The Generous Giving Project Officer slid a piece of paper over to Rev John, titled ‘Our Generosity in Numbers’. Rev John studied it carefully.
“John?” Richard nudged him into a response. Rev John often let his mind wander so much in meetings, that he expected his PCC assumed he had some sort of attention problem. Maybe he did. Before he could think on this further he forced his eyes back to the page and then up again at their expectant faces.
“Well, ah, what do you all think?”
“We love it. We just love it.” Mary had been desperately waiting for an opportunity to take the lead in discussions again, and this was it.
“This list is exactly what we need. It’s rather like what we were discussing at the PCC meeting a few months ago. Isn’t it? David dear, have you got the minutes?”
Her husband’s eyes widened at his name being unexpectedly called and he was thrust into the limelight against his will. He fumbled with the reams of paper he always diligently brought along until he located the minutes from the right meeting.
He cleared his throat. “I have here that we should blow our own trumpets more, and be better at communicating what our church does. It says we should put in our magazine and on our website all the stuff we do like coffee mornings and Messy Church and Rev John’s ‘flower and glory’ flora and Bible Classes.”
“This list, Revered John, is just an extension of that, specifically highlighting all the time, skills and money people generously give.” Mary concluded.
The ‘Our Generosity in Numbers’ list, read:
Thanks to the time, money and skills we’ve generously contributed to our church over the last year, we’ve done some amazing things to serve God and share the Gospel. Here’s our generosity in numbers:
13 People Baptised
2 Organ recitals
1,376 cups of tea and coffee served for free
51 visits to sick people
1 website built
1 choir formed
1 Home Group launched and 16 sessions held
5 new young people joined Youth Space
1 family joined
6 candidates confirmed
£25,000 contributed to Parish Share (the common fund across the diocese)
1 Vicar’s stipend paid
£1,763 raised for Christian Aid
8 schools visited
260 school children welcomed to and shown around the church
350 Christingles made and handed out
3 Craft Fairs held
425 meals served at Saturday Brunch
1 Missionary supported
238 kg goods given to Food Bank
1 church yard maintained all year
392 hours given to cleaning the church building
312 hours given to arranging flowers
1000’s people reached in our community through our part in God’s mission
Join us in giving generously to the work of St. Someone’s by considering what your gifts are.
“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12
The Generous Giving Project Officer addressed Rev John and Tim who’d been absent when she’d said this the first time. “This is an example compilation of all the acts of generosity from St. Someone’s over the last year,” the Generous Giving Project Officer continued. “You update it annually. It’ll help people to see that generosity is important to this church. It might inspire them to join in. Lots of people might not know that they can use their time to polishing silver, or helping with Open the Book, or giving money to the charities you support. And also, because this pays Rev John’s stipend, it make all that he does possible.”
“Well, if you’re all in agreement, let’s try this ourselves.” Rev John could see how compiling and presenting such a list could help his church to take stock of what they were already generously giving, and how it actually resourced mission. And they so needed this boost.
“I’ve got a question,” said Tim, finding his voice. “I do think this is a good idea, don’t get me wrong, but this is a made up one isn’t it? Where on earth would we even get half these figures?” He addressed this to the Generous Giving Project Officer.
Then he added, “I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. I just sounds like a lot of work. Oh… and sorry about before and that.” This was Tim patching things up. Rev John’s heart ached for the lovely simplicity of Tim’s apology. Poor Tim was under extraordinary pressure in his personal life and clearly hadn’t meant to be rude. He wondered if Tim had had to pay to get the bus in. Rev John would make sure to drop him back home.
“Oh it’s absolutely fine. It’s a really common misconception anyway, what you said earlier. Lots of people expect this is all just about putting pressure on the already generous givers. So it’s really important that we all, together, try and challenge that. We need to start celebrating generosity, noticing and being thankful of what God gives us, and encouraging each other to respond to God in generous ways. And of course that includes financial contributions.”
Tim looked gloomy again. She quickly continued, “And whilst money’s very important for the mission of our church, it’s not the only way we can contribute. I couldn’t help but notice the lovely smell when I walked in. Whoever bothered to bring cookies did so out of love and generosity. It might seem like a small thing, but it makes a big difference. Just like the widow that Jesus saw putting her penny on the collection plate in the temple. It wasn’t a lot, but it was really generous for her, and it made a difference, because it’s all she had. That’s generosity. And I think that’s what this list helps us to see. It lists all the ways the people of St. Someone’s give generously, according to what they’ve got. There are so many ways to give”
Tim was about to say something then paused. Rev John urged him to say what was on his mind.
“Thanks, and I get it now.” He looked at Rev John then back at their guest. “But actually my question was about how we make this list. It looks like a lot of work. I just wanted to know how we do it. Nice mini-sermon though.” He smiled and people laughed and it took any tension out of the room.
“Sorry, I do waffle. Good question, and the answer is, it’s really easy. We can do it right now. All the information we need is in the heads of each of you, in the minutes,” she glanced at David who, again, looked startled, “and in the records in the vestry. It’ll take about 15 minutes. And as we go, we’ll add to the list the other things that pop into your head.”
“Yes!” Exclaimed Claire, the youngest PCC member. “I was wanting to say earlier that we can add the work we’ve done with those refugee families. We did a fund raiser and loads of people donated pots and pans and furniture. Even candles and nice coat hangers. Can we add that?”
“Well then,” piped up Amy, “How about the hours given to cleaning silverware? And the money raised for the Lesotho Link? And would the summer fair count? It’s just lots of us gave our time to pray about it and to run stalls on the day and look after kids and stuff.”
“That is exactly what needs to go on this list.” The room was full of smiles and people scribbling ideas in notebooks. Kevin was counting on his fingers, perhaps trying to calculate the number of cookies he’d baked in the last 12 months.
Within 15 minutes the first draft was ready. They decided to put a link to it on the front page of their website, print it in this weeks “News from the Pews”, add it to their quarterly magazine and put a poster size version on the noticeboard. Each week, during intercessions, they’d pray for and give thanks for a different item on the list.
This list wasn’t just how much they’d got in a recent fundraiser, or what they were contributing to Parish Share. This list was how their entire mission was resourced by the skills, time and money of their whole community.
“Jolly good idea,” boomed Richard, “but, as Treasurer, I have to ask, how long will it take for us to see a difference in our bank balance? Have you got anything more short term? Something with an immediate effect?”
“As a matter of fact I have.”