We Can Make a Difference
By: Sherri Gragg
This past autumn, Lufkin First UMC had unexpected guests in their chapel.
A colony of Bats.
Suddenly, the timetable for the church’s renovation turned into an unavoidable and immediate investment. It was time for that dreaded undertaking of so many pastors and lay leaders- The Stewardship Campaign.
A Family Effort
But the bats were not the only thing stirring in the eaves of Lufkin First UMC. A spirit of community, the belief that ministry belongs to the entire church family instead of the pastor alone, was taking hold. The members of Lufkin First UMC began to embrace the conviction that since the church is the hope of the world, it was up to them to make a difference through their service, through their leadership, and through their giving.
The congregational led “We Can Make a Difference” stewardship campaign was born.
Associate Pastor Rev. Laura Campbell has encouraged her congregation to embrace a spirit of communal ministry in all areas. “If there is only one person handing out hope, we won’t reach everyone,” she said. As the members of Lufkin First UMC have committed to “We Can Make a Difference,” Campbell has led them with a model of ministry and stewardship she learned from a former colleague, Rev. Charles Anderson, now at Clearlake UMC. Anderson taught Campbell that we become the best version of ourselves as our lives are impacted by those around us. He believed we actually lead each other. Anderson also taught Campbell that there were four ways to prompt stewardship: inspiration, invitation, appreciation, information.
Since an individual’s receptivity to a particular method of motivation is influenced by his or her personality type, Lufkin First UMC is striving to regularly communicate the importance of stewardship to the congregation in each of these four areas.
Members Lead the Way
The lay leaders have undertaken a letter writing campaign to encourage each member of the church to be partners in stewardship. The pastors are reinforcing the effort through a “We Can Make a Difference” sermon series. Several members of the church have also have offered their stewardship testimony by video.
Members and faithful volunteers, Tony and Rachel Dale, were among those to share their stewardship journey. Although the Dales have always given to God, this past year marked their first commitment to the discipline of tithing. A year peppered with unexpected expenses tested their resolve, but they remain steadfastly faithful to their commitment. As the parents of young children, they began to dream about taking their kids to Disney World. Squeezing the money for the expensive vacation out of an already tight budget took planning, sacrifice, and fundraising. As the Dales neared the end of the year, it seemed they had just enough to treat their children to the trip. Then, several unplanned expenses once again put the trip out of heartbreakingly out of reach. One day just before Christmas, they walked outside to find an anonymous note attached to the windshield of their car. Inside, was a check written for almost the exact amount they needed to make it to the happiest place on earth. It was a faith-building moment.
“We just need to trust God, and be grateful for what we have,” Rachel said, “Throughout the whole year we saw so many blessings in even the little things. Stewardship helped us be more aware of those blessings, and more deeply grateful.”