Monday, October 20, 2008

Introduction to the Stewardship Campaign

(The following is my introduction the Fall Stewardship Campaign at the American Church in London. Sunday's sermon is below this post.)

This month we begin our Stewardship Campaign, which is really another way to describe our conversation together about how we pay for the ministry of this church in the coming year. This is a normal part of church life, but you’d be surprised at how many ministers hate this part of the year.

I’m not one of them.

Maybe it’s because I’ve come back into church ministry after 12 years in fund raising management with three different non-profit organizations. That may be some of why I love this time of year. But the real reason is because I see very clearly the link between talking about our financial partnership together and the impact of our witness for Jesus Christ. The job of the leadership of this church is to make that link clear—so clear that it’s irresistible to those of you who catch and share the vision for what this church can do—what this church can be.

This is the first of six Sundays where you’re going to hear about what’s happening at the American Church in London—how this church is prayerfully seeking to live out God’s call to be the Body of Christ here in London and beyond. This is very exciting stuff you’re going to hear—well, some of it is more exciting than the other parts, but you know what I mean.

Starting next week you’re going to hear about different ministries of the church, and what they mean not to those of us on staff, but to the people who participate and are blessed by those ministries. Next week we’ll talk about fellowship groups. The week after that we’ll focus on our music ministry. On the 9th of November you’ll see what we’re doing to meet our responsibilities in Christ’s mission here in London. And on the next Sunday you’ll see how we’re sharing the message of Jesus Christ with the children and youth of this church and our community. You’re going to hear a lot about this church.

What you won’t hear in this stewardship season is the word ‘need.’

Now I’m not unrealistic. I know that an organization needs money to operate. But the need for funds isn’t why we’re here—it isn’t the point of this stewardship campaign. The ministries of this church aren’t holes that need to be filled with money. They’re opportunities to establish meaningful partnerships using our time, our talents and, yes, our financial resources.

You won’t see us come hat-in-hand for money.

What you will see and hear is our case—our vision for ministry in this place. Then you’ll hear an invitation to join it, improve it, lead it and support it.

If you haven’t been a part of a stewardship campaign before, you’re in for a treat. You’ll be receiving some information in the mail soon—if you pledged last year you’ve already received a prompt about making sure you’re up-to-date for this year. Julie and I got our letter on Wednesday.

The idea is that you’ll prayerfully consider what you might want to give in 2009, and the Council will take the total of those pledges and make a budget for next year. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the basic plan.

ACL Revenues and Budget

As we begin this season I want to give you a sense of the big picture of how this church is funded, and what our vision for funding is for 2009.

ACL’s budget this year is about £360,000. That’s what it costs to run everything—more than £100,000 of that is just to manage the church’s properties, and about £160,000 of that pays all the wages and salaries for the people who work here. More than £50,000 goes to non-personnel administrative costs like insurance, and office equipment and Health and Safety issues. We’ve also devoted 10% of the annual budget—that’s £36,000—to missions work here in London and abroad.

How do we pay for all of that?

There are two main sources of revenue here at our church. Your pledges and our on-site room-hire business called Latchcourt Ltd. If you’ve ever been here during the week you’ve noticed how many different groups rent rooms for rehearsals, meetings and classes. Now here’s the important part: Our pledges and other giving account for about a third of the church’s budget—about £130,000. Latchcourt makes up the rest—it accounts for about two-thirds of our church revenue.

My goal over the next few years is to move that ratio from one-third/two-thirds to half and half.
That process begins this year. Last year we were blessed to have 40 households make annual pledges in support of this church’s ministry. This year our goal is to receive at least 65.

By sharing the partnership with a greater number of people, my hope is that we will not only increase our giving, but also increase the sense that we’re all partners in what happens here. Pledges don’t have to be big, though large pledges are always welcome, but we do want to see more people connected to the work here in that very important way.

One of the things I learned in bringing financial resources to non-profit organizations is that you can never ask someone to do what you’re not willing to do yourself. And so it’s important for me to tell you that Julie, Ian and I made a pledge to this church for the current year, and it’s a pledge we’re still working on. We are prayerfully considering how we might increase that pledge for 2009—we are committed not only to doing ministry here, but also to partnering financially with the ministry of this place.

So…over the next few weeks you’ll receive some information in the mail. Some of it will be available on the church’s website as well. In our services over the next month and a half you’ll see how we plan to use the church’s financial resources in ministry.

In the meantime please don’t hesitate to ask questions or make suggestions or join a committee to get your hands in this process. This is your church—we work for you—and everything we do together is for the glory of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen?

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