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Posted by on Apr 6, 2016 | 0 comments

Stewardship Sunday: Serving, Sharing, Giving

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Like many churches in our partner denominations (United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church), our church engages in an annual fall STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN.  Over the years we have used many different methods: circuit rider, cottage meetings, every household visits, and Consecration Sunday.  It is this last one, the Consecration Sunday model that we have used a number of times and the standard set-up is simple: our Stewardship Team: 1) picks a scripture verse, 2) develops a theme, 3) does some advertising around the church, 4) plans a special Consecration Sunday (usually 2nd Sunday in November), 5) mails a letter invites everyone in the congregation to make a special effort to be at church that morning.  Follow-up phone calls are made 1 week before Consecration Sunday, and 6) on Consecration Sunday itself, there is a time in our worship service for people to offer their estimates of giving before gathering for a celebratory potluck lunch in our fellowship hall.

Back in 2013, our Stewardship Team decided to do something different.  While we liked the Consecration Sunday model, and though it had been effective in generating estimates of giving that supported our church budget, we wanted to deepen the connection between financial giving and faith.  To put it another way, we wanted to find a better way to help people understand their giving, not only as a practical act of supporting the institution, but also as response to their faith in God in Christ.  To do that, we thought to ourselves: SERVICE.  After all, a common Stewardship rallying cry is, “time, talents and treaures,” right?  Why not expand Consecration Sunday to include a time for the congregation to engage in service projects after worship and before lunch?  Why not help the congregation to give their time, talents and treasures all in one, giant, visible, SERVING, SHARING, GIVING Sunday in Christ’s name and for the life of the world?  We thought “now that’s good Stewardship!”

So, for the past three years we have used a modified Consecration Sunday model that looks like this:

  1. Stewardship team meets monthly for 6 months to study, reflect, discern, and plan.  (We start in April or May for a November Consecration Sunday)
  2. About 3 months before Consecration Sunday we begin lining up enough service projects for the expected number of participants.  We work hard to offer a balance of church based projects (packing soup mixes for our local food shelf, handmade care-cards to send out throughout the year, knitting circle, etc.) and projects in the wider community (leaf raking, window washing, wood stacking, pastoral care visits, etc.).  We also line up a team to lead young children in appropriate projects (stacking, sorting, cleaning, arts and crafts, etc.).  The key to success for us has been to offer a variety of service projects with scalable and meaningful alternatives so that if one project finishes early, people can help with another project.  PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE MAKE-WORK OR STANDING AROUND WITH NOTHING TO DO!!  
  3. 4-5 weeks before Consecration Sunday we: 1) communicate with the congregation about theme and schedule, 2) mail letters with detailed information and estimate of giving cards to our entire congregation, 3) advertise service projects with a bulletin insert and staff a sign-up table during fellowship time so that people can sign-up (we ask them to list 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices).
  4. Consecration Sunday itself consists of 1) shorter worship service (starts 1 hour earlier than normal and we keep it to 30 minutes sharp (9:30-10 AM) – see below for sample order of worship), 2) 2 hours of service projects (10AM-12PM)  and, 3) regather at noon for a potluck lunch.
  5. For about 1 month afterwards our Stewardship Team communicates the results of the campaign (both the financial results and reflections about the reach and impact of our service projects) in Sunday morning worship services and in bulletin/newsletter articles.

NOTE: One of the benefits of this campaign is that it is very inexpensive.  We spend about $100, mostly on postage and photocopies.


Sample Order of Worship for Consecration Sunday

SHARING

Gathering Song: “Amazing Grace” (v. 1)

Greeting, Welcome and Announcements

Stewardship Celebration (A member of the Stewardship Team announces Consecration Sunday, explains the schedule, and offers a special welcome to visitors who are welcome to stay for any and all parts of the morning.)

Choir/Special Music

Pastoral Prayer & Lord’s Prayer

Sung Response: “Lord, Listen to You Children Praying”

New Testament: Philippians 1:3-11

Message: “Partners in this Sacred Place” (click here for sermon for this particular Consecration Sunday)

GIVING

Hymn

Offering, Commitment Time & Benediction (see below for detailed instructions delivered by the pastor to the congregation)

SERVING

Then, all are invited to gather in the fellowship room to begin our service projects. Please know that all are invited to participate whether you have signed up ahead of time or not! Childcare and children’s projects will be available. All are also to re-gather at 12:00PM for a potluck lunch. Please come whether you brought a dish to share or not!


INSTRUCTIONS FOR TIME OF COMMITMENT & BENEDICTION

• As the culmination of our worship service this morning, and of our annual stewardship campaign, we now move into our time of financial commitment.

• Again this year, our congregation has asked for estimates of giving in this way. Because the commitment of our resources is as much an act of worship as singing hymns, prayers and sermons, our Stewardship ministry thought it would be appropriate to fill out and/or receive our estimates of giving in the context of Sunday morning worship.

• If you are a visitor this morning, don’t be uncomfortable. This commitment is something our congregation has decided to do and the envelopes in the pews can also be used for a regular offering ornot used at all if you choose. Either way, all are invited to stay after worship for our SERVICE PROJECTS AND FOR OUR POTLUCK LUNCH WHICH BEGINS AT NOON.

• If you are a member and do not wish to complete an estimate of giving, we do not want you to feel pressured to do so. We do hope you will consider giving as an act of faith but it is a totally voluntary process.

• I will now direct you to locate the estimate of giving sheets and offering envelopes that should be in your pew row while I make a few comments about the commitment process.

• The envelope in the pews is to be used for three things: 1) Your completed estimate of giving, and 2) a normal weekly offering, or 3) you may submit an empty envelope. As the letter mailed to your home a few weeks ago explained, you may either put the already completed estimate of giving that you brought from home into the envelope, or you can fill one out now and put it into the envelope (estimates should be in the pews or signal an usher for one to be brought to you).

• Once you locate the envelope, you are invited to take as much time as you need to pray, discern, listen to the music, and to prepare the envelope. A pen should be in your pew.

• When each of you is ready, please bring your envelope down to the front and place it on the Communion Table at the front of the church as an act of worship. A special note to those who give electronically. A QR code is in the bulletin and you can use that to give your offering today. If you are also filling out an EOG, please put that into the envelope and bring that forward. If you need assistance, please signal an usher. When done, I invite you to leave the sanctuary quietly.

• For those staying for our service projects, please gather in our upstairs fellowship room and sign in.

• SO, TO SUMMARIZE. In just a moment, Please take whatever time you need to meditate, listen to the music, complete your estimate of giving and/or your weekly offering. When done, please put everything into the provided envelope and move quietly to the front of the church, placing your envelope on the Communion Table as an act of worship. Please signal an usher if you need assistance. For those not offering an envelope, you can simply go to the fellowship room…and we hope you all do.

• So now…let’s take a moment to be in a spirit of prayer which will serve for us both as a prayer of dedication and as our benediction: God, we give you thanks this morning for your presence and the presence of one another. Together, we have been in partnership for many years and that has produced much fruit for the Gospel. Christ, bless us this morning, help us to discern how best to give and to serve you, deepen our partnerships, help us to create new partnerships, and always, always, fill us with joy and the courage to be good news to those we encounter in Christ’s name. AMEN.

WE NOW CONTINUE OUR WORSHIP WITH THE OFFERING OF OUR GIFTS


© Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen, 2016

Kevin Goldenbogen is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ serving an amazing congregation in the foothills of the Green Mountains of Vermont. He skis, climbs, runs, bakes bread, rides a red Vespa, and tries every day to follow Jesus. He is married to the perfect woman and has two boys who he loves beyond words.

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