Stories of Giving



"United Methodists Talk More about Potential Split" ...  "A Denomination Divided" ...  "Five Reasons Why Churches Are Dying" ... To go by headlines, it might seem a fruitless effort to give anything to the church these days.  Fortunately, God doesn't work through headlines; God works through people, through interactions, through aha moments and the day-to-day business of living and those are happening no matter what people predict about how we organize ourselves.  In the UMC, we talk about "giving" as being something that includes but isn't limited to the financial:  we give of our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  The financial giving matters because the church exists in the world and the world requires money; Christians are called to be savvy, not naive.  And the time giving matters, because the church exists in the world and the world runs on time; Christians are called to be present, not distracted.  And our gifts of self matter, because none of us have the exact same skill-set and an organizer like me definitely needs a quilter, cleaner, carpenter, extrovert, advertiser, driver, whatever like you.  God calls all of us in our kaleidoscope of possibilities to be part of this wild and strange adventure called faith, and like any wild and strange adventure it requires us to actively participate, to give of ourselves so that it is that much richer.  Look closely; we are pretty amazingly fruitful when we stop relying on headlines to tell us what God is up to in this Body of Christ.  What has God seen in you that can be used to change our world?

AN INVITATION by Richard Derenne
I had a minor epiphany during my time as the Finance Chair.  It is the idea that money coming into the church is not a transaction – it’s an invitation!  That is, the role of the giver doesn’t end when the money is given.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  The giver is being welcomed into all that God’s ministry can provide.  It’s an invitation to allow people into a richer, more powerful relationship with the church, the community and with God.  It’s an invitation to allow people to connect more fully into whom they’re called to be.  It’s an invitation that allows one to become richer by giving, not poorer. With this mindset, I see one of my duties to extend that invitation out to you not because the church needs higher numbers at the top of the financial statement, but because I want you to experience the relationship you can have with the church through this invitation.  My wife and I have already accepted this invitation.  We get such great joy not only in seeing our kids grow up in the church and come to know Jesus, not only in having our own faith grow stronger, not only in building stronger bonds with other families, but also in seeing the depths in which our church transforms other people’s lives.  So now, I extend the invitation out to you.  

WHY I CHOOSE Portage Chapel Hill by Greg Salisbury
I find that organizations with engaging missions, well-constructed vision statements and clear value propositions have become very adept at reaching out and making connections to inspire income. There seems to be almost daily instances of this by mail, email, Facebook and television. I have even served in leadership committees on a couple of them. I choose to serve in leadership at Portage Chapel Hill and also routinely give financially because I believe there are some special things about Chapel Hill that are unique among the choices. First, like all organizations, there is a staff and leadership here funded by our giving, but I know them personally and appreciate their commitment to doing amazing things in our church, our community and our world. Second, there are so many ways we leverage our dollars and create tremendous value in the community through our fantastic volunteer group at Chapel Hill. We have Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, mission participants, community action volunteers and food bank volunteers, to name a few. Third, we have fantastic facilities that are used by important local groups helping our neighbors in many ways by providing a safe and comfortable place to meet.And finally, we have connections as a part of The United Methodist Church! Our efforts become a part of the global church through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), where we are part of funding over 50 currently active projects making a difference in some of the most distressed parts of the world. All of this happens in an environment of transparency and faithfulness where we can take ownership through our time, talents, financial resources and prayer. It feels great to be a part of this kind of enterprise through giving and that is why I choose Chapel Hill from among the many choices of places to give.

