Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stewardship Anyone?

The first full-time appointment that I served was a three-point charge (three churches). I’m trying to remember. I think the entire budget for that charge was around $60,000. And, we had among the three churches 300 members. So, every year we had no problem raising the money to meet the maintenance, and ministry needs of the churches. Staff? I was it, of course. No stewardship campaigns or appeals. We didn’t need them.

My second appointment was to one church. (You remember that United Methodist pastors are appointed to their churches by the bishop.) We had 218 members and the budget was around $60,000. Again, I was the staff and we raised all we needed. No stewardship appeals were needed.

Then, I heard God calling me to start a “new” church down in Goose Creek (north of Charleston is all you need to know). Mary and I and Betsy moved to Goose Creek where we had 8 adults and six children waiting on us to get started. You need to know, if you don’t already, that I’m a little crazy and I was very young. After six and a-half-years we had 300 members and 250 active. We met in rented space for over four years and then built our first building to the tune of $400,000. Our small congregation then assumed this and the budget. Or, should I say we tried to assume it. The average age of the congregation was 27.

We moved into the new building in June of 1989. And, some of you will remember that hurricane Hugo hit in September bringing some damage to our new building. For one month, we missed getting much in the way of offerings. Then, in December we had a record snow fall and missed two more Sunday’s offerings. Did I say they were 27 or so? Did I also say that we didn’t have any reserves or history?

With God’s help, and some radical measures we made it. Then, we moved on to Socastee UMC where we have a huge debt on a new sanctuary. I moved in and met with the Treasurer who told me that we had about $18,000 in the bank and had paid no apportionments that year. Apportionments are United Methodist mission and denominational causes. “OK”, I said.

Then, we served Clemson UMC and next I was District Superintendent for six years in Rock Hill. And, in 2006, we were pleased to be appointed to Bethel UMC in Spartanburg. Here our budget is one million plus dollars and there are, counting Day Care and After School, some nearly 30 staff members. We have two huge mission trips- adults and youth. We have great youth and children’s ministries. We have a staff second to none in providing leadership in music and worship, pastoral care, and nurture. There is so much that God is calling us to do. And, every year we are privileged to talk about stewardship as we plan next year’s mission budget.

And, what happens, the economy drops. Every church and organization and business is feeling the pinch. We have had to make adjustments as we pray for our people to get work again and our culture to return to some movement forward.

Sunday at Bethel we will be celebrating the privilege of being Christian givers and followers of Jesus Christ. No sacrifice that we make can compare to God’s sacrifice (giving) for us. As we are faithful, we imitate the faithfulness of God to us. And, we trust in all things that God will provide.

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee