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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Roger Tabor's Presentation


18th June 2006

Fr Roger Tabor

Stewardship

A review of 2005…and some challenging questions.

The full set of PowerPoint slides is available to download (size 677Kb)

Let’s start with why I’m here today. You should already know that the Bishops have launched a new initiative in this diocese, called “Vision for Action”. Every parish is expected to respond to it in some way, and it provides a useful framework for us to take a fresh view of ourselves. I’m going to present you with some figures and raise some questions, but we’ll each have to work out the answers for ourselves. You may recall that Vision for Action sets goals for the church in 5 key areas:

  1. MISSION- to work together in love and commitment to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
  2. MINISTRY – to encourage, support and develop the ministry of each person.
  3. CHURCH BUILDINGS – to encourage each parish to develop the use of church buildings as places of worship and mission.
  4. STEWARDSHIP – to strengthen the commitment to stewardship amongst clergy and laity in order to further the mission of the church.
  5. CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE - to encourage and develop the necessary skills within parishes and deaneries to bring the Gospel to Children and young people through worship, schools and other contexts.

We aren’t expected to do everything in the Diocesan agenda, especially at once, but we are expected to do what we can. And it would be good if we could try not to be a drain on everyone else. I’m going to talk about Stewardship, which the PCC has chosen to start with. We haven’t tackled this area for some time and I hope to show that we need to!

It’s important to see Stewardship as a key enabler of other things, not just an end in itself. Mission and Ministry are more important aspects of our Christian calling. And the PCC are already working on ways to engage with them, for example by investing in new chairs, and doing up the drive, to make our church more attractive, welcoming and fit for purpose, and also possibly by joining in a new ecumenical venture locally about working with young people.

Struggling to balance the books all the time gets in the way of dealing with these important things – it drains our resources and makes us ultra cautious, and sometimes pessimistic. Not qualities to associate with the calling of Jesus! Quite the contrary. The Church of England concluded in an important report that we ought to realise that God has given us the resources to do His work – it’s just we don’t always recognise it, and we may not manage it well. So let’s look at the record for St Matthew’s.

It’s definitely time to take stock.

Our Costs

St Matthews' costs

Let’s have a quick look at some figures. In 2005 it cost £1000 per week to run St Matthew’s while our income was less than £925. So was this spending reasonable?

The biggest chunk was “Ministry” – basically this is paying for clergy, to have our own vicar, and to be part of the wider church. Most of this was the “Parish share”, our contribution to the Diocese. That’s risen steeply, because of paying for clergy pensions and can be expected to rise further. But I imagine we’ll all agree that a church without clergy doesn’t make a lot of sense!

Don’t think, though, that the parish share goes to a profligate central bureaucracy. St Albans runs a tight ship, with a much smaller staff than some comparable dioceses, and most of its money goes straight to pay for Parish ministry and we pay in a fair bit less than we get back.

St Matthews' ministry costs

Fr. David and his house are a snip at £40000 a year – for which we’re only paying £31000. In case you run away with the idea that he gets rather a lot of that, the £40000 figure includes national insurance, pension and parsonage costs and it rightly includes a sum for training future vicars in the cost of our present ones.

As for the rest, our local expenses have risen because some of our essential costs have been going up, including those for jobs we once had volunteers for. And we have spent some money on minor repairs, although major capital is not in my figures.

Your wardens and PCC do economise: for example by only paying visiting organists, and doing only essential repairs. We could probably spend a little less if we really tried, but it doesn’t seem to me that cutting spending is a realistic solution to our situation.

Our Income

St Matthews' income

So what about our income then? I’ve divided it into four sections.

“Trading” income is reasonably buoyant. The Hall is doing well and we try to keep charges competitive. It’s helpful to remind ourselves that providing a place for local activities is actually an important part of our ministry. The fees from weddings and funerals are fixed anyway and depend on demand, but they do not necessarily stay with us, and a lot of the money is passed through as related expenditure

You should have spotted that investment income is over 20%. For years we have been relying on it to fill the gap between giving and costs. How much we get, depends both on how much we have invested and on the market.

Investment income has kept us out of trouble for many years now,

This has just stopped being enough (and was about £5000 short last year).I’ve already mentioned that, to make St Matthew’s fit for the future, we may need to spend significant capital. If that called on just half our savings we’d be a further £5000 a year short Even if we don’t spend capital, we will now have to draw on it to balance the books, unless income can be increased.

Let me highlight this. The key message is: we have been relying on our investment income. It has just stopped being enough (about £5000 short) After spending half our savings we’ll be a further £5000 a year short. And as for capital, we will now have to draw on it to balance the books.