Jesus said, “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” (Matt. 25:40) Portage Chapel Hill is in the world, bringing spiritual and physical comfort and aid. Chapel Hill stands with victims of domestic violence through support of the YWCA shelter. Warmth is brought to area residents with donations of hats and quilts made by Chapel Hill members, and hungry people are fed through church-supported food pantries. Chapel Hill takes a stand for social justice by affiliating with Michigan United, which works for economic justice, the Reconciling Ministries Network, which strives for full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ persons into the life of the United Methodist Church, and Justice for Our Neighbors, which helps immigrants with legal issues. It is because of these and other ministries of justice and compassion that my husband and I are called to this congregation and to our responsibility and privilege to uphold it and its work beyond the church’s walls by supporting it with our prayers, presence, and witness, yes, but also with our tithes and with offerings that go beyond the tithe. In doing so we participate in God’s work and with the knowledge that together we do make a difference.
THE RIGHT GIFT by Nan Janecke
You know the feeling you get when you give someone just the right gift – something they really need or want or find unexpectedly cool? In that instant, the joy you feel as the giver may exceed the joy felt by the receiver. And when you’ve given to family, the people you really care about, isn’t the joy that much greater? Portage Chapel Hill is my church family, so that feeling extends to giving here, because it’s helping people I love. When I see the choir smiling because they’re singing new music – happiness. When I hear children laughing because Sunday School has taken an unexpected turn – exhilaration. When I smell food coming from the kitchen and experience the comradery of people cooking together – a warm glow. All of these things are possible because I give – and because you give, and the person sitting next to you gives. Some people contribute because it’s an obligation, but I give because it’s a blessing to be able to make that unexpectedly cool thing happen. And when we all give, it’s like a small miracle takes place every week. Knowing that my donation is really needed, that it helps children learn about God’s love, provides coffee and cookies while friends catch up on their week, pays the salaries of staff who are so dedicated, and keeps the lights on at a place I consider home – what joy that brings. So please give what you can, and experience your own little miracle in the smiles here at Chapel Hill.

Jesus said he came that we might have life (John 10:10).  He did not say that he came so that we can have religion.  He did not even say that he came so that we can give offerings to support churches.  Jesus came with the good news that God seeks each of us, asks us to wholeheartedly put God first in our lives, and promises positive benefits from such a life focus. Jesus understood the true source of wealth.  It is not creativity, labor, capital,or a stable government, as important as each of those assets is in providing a rich, full life.  The true source of wealth is God.  When we give our offering each Sunday, God’s provision is what we celebrate—not just our ability to give and the joy that comes from that, but also our recognition of God’s ability to provide and the sense of security that comes from that.

TITHING by Terri Loomis
Tithing can be a challenging idea for many of us.  Here is an illustration to help us understand it.  This comes from David Slagle, pastor of Veritas Church in Decatur, Georgia and is used in the book Enough by Adam Hamilton.  Imagine that God has given us ten apples, which represent our wealth or income.  God tells us that nine of these apples are ours to enjoy.  We are to use some to care for ourselves and for our families, some to save for retirement, and some to give away to others.  But the tenth apple is holy to God.  Giving this apple to God first, before we consume the other nine apples, is a way for us to express praise, love, obedience, faithfulness, worship, and devotion to God.  This also serves to supply the resources for God’s purposes to be accomplished in the world through God’s church. However, for some of us nine apples are not enough anymore.  So we decide the Lord will not mind if we take just a little bite of his apple. The Lord will understand, we think.  Then something else comes up that we feel is important, and we take another bite from God’s apple.  Soon all that is left is the core.  So we give the core to God and say, “Here’s your portion, Lord.”  God receives not our first fruits or our best gifts, but our leftovers. When we give the first apple to God we are not tempted to eat it, because it’s not there!  And with God’s help, we somehow find a way to make the other nine apples meet our needs.  Tithing is challenging.  The simplest way to do this is to determine what percentage of our income we are currently giving to God.  Then increase it incrementally until we reach 10%. God understands where we are, and will help us make the adjustments necessary for us to become more and more generous.

Christian stewardship uses the life God gave us for God’s purposes.  Our money is a tangible extension of that life.  God does not so much call us to give our money as to give ourselves.  Yet genuinely giving ourselves always involves giving that financial extension of who we are. The dictionary says that stewardship means management.  If we call ourselves Christian, we are in charge of managing God’s financial resources.  If we view our resources as “ours,” we will find it difficult to give money to God’s ministries.  If we see our money as God’s resources, we can decide much more easily how much to give to God’s ministries through God’s congregation. Stewardship is not just an opportunity to enter into God’s service but an opportunity for God to enter into us.  If we genuinely give ourselves to God, our money is not our money.  It is God’s money.  We manage it; we do not own it.  So our role as responsible managers involves deciding how to invest God’s money in something that accomplishes God’s eternal purposes in God’s world, God’s people, and ourselves.