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How long is a day? 24 hours—1,440 minutes—86,400 seconds. But what about the day in your life that will not have 24 hours—1,440 minutes—86,400 seconds? What day will that be? The day your heart stops beating, the day you die. Making spiritual preparation for that day is essential, more important than anything else.
But there is another preparation to be made. Those who advocate for Alzheimer’s research have labeled June 21, the Summer Solstice, as The Longest Day (www.act.als.org). I am advocating for December 21, the Winter Solstice, as The Shortest Day*, with an appeal to make preparations for your day with less than 24 hours.
Pastors know the pain of watching families in deep, immediate grief, trying to decide what loved ones wanted for funeral plans, the disposition of the body, or the distribution of family heirlooms and estates. But there is a way to make it much easier.
Living wills, durable power of attorney for healthcare, finances, writing of clear instructions to the family (for example, cremation or burial), where memorial contributions should be directed, and other numerous details is hugely helpful to those left to make these agonizing decisions.
But the larger question is, how will we use our resources to bless that which is important to us? Bequests can make a huge difference for your faith community, for the arts and humanities, for education, for children, for the poor. This is one part of what is known as planned giving.
You have a unique opportunity to make an enduring contribution and leave a legacy for which many will be grateful for years to come. Don’t miss it! Seek help in writing it so it is clear.
Caring.com reports that 60% of adults do not have a will. It is essential to have a valid, updated will that reflects your wishes. Maybe yours needs revision. If you don’t have a last will and testament, make the appointment. Get it done.
When John D. Rockefeller died (1937) his accountant was reportedly asked, “How much of his estate did he leave behind?” The answer, “All of it.” Psalm 49:17 says (edited), “When we die, we will carry nothing away. Our wealth will not go after us.”
Statistics tell us that only eight out of one-hundred Christians remember to include their church in their will. It is not because the church has no need, but because churches rarely educate, inform, or invite their members to make this generous gift.
I make it a practice to urge all Christians to give a tithe of their estates to their church. Imagine what a wonderful source of support this can be for years after you have died. Have you made such provision?
I know it is high Christmas time, but use this “shortest day” to take the first step: make an appointment with yourself, your family, your attorney, to address what is to happen when your day has less than 24 hours. Write down all that is important to you that your family needs to know. Use your estate to provide for others. Practice generosity even in death.
Make your shortest day one of your best days by being intentional about planning for end-of-life issues.
*indebted to Charles Schultz, Crescendo Interactive, for conceiving The Shortest Day.
Rev. David Rash, retired, is the director of Stewardship Matters of Virginia LLC., and consults with churches on the vital task of growing faithful and generous stewards, disciples of Jesus Christ.
All Saints Sunday and Memorial Funds (View/Download in PDF Format)
ALL SAINTS SUNDAY is always the first Sunday in November. This is a day to remember the members of your congregation who have died in the last year. Many of them will be much loved persons whose memory is sweet. Make it BIG! Make it special. List their names on the front of the worship bulletin. Make sure they are noted in your newsletter and on your website. Do you have screens for worship? Put their pictures up for all to see. Have families bring framed pictures to place on a dedicated table in a prominent place. Make sure the families get a personal invitation to worship that Sunday and invite them to stand when their loved ones name is called. Tell a story.
And, this is a great time to highlight your church's memorial funds. Most of your congregation may know there is a ‘fund for memorials’ but do they know how it is used? Let them know and invite them to use this fund throughout the year. Put a note in your newsletter and on your website. But most of all prepare a dedicated insert for your worship bulletin in recognition of All Saints Sunday. Say ‘thank you’. Doing so will increase confidence in how your church handles memorial funds and invites further giving.
Identify memorials that have been received since last All Saints Sunday. Were any special projects supported with this fund – new hymnals, choir robes, improvements? Highlight those. Provide a very brief financial report showing the present balance. If you have a memorial committee, identify its members. Have the chairperson give a personal ‘thank you’ for the gifts received. If you have a policy for how memorials are received and how they are used, make copies available to be picked up. (Not everyone wants a copy). If not, create a policy.
Online giving make memorial gifts easy. Regularly posting obituaries on your website along with information on how to give electronically can be a great convenience for many. And if the newspaper obituary can carry your website even better! Loved ones and friends of the deceased from near and far can give easily with this helpful tool. Remember: people want to give. Make it easy for them.
During the year note memorials received by listing who they are from. The amount is not necessary. The fact of it is. Keep it in front of your people all year long.
So as you honor deceased members on All Saints Sunday celebrate and promote your Memorial Fund also. And don’t forget to say ‘thank you!’
-David A. Rash
Stewardship Scripture Nuggets (View/Download in PDF Format)
“The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
“The fruit of the Spirit is……generosity”
“For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust
consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“The faithful will abound with blessings, but the one who is in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 28:20
“The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” “Those who are generous are blessed for they share their bread with the poor.” “Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.”
