One of the most pervasive ideas we hear at church when we talk about stewardship is the concept of the three T’s—Time, Talent, and Treasure.The reality is that money—“Treasure”— is usually what interests most churches. Money is required to maintain our churches and our diocese, and when there is not enough of it, we are limited in what we might accomplish. So we need members of our congregations to support the church financially, to keep the lights on and to provide a stipend to the priest-in-charge or supply clergy who serve the church. Each congregation is also expected to pay its fair share to the diocese. There is no doubt that without our members’ financial support, there will be no church.
But what about the other two T’s? The one I want to talk about is the stewardship of time. The concept of time encompasses several aspects of stewardship. Time is also the area that is most neglected when it comes to conversations about stewardship. So often, people who serve in various aspects of ministry feel under appreciated or are bored by doing the same types of ministries for years. For newer members, dedicating time to the church, other than attending the service on Sunday, is a new concept. Deciding what one is interested in when everything is new is one problem. Another is whether volunteering at church will begin to take up too much time in one’s busy life.
Each of us is created in God’s image, and God wants us to be the best “us” we can possibly be. God wants us to make a difference in the world. We are to be stewards of God’s creation and that includes God’s Church. To do that, we take our baptismal vows seriously, in gratitude to God for the precious gift he has given us—our very lives. We must do our best to give back to our community and our church a portion of the inestimable blessings we have received. Our churches exist because people do just that; they pledge their support each year and give of their own treasure to make that happen.
Many people find, however, that they are not in a position to give much because they are not able to afford to. But in many cases, those same people have an abundance of time. Encouraging church members to give something back to God through service to others is a wonderful way to involve those who feel sad because they can’t write a check every month.
At St. Francis, we take all the three T’s seriously, with time and talent being appreciated as much as treasure. One of the recent things we accomplished at St. Francis was the rapid transformation of the church from the 4th Sunday of Advent to Christmas Eve, which took place on Sunday, Dec. 24th. Led by our wonderful Altar Guild, many people pitched in to make this quick change work. In a similar way, our first Christmas Pageant since returning to our building was made possible by the hard work of our two dedicated Sunday School teachers, Judi Miller and Jenny Donovan. The script for the charming Nativity play was provided by Wil Colon from St. Paul’s in Modesto, and we were blessed with eight children and two adults who acted out the various scenes, interspersed with our singing of beloved Christmas Carols, accompanied by our talented pianist, Phil Smallwood.
Likewise, a small group of generous church members from St. Francis, Holy Cross Armenien Orthodox Church, and Light of Christ Lutheran Church serves a monthly dinner at Turlock Gospel Mission, and we have other members who faithfully attend community meetings that focus on alleviating homelessness. We were honored to be part of the first annual Turlock Candlelight Vigil on December 21st, remembering the homeless people who have died in 2017. These are examples of ways in which our members contribute to the church and community. There is always something to do; even those who are housebound can contribute their time by praying for others or sending a card.
This past summer, we began cleaning out closets and files in our office building. It is a process that will continue for some time, given the age of our church. One of the benefits of going through old boxes and filing cabinets is that you may find historically important things. There is an opportunity for church members to help organize old photographs, vestry minutes, or other important documents. Paperwork is being brought it that has lived at home with me for some time, and will need to be filed. This is an area in which people who are willing to give of their time can be invaluable. Looking back on the history of our church, recognizing those who founded it, and finding ways to share that information with our congregation can stimulate great discussions. This is especially important for St. Francis because we spent quite a long time exiled from our buildings.
There are always projects for those who enjoy cleaning things up, either inside or outside. Since our church sits on several acres, there is always “tidying up” to do on the grounds, even during the winter months. Lots of leaves to rake, bushes to trim, weeds to pull, and cobwebs to sweep. Our office, located in the small house next door to the church, is in need of a thorough cleaning, top to bottom, inside and out. Although we are a small congregation, we have made a huge difference since getting back into the church in 2013, but the work is never-ending.
We have very dedicated members who serve on the Altar Guild, host coffee hours, teach children on Sunday, read or serve at the altar on Sundays, do yard work, run bulletins, and help decorate for special events. If you are not part of this wonderful volunteer team, you are missing out on one of the best aspects of church membership–being part of a team who acknowledges God’s many blessings by giving back, blessing our church with time, talent, and treasure.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when thinking about how you can give back to the church and community in turn for all God’s blessings:
- Besides attending services on Sunday, can I doing something that can make a difference in my community and/or my church?
- If I find that I have time to share, where should I begin? (I’d be happy to suggest a beginning project based on your interests and availability.)
Wishing you all a peaceful, prosperous, and happy new year!