November is “Stewardship Month” at Bethlehem Covenant Church. This is a time where we take stock of how we give our resources to the ministry of the church and make according plans for ministry in the coming year based on our collective commitment to give. A letter from the council went home this week explains more.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Did you hear it? September 13th, about 10:45am in the morning. The entire congregation was together for worship on Gathering Sunday, packed shoulder to shoulder in the sanctuary. Pastor Kari invited the children forward for a children’s message. They came. And they came. And they kept coming. That’s when I heard it. Somewhere in the congregation there came a nervous laughter. Seeing some 40+ kids crammed into the front of the sanctuary for the children’s sermon was a powerful visual of how much Bethlehem has grown in the last 10 years. Gathering Sunday was a prime example of what this church has achieved with God’s help. It was a packed house, but more than that, it was a heartfelt celebration of the ways Bethlehem Covenant Church is having a fresh experience of God’s mission.
For the seventh year in a row our average church attendance has increased over the previous year. We anticipate our sixth straight year of having a budget surplus. Less than a year into the partnership with our Spanish speaking church plant, New Covenant is building a thriving ministry to a growing population. Our own ministries to kids, youth, neighbors, and global partners are energized. God is at work among us and lives are being touched in significant ways. When you look around at all the kids and all the new faces, nervous laughter seems a very appropriate response. It is a delight to see so much life and vitality in our congregation, but then the question becomes: now what do we do?!?
With this Spirit-driven momentum in mind, the council is proposing a 2016 budget that aims to supply the church with the resources needed to keep building upon the great work already being done. Next year’s forward-facing budget accounts for the increase in supplies and materials required for our ever-growing ministries. It better quantifies our commitment to support the Spanish-speaking church plant. The budget will account for the increased usage of the building and the associated costs of maintenance and utilities. It includes new funds to our local outreach ministries, an area we’ve not directed many resources to in the past. The new budget allots finances to attract and retain the skilled and experienced staff needed to serve this growing congregation. To put it simply: more people, doing more ministry, will require more resources.
The 2016 budget is an ambitious one, but taking leaps of faith is not unprecedented in our congregation. It was bold decisions like starting a new worship service, embracing ministry to refugees, and going “all in” for our ministry to children that has contributed so much to Bethlehem’s revitalization.
With this in mind, your church leadership is asking all members to prayerfully consider increasing their offering pledge for the coming year by 10% as an act of faith that the seeds we sow in our ministry will yield even more “good fruit” in the coming years. The budget increase is significant, but the church council was unanimous in support of it because of the strong sense that God continues to call us further in mission. We have seen the soil is fertile. It’s now upon us to sow and plant.
The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that their offering should be done thoughtfully, freely, cheerfully, and above all, with a faith that God provides all that is necessary (2 Corinthians 9:6-12). As many of your church council members are committing to increase their pledge this year, I encourage you to speak with your family, friends, and other church members about how your giving can impact your spiritual life and how it can contribute to the health and mission of the church. That is ultimately what stewardship and tithing is about, using what we are given to love God and to love our neighbor.
Kirsten Ryding, Council President
Anthony Laudon, Leadership Commission Chair
Wally Abramson, Finance Commission Chair
P.S. – In the month of October our worship attendance was over 10% higher than last October. Many of these attendees are new to the congregation. Our growth isn’t slowing down, so neither should our mission!
Look for pledge forms in the letter mailed out this week, or in the bulletin this Sunday.