2019 Year In Review
Composing a 2019 year in review for LeValley and Berlin Center United Methodist Churches, you can be proud of how much the two churches do to serve God and God’s church inside the church walls, in the community, and around the world. I am blessed to be the pastor of two churches that follow Jesus’ call to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NIV).
 
I recall the familiar statement, “I have good news and I have bad news. Which would you like to hear first?” Well, I didn’t ask, I just told you the good news, the very good news, first. So, now here is the bad news. This past Monday at the LeValley Administrative Board meeting, finance chair Linda Seelhoff presented the financial report for the month, as well as the proposed 2020 church budget (or spending plan, as I prefer to call it). It was evident that monthly needs are exceeding monthly income. Thank goodness all line items haven’t been spent, or accounts would be in the red! I know that Berlin Center was in a similar situation not too many years ago, and the church is still not able to fulfill its financial obligation to the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church, so the Berlin Center Church members can understand the situation. The group talked about the need for a stewardship campaign, or pledge drive, so that the church can have a better idea of how much income it will generate during the year. I am aware that churches like ours don’t like stewardship campaigns because they believe that what they give to the church is between themselves and God. So, what do we do??
 
A viable suggestion was presented to me. What if pledge cards were distributed to each family. Through prayer, the cards would be completed, but instead of returning them to the finance committee or the pastor, each family would either keep the completed card on the refrigerator or somewhere else where it would be a visible reminder, file it away, or even burn it. Only the family and God would know the commitment that had been made to God’s church. Let me know what you think of the idea.
 
As each of us thinks about what we give to God, I need to define for you what stewardship in the church entails. Financial giving is a big part of it. As much as we don’t like to talk about money, the church still needs to be maintained, the heat and the lights need to remain on, and the pastor and staff need to be compensated.
 
But, there are other requirements of being a good steward of God’s church. We need to faithfully participate by our prayers, our presence, our service, and our witness, as well as through our financial giving. There will be a place on the cards to pledge to each of these commitments, as well as to the dollar amount we will give.
 
Though the Scriptures allude more to financial giving than anything else when speaking of stewardship, I prefer to encourage stewardship in all that we do, as Peter writes in 1Peter 5--To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
 
I began with the good news and I would like to leave you with more good news. When there is an immediate financial need or a mission to be funded, the gifts pour in. The churches have willing leaders lifted up temporarily from the family to serve who work hard to manage the budgets for which they are responsible.
 
In conclusion, I thank each of you all that you for your faithfulness to God, the church, and the community and encourage each of you to be good stewards of all that God has given you and give back to God in all that you do, whether it be through prayer, presence, gifts, service, or witness.
 
Love in Christ,
 
Pastor Nancy
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