From the Pastor’s Desk—
As I write this, I have instrumental Advent and Christmas music playing on my speaker and my Christmas tree (in my church office) is standing to my left. The season of Thanksgiving has swiftly changed to December. I don’t know about you, but for me, the first week of transition flies by.
This year at Bay Shore, we are also in the season of our Stewardship Appeal. For those of us who have been working on this closely, the season has been long—since mid-summer—when we sat down and talked about the church’s finances, sustainability, previous practices, impeding needs, and the desires we had for our future mission and ministry. This past summer, the committee and I worked on strategies, education, attending seminars—it was a lot. It still is. I am grateful for the committee members who have met the challenges we faced and have committed to this appeal.
It’s a joy to be a pastor, doing all of the tasks shepherding a church and its people. But its still hard on the soul. When I daydreamed about being a pastor, never once did I have visions of needing accounting skills, audit-ready planning, budget reconciliations, and fundraising. And before I was a pastor, I recall vividly being simply a member at church and kind of irritated by the appeals, the speakers, the charts and the requests “for money.” After I finished seminary and started the hard work of pastoring, I realized quickly that being a pastor was like being a pastoral CEO. (What a wakeup call.) And seeing how this was, I immediately began more education to broaden my skills and meet the challenges that modern pastors and their churches face. My advice for any entering ministry is to, yes, study the Bible, but also to take some business courses.
Churches have historically had to have stewardship appeals so that the next year can be planned accordingly. I have never attended or served in a church that skipped a year. Just like other charities that receive only donations as income, the church has to share its needs and desires for the future and, yes, make the “Ask.” If churches don’t, members feel that the church is doing well as is. Churches that are financially healthy do “ask” less because the funds are already there to meet the needs as they arise—but Bay Shore is not unique here—churches that are healthy enough to not have to ask are fewer and far between.
So, yes, we are “Asking.”
But at the same time, we are celebrating. And this is not hard on the soul at all! We can celebrate that Bay Shore helped send a young woman to Israel to be a missionary there through the ELCA. We can celebrate that we supported Outreach for Hope during their annual fundraiser of their own. We can celebrate that we almost every month provide Sunday meals at Hephatha, and this past October—our meal was shared with a bishop from Tanzania. We can celebrate the other offerings we make to Hephatha—snacks, Christmas baskets, all of it… we provide much assistance to fill the gaps for families in the Hephatha community. Our building is home for 4 AA weekly meetings. We have a special ministry with local college students who we hire to serve as section leaders in our choir. We also have committed to being a church where all generations are served and where they mingle and share fellowship and activities as much as we can schedule. Bay Shore does have a lot of reasons to celebrate!
But, we know—we could do more, to celebrate more.
So, yes, we are “Asking.”
The committee and I prayed a lot on the appeal we have had here at Bay Shore. And we pray that you all have been challenged by the information we have shared about our past, our present and our future. When we had our first focus group, all present were able to ask questions and discuss the appeal openly and provide feedback. If you were not present at the first Focus Group, please attend the others we have scheduled. This is a space and time for deep conversations.
This Sunday is Appeal Sunday and, I know, we are doing something new at Bay Shore. But I want to point out—its new FOR Bay Shore. Other churches do Appeal Sundays and invite all households to share their Statement of Intent cards physically by bringing them forward. In fact, in our own sanctuary in October, at the annual meeting for MICAH, all were asked for pledges and offerings to be brought up to the front. It was a powerful moment—it showed unity among those present to support the mission of MICAH. This Sunday, we hope to have our own members bring their pledges, using the Statement of Intent cards, forward as a sign of unity and support for the mission and ministry of Bay Shore.
No one needs to know what is on the card. What each of us puts on the card is extremely personal. But, by all participating together, we all provide for Bay Shore.
On behalf of the Stewardship Committee, I express our gratitude for each and every member of Bay Shore as well as our friends in the community who support the mission and ministry of our church. We also pray that our “Ask” is a challenging time, a learning time, and a growing time in the life of our church. We may not agree on everything, but we all can agree that we love our church and community at Bay Shore, and we want to see our church meet the challenges ahead without any fear.
A very Blessed Advent Season to you and your loved ones,