Today we are talking about stewardship. What is Stewardship? Well the definition that the Church of England website gives us is ‘encouraging people to give their time, skills and their money to support the work of the church.’
Money, it’s a dirty word. It almost feels dirty in your mouth doesn’t it? Just say that word now out loud. How does it feel? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Well, it certainly makes me feel uncomfortable and I’ve been given this very daunting task by Stephanie to talk about subject today, thank you Stephanie.
So, let’s put our cards on the table and start discussing the difficult subject of our church's finances.
In order for any organisation to survive we have to develop our income streams. I know that when I took on the Chandos Arms Pub a couple of years ago, a pub that was failing on many levels there was basically not enough income for the pub to operate at the kind of standard that we aspired to. That first year was really tough, we lost a lot of money, a lot of sleep and I lost a lot of weight - there’s always a bright side to every story.
But we were really lucky, the community got behind us, the pub began to turn around and our finances and my waist line began to grow again.
St Michaels, WE as a church are incredibly lucky, because we are all people who experience on a day to day basis, the outrageous hospitality of Christ. We enjoy Christ’s love, without him asking for anything in return. We are given GRACE freely and equally - there is no charge.
But we have this glorious building, the clergy, an amazing community space in Hartley Hall and unfortunately, these things do come at a price.
There are bills to pay, there are endless repairs to our building in order for us to have somewhere to worship and we as a church are endlessly ambitious for growth. We have to build and grow in Christ's name and be relevant to an ever-changing community and world.
Now here’s the question, where does our money go?
Part of what we individually choose to contribute goes the Common Fund. Who know’s what the Common Fund is? I think it is really important that we all understand what the common fund. I think it is one of those great mysteries to church goers who don’t sit on the church council.
The Common Fund is money given by every parish in London to provide, support and further the work of clergy across the Diocese and as a Church we are required to set the level of donation that we pay into the Fund each year.
So you might say oh, goody goody, surely if we get to decided how much money we can pay into the fund then we can just send in a couple of grand a year and keep the rest for ourselves. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. If our common fund contributions are not appropriate to our church then we will be seen as a failing church by the big bad boys at the Diocese. You and I know we are not a failing church, we are thriving church!
It costs approximately £77,000 to provide a priest in one parish, next year due to inflation it will be more.
Now as much as Fr Steven is a massive blessing I think we can all agree that perhaps 77 grand is a bit of a hefty wage package for a member of the Clergy. In fact, a small proportion of this goes to him in the form of his wages and housing costs the rest goes on admin, insurance and clergy pensions for retired clergy and lots of boring stuff like that.
So, to recap the Common Fund helps to maintain a Christian presence in every parish, safeguards our buildings, our churches and help to grow Christ’s love in the heart of each community. It is expected that we as a church endeavour to meet this yearly target.
St Michaels, this church, is sadly contributing in the bottom 10% of churches the West Barnet area, we are pledging only £38,000. We are also in arrears. Essentially we are asking other churches in poorer areas to support us. We are asking for their charity. This is not a good place to be in.
We all know we CAN do better!
Second Corinthians tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver”.
We have recently lost some of our most generous donors, as they have moved into nursing care in some cases, or died. But we have new members of the congregation too, so we can achieve this! Little by little we can pledge more.
As I said earlier, money is a very tricky subject, but it isn't just about money. There are other ways to give. I like to call it the three Ts. Time, talent, treasure.
There are a small group of people in this church, who, on a regular basis, give their time and their talent and their treasure. We have this fantastic choir, we have these beautiful flowers arrangements. We have the wonderful people who put together the refreshments that we enjoy after the service? There are the people who work with the children and run the hall. There are the people who organise the fantastic events that we enjoy. These are the people who are giving their time, their talent and their treasure every day for Christ and St Michaels.
First of all I'd like to talk about time. We live in a very time-expensive world. We are all desperately pushed for time. Most of us from the moment we get up in the morning, our time is robbed from us. We are trying to get our children ready for school, we are trying to get to work, we are trying to see those friends who need us. Time is very precious. But do you have five minutes a day to pray for the wellbeing of your church? Do you have five minutes a day to engage with Christ’s message and to listen to what he wants from us?
I believe everyone can give five minutes of prayer, per day. And I would urgently encourage you to pray on your gifts, and explore what you might have to give.
Secondly I would like to talk about talent. We have some seriously talented people in this church. We have the beautiful flower arrangements from June and her team, we have this amazing choir. Everywhere I look in St Michael's there is talent being shared for the greater good of Christ.
If you have a talent that you think you can use in God’s service, please don’t be shy!
Can you sing, arrange flowers, lead prayers? Do you like polishing furniture, teaching children? Are you an IT or financial specialist or could you drive an older person to church on a Sunday morning? If you want to become more involved in the life of St Michaels, please speak up - tell Father Steven, Martin or Evelyn on Emily. Tell someone!
Then we come back to Money, to your treasure.
Think about how much you would be able to give through stewardship. When I was praying recently, I had an idea. And that idea was ‘five keeps your church alive’. Five mins of prayer a day, five hours of your talent for the church, or simply £5 as often as you can give it. It is really up to you. Maybe five pounds per week is too much for you, or WAY too little. It is up to you to decide - God loves a cheerful giver!
We need everyone to give as much as they are comfortable giving.
There are a lot of different ways you can give.
You can give through the yellow envelope scheme or by Standing Order through your bank or you can give cash during the service.
Our preferred method is through direct Debit. This gives you a chance set a figure that you know you can afford and budget for it. You don’t need to worry about bringing cash to church and you have full control to alter or cancel your payment if you need to.
It doesn’t matter how you give, BUT PLEASE GIVE! You can give your time, you can give your talent or you can give your treasure.
Stephanie is the Stewardship Leader. Please go and see her after the service, if you want to discuss anything with her further or to collect some of the paperwork.
Very soon we will be introducing a newer more efficient scheme called The Parish Giving Scheme, so we are going to be revisiting this subject in a few month’s time.
So that me done, on this ghastly subject but I hope you will keep Evelyn and myself in your prayers tomorrow as we’re sworn in as the new Churchwardens.
Let’s all say is together loud and proud! It is not a dirty word it is one of the things that keeps our church alive and God’s message sounding like a ringing bell in our community and the streets of London.
And that word is MONEY.