Proverbs 22:7, 9, 16
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”
I Timothy 6:10
“All the Israelite men and women whose hearts made them willing to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done, brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.”
“The people are bringing much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing; for what they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work.”
Imagine….if all Christians everywhere were to observe the tithe.....no stewardship campaigns, the poor would be helped in even greater ways, finance committees would not have to get anxious….just imagine….
IRA Charitable Tax Rollover Approved by Congress: Allows for Direct Gifts with No Tax Imposed on IRA Disbursements! (View/Download in PDF Format)
The IRA Charitable Rollover provision allows individuals who have reached age 70½ to donate up to $100,000 to charitable organizations directly from their Individual Retirement Account (IRA), without treating the distribution as taxable income. As of December 18, 2015, they have been made PERMANENT!!, retroactive to January 1, 2015.
How does this benefit your church?
Answer: Consider this another avenue of giving with an additional tax advantage for your donors over the age of 70.5 and receiving disbursements from an IRA. Put it in your church newsletter / website, and add this note to your quarterly giving statements.
Note: it must be a DIRECT contribution from the financial institution to your church.
We Give Thee But Thine Own Public Domain Hymn (View/Download in PDF Format)
Good News About Money and The VA Conference...But...
Upon reading the 2015 annual report of Giving USA there is good news to report. The total estimated US charitable giving is up 4.2%, equaling $373.25 Billion! In fact, 2014 and 2015 “total estimated giving reached its highest levels ever.” This may be an indicator of a better economy. The per capita charitable giving for the American household reached $2,124.00, and is estimated at 2.1% of the GDP, a very high percentage. Religion, primarily churches, amounts to 32% of the charitable pie.
Here is more good news! Based on reports by the UM GCFA, the estimated per member giving for United Methodists to the UMC rose almost 3% from 2013 to 2014. In an era of cutting budgets and cutting programs perhaps this represents an upward climb. The GCFA estimates that per member giving (this includes all including inactives) amounts to $732.25 for 2014. However, it may be that the average increases as the number of member’s decrease, because the faithful continue to give. The VC decreased 2927 members from 2013-2014. So if we could stop losing members and keep the average moving up, what a game changer that would be.
(Note: statistics measured by the UMC actually represents non-capital expenditures, which approximates giving. These numbers are reported to philanthropic agencies who analyze data).
Here is more good news. Based on the same GCFA reports the per member giving in the Virginia Conference rose about 2%,
The not-so-good-news is that the Virginia Conference did not reach the national average for per member giving. We gave $629.02 per member, $103.23 less. In fact, we also were lower than the Southeastern Jurisdiction, which is estimated at $695.68. So we are less than the UM national average ($732.25) and less than the SE ($695.68).
What are the reasons for that position? Being the largest – or almost the largest – sometimes dilutes strength. However, in 2014 the North Georgia Conference exceeded us by 2927 members and their per capita giving was $654.36. In fact, the Virginia Conference ranks 44th out of 57 conferences.
Earlier, I noted that charitable giving to religion amounts to about 32% of the whole. However, giving to churches over the past twenty years has dropped from about 55% to 32%, a reflection of the rise of numerous non-profits that are very engaged in asking for and receiving major gifts far better than the church. A large missing piece is planned giving usually in the form of bequests at death. What if all Christians provided for a minimum of a tithe of their estate at death?
One more not so good news. Indiana University, School of Philanthropy, which does the most extensive research on this data, shows in a 2009 graph that the giving of United Methodists trails significantly the giving of other denominations and free-church groups. For example, while “Methodists” gave 1.6% of their income to their church, the Mormons gave 5.2%.
This is a far cry from the Old Testament teaching of the tithe and the New Testament teaching on generosity. As the Stewardship booklet for Guidelines says, “The tithe is the floor, not the ceiling.”
How do we address this situation? How do we change people’s hearts so they want to give and give generously? The answers are many and varied. One may be to better connect mission and worship so our people know what they give is more than “keeping the lights on and the doors open”. Help them to know that their giving serves the broader community and the world, and yes, “making disciples for the transformation of the world”. The subject deserves our prayerful attention. We cannot afford to act as if it will all work itself out.
Stewardship matters…it really does. And faithful and generous stewards make a difference.
Compiled by Rev. David Rash, Stewardship Matters of Virginia
© 2016-2017 Stewardship Matters. All Rights Reserved.
Disclaimer: While I am a pastor, now retired, with a love for God and for Christ’s Holy Church, I am not an attorney nor a professional certified financial advisor, nor a professional fund-raiser. If I were, most churches could not afford me. What I bring is years of experience as a local church pastor, greater than average reading and education in these matters, and a desire is to help churches develop faithful and generous stewards and for Christians to be better money managers.