By Sy Hughes
When I joined the foundation related to a small military school in Virginia, my boss, a retired U.S. Army colonel, made it clear. “If anyone wants to designate a gift, you say, ‘yes sir/ma’am and thank you.’’’ Not having been in the military myself, I thought this was a grand time to make a joke. “Well what if its for something silly, like basket weaving?” His look made it very clear, “Yes sir/ma’am and thank you” was the correct response.
What I did not understand at the time was a person’s designated gift is not the end of our friendship, rather the beginning. They are giving us permission to share the story of the institution and how those resources can shape the lives of young people for generations to come. That same philosophy holds true in our congregations. If we are truly the “stewards” in stewardship, then our responsibility is to educate about the use of resources and the impact financial support makes. If we are to grow our relationships, we must demonstrate that we are truly stewards of the resources that have been entrusted to us.
One role of stewards is to seek opportunities to tell our story and to invite people into the story. Imagine the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 told from the perspective of the baker who made the bread the boy brought to Jesus. If the baker did not know what eventually happened to the bread, it would be either a very short story, a dull story or likely both. The story’s miraculous account of caring and sharing, and its powerful point about abundance would be missed. People who insist on designation might be inspired to broaden their giving by learning how they are a part of a fuller story.
You have likely encountered the conversation about “not wanting to give to pay the power bill and only wants their dollars to go to XYZ.” Think of using that conversation to tell the story of all the mission and ministry that happens within the church. The youth groups that have a fun and caring place meet. The local non-profits that could not carry out their mission without the office space the church provides. The addiction and recovery groups that rely on the safety and security of the church. I’m sure the pastor appreciates light by which to write sermons. In times such as these, we are reminded that the church isn’t just one thing; it’s a wonderful story waiting to be shared.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) has countless ways for people to get involved through prayer, action, and giving. Each avenue is an opportunity to come alongside other U.S. Presbyterians who have responded to the call of Jesus Christ by proclaiming and living out their faith, and by laboring with love and energy to promote God’s justice in the world. Those of us who serve PMA have a great story to share, and I know that each congregation I visit in my travels does as well. As faithful stewards, one of our key goals is to seek opportunities to tell these stories.
Sy Hughes is a mission engagement associate for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.