Offering to the Lord

There is an interesting phenomenon in churches: people don't want to talk about money. Correction, people don't want the church talking about giving money to the church. It never fails that when the subject of giving comes up, the immediate reaction of individuals is not introspection; not reflecting on what they give or what they could give. No, inevitably the reaction is "the church needs to watch its expenses and cut its budget."

Hypocritical is a strong word, so let me use a softer word. It's disingenuous for us to assume that the answer to financial situations is for the church to find ways to cut missions, ministries, and perhaps even staff so that we don't have to rely as much on the congregation to fund the operations of the church. Don't get me wrong, there are times when church budgets are bloated with all sorts of expenses that may not be necessary in that season. However, congregants need to understand that the work of the church requires money to do its job, and that their commitment to the church compels them to support its operations. Plus, talking about money is essential to equipping the members of our church to live out their faith in Christ.

I get why people are sometimes reluctant. You know what's not exciting? Paying bills. It's hard to get energized and motivated to give to the church just so that it can pay its bills. If all you ever hear is "we have to replace this air conditioner, or our insurance premium went up 39%," it starts to feel like a shakedown. The truth is, unless we cast a vision for how the funds will be used to forward the missions and ministries of Christ, there probably won't be much movement in giving.

You know what's not easy? Asking for money. I know many of you are on fixed incomes, and your tithe is a part of what you can afford. I also know that many of you aren't, and your tithe is what you are willing to give. No judgment, just fact. As I said, you may not be giving or you may give more if you understood a clear vision for how the money was being used. I know this is true because when we asked you to underwrite a child for Kid's Club, you overshot our goal. When we challenged you to give so we could redo the flooring in the hallway and office, you stepped up.

So, let's talk money. Our expenses this year are up because the maintenance on the church and parsonage is up. This is not a new trend, and it's not one that is going away. Of course, replacing three air conditioning units in one year will do that. Still, lawn costs are up, utility costs are up, and if we're honest, the cost of everything is up. Our financial team has done an excellent job of streamlining most of our expenses, and there is very little that can be done to lower them further. The flip side is giving is down. Our pledged giving is down six thousand dollars from last year, and we are behind in receiving a portion of the money pledged to date. Simply put, that means money was pledged, but for some reason, that money was not given. We haven't had any weddings this year, and the funerals that we performed were all members of the church, to whom we charge no fee. Due to an undetected leak, our water bill was almost 4 times the normal amount. Finally, we had some unwanted four-legged visitors that required extra expenditures to deal with.

We have been blessed by some wonderful partners and rentals which have helped our income. We were also given a $50,000 gift to use as we saw fit. Originally, the plan was to put that gift into our new Endowment Fund; however, there was a greater need to tackle. The second of our two compressors for the sanctuary air conditioning failed, and because of the blessing of the gift, we were able to replace them both for a significant discount over just replacing one (It was supposed to be almost $50,000, but by buying them together, we saved $10,000).

I tell you these things not to spread fear that the sky is falling but to be transparent with you about our financial health. While we are showing a deficit, I believe that God has plans for us and that we will find ourselves in the black at year's end. When we needed money for air conditioning, God provided, and I believe that through our continued faithful service and loving kindness to those in need, God will continue to provide.

However, that does not mean that we can sit back and be complacent. As Mark Batterson says, we must "pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on us." It depends on all of us. We must step up and reconsider our gifts of time, talent, and treasure. There is still much work to be done, and this church is reemerging as part of the community, not an entity unto itself. We have so much to offer the people of Delray, and God has placed us here to be the hands and feet of Christ. If we are truly to be the place where "all will find and know the love of God," then each of us needs to be part of that process. That may require us to look at how we spend our time and give more of it to missions and ministries. It may require that we examine the needs of the church and give of our talent in leadership, service, or simply working around the church to help maintain and improve the facility. And yes, it might require us to look at what we are giving monetarily and make a decision to increase our giving. These things are separate and distinct and yet related to our commitment not just to Cason UMC but to God as well.

One last thing, I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you of the ways that you can give. If you have the Cason App (and if you don't, I recommend you get it), you can click "Giving" at the bottom of the screen. This will take you to the payment system where you can set up the frequency of your gift. On the Website, you can click on "Giving" on the main menu and follow the same prompts. You can drop a check in the offering or at the main office. You can even ask your bank to mail a check to us on a regular basis. If you'd like to make a donation of stock or property or are interested in doing some estate planning for a future gift, you can see Barbara Wooden, Dick Weir, or myself.

Thank you for your stewardship, thank you for your gifts, and thank you for making a difference in the life of Cason and the community.

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