As a kid, I always enjoyed the summers, but I especially looked forward to the fall. Each fall was the beginning of a new school, a new adventure, with a sense of anticipation that fed my imagination. When I became a pastor, I continued to look forward to the fall, the beginning of a new church school year and the overflowing church calendar filled with all kinds of marvelous opportunities for children, youth and adults.
This year is no exception. In fact, we have so many exciting ministries and missions happening that it is simply a thrill to be a part of the Nardin Park faith family. There are signs of vibrant life everywhere, expressions of vital discipleship being lived out, and evidence of God’s love being experienced in so many people.
Unfortunately, there is also an unwanted shadow hovering in our midst that all too often is squeezing the life right out of us. The cloud is that of our financial stewardship; i.e., “money.” We don’t have enough of it to support all of our ministries. We have watched our giving slowly diminish since 2008. Each year we continue to cut our operating costs, making do with less while trying to do more ministries. It’s a “no-win” situation, that comes at a time when we really need to be finding even more funding to support our growing children’s and young families’ ministries.
We all know about the national economic disaster of 2008. We also know about the 100+ deaths in the last seven years that have contributed to the erosion of our financial base. But what most of us don’t know is that the number of Nardin Park members who do not contribute to the general operation expense continues to rise. In every church there are always people who do not give, but we now have over 160 family units who do not financially support their church.
These are not “bad” people. They are people who continue to look to the church when there is a need for ministry in their lives, whether it is for a baptism, a wedding, a funeral, a hospital visit, or even counseling. They are simply people who no longer get excited about being a vital part of the Nardin Park congregation. They do not need our judgment; but they do need our encouragement.
We also have thirty-one family units who are currently behind in their giving. The summer vacation has hit us hard. But then again, we have twelve family units who are ahead in their giving. For that we are truly thankful.
What is the solution? I wish I knew. Reminding people of their membership vows to “faithfully participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness” might work with some people, but I know that others would receive the reminder as a not-so-subtle use of guilt.
So, I pray. I pray that all of us get excited about being followers of Jesus Christ. I pray that all of us get enthused about being a vital part of an incredible group of disciples called Nardin Park. I pray that all of us will put our money where our heart is. I believe that the “bottom line” is not about money, but about “God.” I know that all of us want Nardin Park to succeed!