As we journey through this season of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, I encourage you to think about the carols, hymns, and other songs we sing and hear their familiar words this year in a new way as a way to “repeat the sounding joy” of generosity and stewardship. Here are a few with some tips for what the song might call you do:
The First Nowell
“And offered there, in His presence, their gold and myrrh and frankincense.”
The people of your congregation have grown in their generosity this year. Each week they have regularly taken money from their purses, wallets, bank accounts, and stock portfolios, and transferred them in support of your church’s ministry. They have done the same with other good and noble causes in your community and around the globe.
While it’s best to show gratitude all year long, and I hope you do, the season of Advent and Christmas is a particularly good time to send an email, write a note, or pick up the phone. Find a way to outwardly express the gratitude you have for those who support the church’s ministry.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.”
God has showered us with all that we need in every aspect of life. Just walk along the beach on a clear night and look up and out. Think about the love and grace we have been freely given, and recall that “we are the object of the greatest love that was, is, and ever shall be.”
When we think there is just not enough to go around, we must remember there is more than enough. God has bold dreams for us, and the resources to fulfill those dreams. Our anxiety and fear about the future hinder our generosity. The message of the angels remains, “Fear not, I bring you good news of a great joy for all people.” Our response is the quiet acceptance and wonder of Mary, the jubilation and singing of the shepherds, the awe-filled gift-giving of the Magi.
Angels from the Realms of Glory
“Sages, leave your contemplations. Brighter visions beam afar.”
Eugene Peterson translates Proverbs 29:18 as, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves. But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” It should be no surprise that stumbling people don’t have time to be generous – they’re too busy trying not to fall!
In the mid-20th century, it was enough to open the doors of the church – people were flocking in. Today’s church-goers desire to be more intentional with their life’s purpose – and with the church’s purpose too! People will be empowered by a clear mission and vision for your congregation. Find ways to cast your vision into next year and beyond.
As With Gladness Those of Old
“All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.”
Congregations often ask, “When is the right time for a capital campaign?” The answer is, when the vision presents itself. Perhaps your older church facility has deferred needs that keep mounting: a new roof, tuck-pointing, HVAC. Make a list of those needs and their associated costs, and publish the list. You never know when someone might step in to meet one of those needs.
Maybe the vision is larger – greater accessibility, the need for more fellowship space, an expanded facility or a complete reconstruction. Keep in mind the message of the angels, and dream boldly. Your best days are ahead of you, and a capital campaign can raise money and boost faith among your members.
Go Tell It on the Mountain
“When lo above the earth rang out the angel chorus
that hailed our Savior’s birth!”
The impact of your ministries can inspire generosity, but only if you help people see the lives that are changed. Fundraising guru Jerold Panas reminds us that people will support a cause if it has a “mission that changes lives.” Your ministries are changing lives every day – be sure to tell those stories.
The hungry have food, the thirsty have water, the strangers are welcomed, the naked are clothed, the sick are cared for, those in bondage are visited – all because of your congregation. Use every communication vehicle you have (the mountaintop) to tell those stories.
The Little Drummer Boy
“Our finest gifts we bring… to lay before the king!”
Christmas inspires generosity. Perhaps it’s because it is year’s end, a good time to look back and take stock of the blessings we have received this year. Maybe the looming tax deadline of December 31st creates some urgency for us. It could be the warm, fuzzy feelings we have during the holidays. Maybe we come closer in this time to fully realizing the gifts we have received from God’s hands. In this most generous season, practice generosity and invite others to join you.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a Happy New Stewardship Year!
Associate for Stewardship