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Stewardship Catechism

by The Rev. Ray Hess

in everything give thanks bannerI find that many people have questions about stewardship, and I thought it might be helpful to present some questions and answers in catechism style. Please remember that these are my questions and answers; let me know if you have other questions or want to explore my answers further. –Father Ray

What does the word “stewardship” mean?
Stewardship uses the concept of a steward, someone who manages property on behalf of the real owner. A steward is entrusted with the management of the property, but is accountable to the owner for the final result.

What is the spiritual meaning of stewardship?
We use the concept of stewardship in the Church to refer to God as the real owner of all creation. God gives us responsibility as stewards of God’s creation to manage and care for our lives and the world, and we are accountable to God for how we care for creation.

What are the different aspects of stewardship?
God gives us care of our physical bodies, our relationships with the people around us, our money and possessions, our abilities and talents, our time, and our environment (the land, water, air, animals, plants, etc.). All of these are wonderful gifts of God to us.

What is our responsibility to God in our stewardship?
We are given all these gifts by God to enjoy them and to care for them. We are accountable to God for how we use these gifts.

What is financial stewardship?
Financial stewardship refers to God’s gift to us of our income and financial resources. As with God’s other gifts to us, we are asked by God to enjoy our financial gifts and to use them to serve God and other people.

How does financial stewardship relate to the parish?
Part of our financial stewardship is to give money through our pledges for the ministries of our parish.

Why do we make financial pledges to the parish?
Making a pledge helps our parish leadership on the vestry be able to make plans for the coming year and to create a budget to support our ministries. It also helps each of us make a specific commitment.

How much should we give for our pledge?
This is a spiritual issue between each of us and God. The basic principle is to give a proportion of our income for God’s work through the parish. This is a percentage of our income, which could be anything from 1% to 10% or more. The tithe (10% of our income) is talked about in some places in the Bible. It is important for each of us to work out with our other family members how much we want to pledge.

What do our pledges pay for?
At St. George’s, almost all of our parish income is from pledges by our members. In our 2015 budget of $88,000, about $74,000 is from pledges. The rest of the income is from non-pledged offerings ($1,400), building use ($4,000), and the balance left over from our 2014 budget ($5,600). Our pledges pay for the ministries of our parish – outreach, salaries for staff, worship, facilities maintenance and repair, office administration, and utilities. As our treasurer like to say, things are OK when the priest is paid and the lights are on!

How much of our budget is for staff expenses?
Our parish has very lean staff expenditures. Out of our total budget this year of $88,000, we will spend about $39,000 on all staff expenses. This includes the salary and expense reimbursements for the Priest in Charge, supply clergy, and our Music Director. Our staff expenses are lower because we do not have any full-time staff.

What is our parish outreach?
In 2015, we are giving about $13,000 for outreach. This includes our giving to the diocese, which supports the Office of the Bishop and all the ministries of our diocese. We also give money to our area seminary in Berkeley and to the School for Deacons. We give money through the year to the discretionary funds of the Priest in Charge and the Deacon, which are all used to help people in need in our area. We donate money to ministries like our community garden and the Heifer Project. Our parish also supports the wonderful work of the Sherrill Fund, which gives college scholarships each year to high school seniors. We have many outside groups which use our facility. The amount they pay (about $4,000) just covers the utilities and expenses for their use of the building.

How do we make our pledges at St. George’s?
We have a “Pledge Sunday” in the fall when parish leaders talk about our ministries and when pledge cards for the coming year are given to members. Church members are asked to consider their pledges and then fill out their pledge cards and return them to the church at a worship service or by mail. Pledge cards can be mailed to those who are not able to attend the Pledge Sunday.

How is our budget created?
Our vestry makes the budget for the coming year, based on the ministries we want to do and the income from pledges. Normally, the budget for the next year is finalized and approved by the vestry at its December meeting. The vestry has the authority to adjust and change the budget through the year

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