26 December 2009

One Last Chance

End of the year is here, and one last chance to use the tax code to your benefit by giving away money. This week we will be writing a few checks that will amount to a goodly sum, and as I have discovered in the last five years to goodly effect on my heart as well. I am glad to be able to tithe, when all our donations are amassed and counted. Being able to support causes and institutions we believe in is very satisfying, and the more I can give the more satisfying it is to support them.

What makes me write, though, is not my charitable activities, but my church. (As you probably know I rarely talk about my church. This blog is not about my outer work as much as I my inner life. Less adventurous perhaps but no confusion about who speaks for whom as it were.) But I just gotta brag.

Last January, with my enthusiastic support, our lay leaders decided to take all 'free cash' from the Sunday offering and set it aside from community support. That was daring for us. Through 2008, you should know, we put social ministry money in the overall operating fund like heat and copy machine supplies. The collection was added to pledges and other income. In 2008, for example, social ministry was budgeted for about $10,000 and the cash in the Sunday plate amounted to $16,000. This year we put no money in the budget for it and said that whatever came in on Sundays would be it.

Tomorrow we come to the end of the first year of 'giving away the plate.' And the total through Christmas Eve is over $32,000. Yes, twice as much as we put in the plate all last year. Twice! It represents 3% over and above our operating budget.

This is during a recession, remember? This is Michigan, remember? Back in March we cut our operating budget, cut back on personnel hours, I personally took a pay cut. But we stuck with our promise to reach out and at the end of the year twice as much had come in. As far as anyone knows, this is the most the church has ever given to the wider community.

And we feel great. Great enough to do it again.

Oh, we still have to struggle when it comes to pledges and operating funds. We even disagree about why it's a problem and how to solve it.

But we are all feeling good about what we did for the wider community this year. It feels great to hold up your part of the sky.

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