Our Giving

So what about giving by church members and visitors? Currently stewardship giving is 45% of our income, at £26000 It looks like a challenge to raise another £5000, never mind £10000 However, to put that in context, £10000 is just £3 a week for everyone on the electoral roll. At the bottom of this, and several coming slides, I’ve included a reminder of a slogan that used to be at the heart of stewardship campaigns in this diocese some years ago. As the members of the Church, Christ’s representatives in this place, we ought to reflect that THE RESPONSIBILITY IS OURS.

At this point I guess I have to do the uncomfortable thing and invite us to think about our church giving. I hope I’ve convinced you that we have a local issue about money. But even if we didn’t, the Lord’s work would still need our help, and His work doesn’t go away just because we have insufficient income. This is, of course, an intensely personal and private matter, and I can’t presume to lecture on it: but I can point out a few considerations you may not have thought of, and I can continue to remind us, as Stewardship advisers have told us before, that THE RESPONSIBILITY IS OURS.

Deciding what to give is pretty tricky. The Church of England isn’t a club so we don’t have a membership subscription. Some churches and synagogues have set amounts, like a golf club. We don’t!

But you may or may not know that the Church of England has offered guidance on how people might approach this tricky subject in the light of Scripture and modern living.

We all know that originally the Biblical notion was to “tithe” – to give a tenth of what one had (and that was wealth, not just income). Some Christians still do this, and for all I know this may include some of us. The guidance in more modern times can be found in a publication called “First to the Lord” published in 1999. It recommended that Christians should be encouraged to give the Church 5% of after tax income. The idea was that this should be accompanied by further giving to other compatible charitable objects that might bring total commitment back towards the tithe. I understand that work is under way on a further report that will reaffirm the notion of 5% to the church and 5% for wider mission and relief of suffering.

Of course, this should only ever be read as a basic standard of giving. Higher and more sacrificial levels of giving are consistent with the Christian ideal. One advantage of this is that 5% is easy to work out at least in round terms.

Roughly speaking, £1 per week is 5 per cent of £1000 a year.

Planned giving 2005

At this point I’m going to share with you what planned giving in St Matthew’s looked like last year. This chart shows in blue the percentage of givers, and in purple the percentage contribution to the total giving income. The results are grouped in three bands of annual giving, from £50 to £250; £250 to £500; and from £500 to £750 a year. Over on the right, grouped together to preserve the anonymity and detail of individual larger contributions is another group of people who give more than £750 a year to St Matthew’s.

It shows, at one end, that 40% of our givers are giving less than £5 a week, and at the other that we are relying on 10 per cent of our members to provide a third of our income. And the lumping together masks some more extreme statistics within this.

So please, let each of us examine where we are in personally in all of this. The whole thing is between us and God. Maybe not everyone can manage to give 5%, but some may well be able to give rather more. What matters is that we give it proper consideration, which I hope might include

Planned Giving

Your generosity can be at its most helpful if it’s a commitment:

Bequests

I ought to mention that some charitable organisations try to encourage bequests in people’s wills. St Matthew’s has benefited from this in the past – we know better than most, how a few past parishioners really could keep us going from beyond the grave, as the capital sums they gave created the investment income on which we’ve been relying! Should this interest anyone here, advice is available about legacy giving, and there’s a good leaflet on it.

Giving of Ourselves

But the challenge to cover our expenses week by week still remains the biggest one for our giving. This presentation has been mainly about money, for obvious reasons. There is another side to stewardship, which is about what we give of ourselves, as opposed to giving of our money.

Now at this point, I can almost hear people thinking…of course what we really want are more people. I have no doubt that the Lord does too. But Stewardship is about how we look after things here and now…

The responsibility is ours to invite – or bring - the new people.
The responsibility is ours to make them welcome on their terms rather than ours.
Fundamentally, the responsibility is ours to create the right climate for that to happen by what we do now.

The ultimate truth in Christian Stewardship as in so many things is There is no “they” – There’s only “us”!

Conclusion

A really important consideration is that good stewardship can enable us to move forward

Of course there are always reasons not to play the part…

But it is worth bearing in mind, when these temptations arise, that our giving is to God in His Church, not to a club or an individual. And we give that future souls may learn of the Lord, and come to Him, not just for the benefit of our current congregation.

There may be a big task ahead. The way to eat an elephant is of course in bite sized chunks. The bite size of our extra £10000 is just an extra £3 a week for 70 people.

That’s all I’ve got to say: I ask you please, with God’s help, to reflect and pray about it, and if that be His will, to do something about it. For Christian Stewardship is about commitment to Him in thanksgiving for His love to us; and about fitting us better for His work.

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