We Are About Relationships
Have you ever agreed to do something so far in the future that it seemed like no big deal? I do this all the time at home. Anyone who knows my wife can ask her how the four-year kitchen remodeling project is going. I have successfully rescheduled the project for the past four years and counting. Well, three short months ago when we divided up tasks and duties during Carol’s leave, I asked if I could write one of the newsletter articles. I felt a calling to share what I see of our church family from the back room operations, so to speak. Now, I can’t reschedule or postpone this one any further. Carol will be back soon. And boy, am I going to be in trouble if I mess this one up.
Well, deep breath…here we go. Let me tell you about some of my church experiences from my perspective as your finance manager. First, what is a church finance manager? It’s pretty simple. In a nutshell, I process all of the donations and pay all of the bills. I organize and summarize them in some logical manner and present to them to key church members and staff. For 2013, I’ve processed donations of around a million dollars for the church and our related ministries. These came in the form of 500 bank drafts, 3,780 physical checks, and over $50,000 in cash. Each donation must be sorted and coded to each person’s individual record, and then reconciled with the overall church finances. There is no faceless machine doing this work, but rather a lone person in the back corner of the office typing away.
My dad used to say to me, “Son, don’t pay attention to what people say—but to what they do with their pocket books.” He always had an interesting perspective on money and religion. He first joined a Methodist church on his own at the age of nine. The story goes that he walked into this church full of strangers during a Sunday service and asked to join the church. What was the minister to do? Sign him up! His stepfather had mercilessly beat him almost daily, and he figured church was the one place where he would be safe and protected. Later in his life, he abandoned church, though. He felt that money had become too important and too much of the measure of being a good Christian. No telling what he would think of my working as the money counter of a church.
I see both the good and the ugly side of money in our church life every day in my role. But unlike my dad, I believe money has not destroyed our faith but instead helps us to project our faith outward. In the past two years, I have had the privilege of seeing dozens of cases of the generosity of others. Your financial gifts have resulted in little things like someone else’s light bill being paid, a car fixed, or just that someone got a meal at Wednesday night supper. We have seen groups band together and raise money to go to needy places like Uganda—and save and lift others’ lives. Wow, what incredible mileage your gifts have produced!
When my dad died four years ago, we had just become members of Christ UMC. We only knew a few people in the church, but upon my dad’s death it felt like a three-alarm fire response with the rush of people coming to our aid. We had more food provided to us than an army could eat. We had Kristin, our former children’s minister, talking to my children about life and death. And we had our ministers Carol and Michelle visiting and comforting my entire family, and Mark leading the funeral service. That day, I felt safe and protected because of what this church did for me and my family. The dirty little secret, though, is that it took all of the gifts from every one of you to make that day possible…for my one family then…and many other families going forward. I get to see directly how your gifts of sacrifice have a tangible and very emotional impact on others. Thank you to all of you for your support back then, as well as today and in the future.