I am energized by this year’s stewardship theme, “Transforming Generosity.” I like it because it has two meanings.

The first way to look at it is that generosity can transform us, our community and our church. When we become financially generous, we can empower the ministry of St. John’s Episcopal Church and transform the wider community of Saginaw.

The second meaning is that we can transform generosity. We can define generosity as the way we live our lives and the way our church works in the community. We are called to be generous financially. But we are also called to be generous in the way we welcome newcomers, care for the planet, forgive those who have offended us, and care for our facilities.

This year’s pledge drive is about more than our parish budget. It is about how we transform generosity and allow generosity to transform us. I know our lives can be changed through this work. I hope each one of us will prayerfully review the reflections written for the Sundays during our pledge campaign. They represent a variety of voices on generosity from across the Church.

While I wanted to share my inspiration with this campaign theme, I also wanted to pass on a page of questions that we have been asked during this pledge campaign. Feel free to contact me or anyone else on the Vestry If you’re additional questions. As you consider your pledge this year, do remember that pledges made last year for the window restoration project were for a three-year time period. We are just completing the first year of that pledge period.

I hope you’ll join me as we work together to transform generosity in our church, our community, and our lives.

Kathryn Coman
Stewardship chair

We’ve been asked a number of questions during the pledge campaign this year and thought you might have some of the same concerns.  We’ve tried to answer some of those questions below.

  1. Q. What are our pledges actually used for?
    A: The vast majority of member contributions – both from those who complete pledge cards and those who give generously and regularly but who have not pledged – are used to fund operating expenses.  Operating expenses are not a particularly exciting thing to talk about, but we do have to pay the bills, salaries, and benefits, etc.
  2. Q: What are the goals of this year’s campaign?
    A: Our goal this year is everyone completing a pledge card.  Completed pledge cards helps us plan effectively for meeting operating expenses.  Planning a budget depends on the most complete income figures we can have. Completed pledge cards help a great deal. Roughly 170 folks contribute each year, but in 2018 only 63 completed pledge cards.
  3. Q: Who receives pledge cards and how many actually pledge?
    A: Annually, pledge cards are mailed to more than 150 families or individuals. For 2018, only 63 completed cards, down from 79 in 2017.
  4. Q: How are we actually doing with regard to Operating Expenses and Income?
    A: Nearly 75% of our total operating income comes from member contributions.  Operating expenses have outpaced operating income for the past couple of years – and a significant deficit in 2018 is again looming.  Through October, income is lagging expenses by nearly $28,000. We have funds to cover that deficit in 2018, but once used those “rainy-day” funds are not being replaced. Pretty clearly, only increased income or decreased expenses will eliminate the deficit situation.
  5. Q: I know St. John’s has Endowment Funds.  Why don’t we use those for operating expenses?
    A: Our endowment funds are intact and by law, policy and good stewardship, they must remain so.  We do receive an annual draw from them each year, some of which can be used for operating expenses (nearly $55,000), but we must use them in such a way that they remain forever.
  6. Q: What can we do to help?
    A: We’re committing as Vestry members – and asking each of you – to join us in (1) completing a pledge card for 2019, (2) returning it by Sunday, December 2, and (3) prayerfully considering increasing your giving. The Proportional Giving Chart on the back of the Pledge Card can help identify an appropriate commitment.
  7. Q: Do I have to give weekly? Could I just give once a month or year?
    A:  Contributions can be made at your convenience – weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or any other schedule that works for you.
  8. Q: How can I contribute – does it have to be by cash or check?
    A: Contributions can be made in nearly any manner that meets your needs:
    1. Check or cash – using church envelopes or not, in the collection plate, sent by mail, etc. (By the way, having church envelopes doesn’t take the place of a completed pledge card.)
    2. Electronic giving – you specify the amount, frequency, either directly debited from your bank account or charged to a credit card.  Contact Amy for more details. Easy to do and entirely under your control.
    3. Do you pay your bills on the internet?  If so, consider setting up a recurring payment.  Like electronic giving, it’s always under your direct control so you can opt in or out or change amounts at any time.  Over 10% of our members do this now. Out of sight, out of mind!
    4. Are you over 70½ and have an IRA? Your Required Minimum Distribution – or any part of it – can be made directly to St. John’s, and with very few exceptions you’ll almost always pay no taxes on the distribution.  Several members do this. Ask your IRA custodian for details – but do so soon if you want it to happen in 2018.
    5. Stock donations are perfectly acceptable.  We can help make that happen with little or no expense.  Again – do so soon if you want it to happen in 2018. Contact Treasurer Burris Smith for more details.