Three weeks from today, the Session will be asking each of us to commit financial resources to the running of our collective household, named Summit Presbyterian Church. This request for support is called a “Stewardship commitment”.
What is stewardship? Well, it’s the act of functioning as a Steward. The dictionary defines a steward as one who manages and administers property and/or financial affairs of another; one who is in charge of the household of another; and stewardship is having accountability for something that belongs to someone else. Historic examples of this position include Prince John who took over stewardship of England while Richard the Lion-Hearted was off to the crusades and then a captive in the middle east, but relinquished the crown when Richard returned. More contemporary, some of us may have been stewards of our aging parents’ affairs, or for a brother or sister overseas in the military. The key element here is the idea of acting on behalf of another’s best interest, without a feeling of ownership.
The Christian world view teaches that we are stewards of the resources which God has put under our control: brains, athletic ability, musical gifts, carpentry, chef skills, ability to earn and accumulate money and property, and so on. These are rightly called “Gifts” - from God, to be managed in His stead. David’s prayer at the beginning of the Temple construction describe our relationship to God’s gifts:
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
For everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Wealth and honor come from you;
You are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
Everything comes from you,
and we have given you only what comes from your hand.
So, what does that mean for us as Christians, and as members of the Summit family? Like all families, and family businesses, we have a number of expenses: our programs such as Christian Education including REACH, Evangelism and Growth activities, Benevolence giving managed by the Deacons, Elder Diner, the music program (including organ and piano maintenance), etc. Also there are utilities, building upkeep, insurance, taxes, salaries, etc. For this current year the total cost to run the church was slightly less than $350k. Because we operate as a community center as well, the budget was supported by almost $180k of rental income. Stewardship pledges and collections came to a bit more than 160k. Now, if we have 40 giving units, that would be an average of $4,000 each, or about $75 a week, $300 a month. Obviously God has granted each of us different gifts and talents, and so some Summit family members have more financial resources to offer to support the family, while others have more talents and time to contribute. I’m telling you all this just to help you to realize that families don’t function without resources - including money.
In the next few weeks we will talk a bit about Summit as a Mission on the Hill, about all of the activities that our Summit family supports, and what next year’s budget is projected to be. And we will be asked to recognize our responsibility to support the family and to make a realistic but generous pledge toward the 2010 budget - Summit’s 126th year of mission.
By Rob MacGregor