction of our newest building – a $1.3 narthex.   There remained a debt of about $250,000 which was paid off in 2010.   How did that happen? Everyone was urged to pray for financial blessing. Then one day we were informed of a considerable sum of money left to the church by a long-­‐ago member. So the mortgage was paid and the Administrative Council praised God and realized that we needed to show our gratitude to God.  So a decision was made to tithe our bequest monies – give 10% –   to a local, Christian ministry. That is how we were able to help The Mission at Kern with their “women in transition” program, LOVE inc. and others.

Tithing is taught at FUMC. Does the Pastor tithe? Do leaders of the church tithe?  Tithing is a not a requirement for church membership, but it is a biblical standard. So we try to embed the Bible in all our communications.  Everyone is encouraged to be in a small group for spiritual growth. The small group experience includes practical knowledge of the Bible, prayer, a stewardship lifestyle, and a service project in the community.

The Finance Committee develops an annual budget that “stretches” us toward God’s purpose. Special holiday offerings go to mission outside the FUMC budget (such as UMCOR projects and local Christian missions). It is our practice to nominate people to the Finance Committee who are tithers or strong and consistent givers.

In the Fall we have a “stewardship emphasis” encouraging our members and constituents to pledge to the Lord’s mission through the church. Each year we have a new theme and logo that appears on our communications and is a theme for a sermon series. The theme for 2013 -­‐   Living the Life God Meant For You “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” John 10:10.

We continue to pray that God will provide the necessary resources for us to fulfill the mission the Lord has given us.

PastorRichard-bioRev. Richard Thompson
First United Methodist Church, Bakersfield

Talking to new members about giving

How does your congregation talk with new members about their giving? I’ve been a guest at a couple of new member classes where the presenter’s entire mannerism changed when the “money conversation” came up. By the way, the change was not for the better. Confident speech changed to apologetic stammering in an instant.

I’m pretty sure that many new members, especially if they are new to the church, would appreciate some guidance about what to give. I’ve had three conversations with pastors recently in which the pastor reported a new member saying, “I want to support the church generously, but I don’t know what a generous gift is. How much should I give?”

What if we said something like this to new members?

“Some of you are coming from other congregations and have a well-established giving pattern. Others of you may not have a history of giving to a congregation and may wonder how much you should give. We aren’t going to tell you how much to give. We know that other members of our congregation give very different amounts.

“One thing I would invite you to consider is the way the Old Testament talks about giving, which is to lift up for us the tithe, or giving ten percent of our income away. This would include your giving to the church and to all other charities. For some of you, giving ten percent may be what you already do. For others, giving ten percent may sound like a hopelessly unrealistic amount.

“I want to encourage you to think about your giving as a percentage of your income, rather than a specific dollar amount. The first step in doing this is to determine what percentage you want to give away. Decide on that percentage, whatever it is. If it is ten percent, that is great. If it is another percentage, that’s fine. Decide on a percentage, and then multiply your household income by that percentage. That is what you want to give away, and whatever percentage you pick, this is a great start. Give that percentage away. Many people start at one level, and then strive to grow their giving as they work toward the tithe, or ten percent.

“Obviously, your membership here doesn’t require a certain level of giving. I have learned over the years that when people give more generously, they find great joy in their giving, and they find greater joy in their involvement in our congregation. I want that sort of joy for you, so I invite and encourage you to develop a plan for generous giving that starts with you answering the simple question, ‘What percentage of my income do I want to give away?'”

Article by Chick Lane, Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Copyright General Board of Discipleship. Used by permission.”


Leaving a Legacy for Future Generations

“We should so live and labor in our time that what came to us as seed may go to the next generation as blossom, and what came to us as blossom may go to them as fruit.”  – Henry Ward Beecher

We all desire significance –- to lead happy and fulfilled lives surrounded by family and friends. And for many of us, there is a compelling need to make a difference – to leave a lasting impact on the people most dear to us and the world in which we live.  The search for significance and desire to plan for the future leads many to ponder their legacy. What kind of legacy will you leave?

Our ancestors left us a legacy of faith that provided places to worship that we love today.  While we don’t know what ministries of the future might require in the way of resources, we do know that our generation can provide financial resources to those who will come after us – faithful people we will never meet, but who will feel the impact of our love for them.

One way to provide for future generations is through your will.  It is no accident that a will is called a last will and testament.  A testament is nothing more than your personal testimony.  It says what you believe and what you stand for.  In fact, it may be the most important statement of all regarding what we truly believe matters most in our Christian life.

Many faithful members consider the church to be their family and, accordingly, include the church they love in their charitable estate plans through a bequest.  The charitable bequest affords a way for virtually anyone to witness to his or her faith in Christ.  A bequest may take on a number of forms, including a specific dollar amount, a percentage of the estate’s residual value, or the gift of a specific asset.  Tithing from our accumulated assets, just like from our regular income, is a good starting point for a faithful steward.

It is not difficult to add a charitable bequest to an existing will or living trust.  You should, or course, seek the advice and counsel of your attorney to make sure that your charitable dreams for your church are effectively and legally fulfilled.  There are only three places your assets can go upon your death:  family and friends, government or charity, including your church or favorite ministry.  Not a difficult choice, right?

Many of our local churches have established Endowment Funds to receive gifts from estates of their congregation members who wish to leave a legacy.  Palo Alto First UMC, Los Altos UMC, Modesto First UMC, Carson City UMC, Fair Oaks UMC, Santa Rosa United Methodist Foundation, Stockton Central UMC, Napa First UMC, Watsonville First UMC and San Jose Wesley UMC are just a few of our churches with Endowment Funds making regular distributions to their ministries.  These funds will go on giving to future generations of faithful congregations.

Questions to ponder:

  • Have you made a will?
  • Is God in your will?

susan petersSusan Peters, CFRE
Executive Director
California-Nevada United Methodist Foundation