The year after I graduated from college, I volunteered fulltime through the AmeriCorps program at a Food Bank in North Carolina. In addition to working in the warehouse and monitoring agencies, my fellow volunteers and I also had monthly classes on a variety of topics. My favorite was a budgeting class. Though most of us were scraping by our living stipend, we still had income and expenses like everyone else. Our homework was to track our expenses and income for a month and then come back to class to talk about what we noticed. After that month, I realized that I had picked up a terrible habit. I had worked very hard to save money during that year. As a reward for saving money, every week I would treat myself to something small. But when I did the math, I realized the amount I had saved was much less than the amount with which I was treating myself. The realization was shocking and wildly disappointing.
On Sunday, we are submitting our pledge commitments for the coming year at Hickory Neck. Part of our Living Generously campaign has been talking about the powerful ministries at Hickory Neck that mean so much to us. We have read parishioner reflections, biblical reflections from national church leaders, and a great narrative budget that helps us see how our finances function. My husband and I are inspired and expectant about the future of Hickory Neck, and we are overjoyed to join the pledging effort to support our ministry.
Inspiration has not been a problem. In fact, my husband and I talked about how we want to increase our pledge this year. But as we looked at the numbers, we realized in order to align our budget with our passion, we were going to have to adjust some things. For us, that means at least a few less meals out each month. It also may mean being a bit more discerning about wants versus needs. It will certainly mean keeping an eye on making sure that we are able to keep our pledge next year by saving the amount needed for our increase and not “treating” ourselves disproportionally to our increased pledge.
As the Vestry talked about Stewardship, the Vestry all realized our church giving was motivated by different things. For some of us, understanding the mission of the church and how our pledge would be used was critical. For others of us, we needed our giving to be rooted in a theological or spiritual understanding of resources and our stewardship of those resources. While for others of us, our giving was more motivated by looking around us, taking stock of all the things we like about church, and calculating how much those things cost. My hope is that our campaign has addressed all of those approaches and that our journey through stewardship season has inspired and rooted you. I look forward to hearing your story of our journey together and kicking off another great year!