Dear SJUMC family,
We love you, we miss you and we pray for your continued good health during these unprecedented times! We want to especially thank you for the faithfulness to God and SJUMC you showed in response to the June Stewardship letter! It was unexpected and we are overwhelmed with gratitude! Your generosity will help sustain the church’s general fund for the remainder of the year! We are also thankful for generous donations from the Sacramento Japanese Film Festival, Jan Ken Po Gakko and Basketball who supported us even though they could not hold their events due the state’s restrictions! And anonymous donations were also received to help with our recent thefts. We Praise God for your generosity and grace!
This letter officially kicks off the 2021 Stewardship campaign which typically starts with the Stewardship committee asking everyone to send in those pledges! That comes next. First, let us focus on the WHY of this campaign. We are all stewards, called to be stewards of God’s gifts and creation. Wikipedia defines stewardship as “a theological belief ….Believers in stewardship are usually people who believe in one God who created the universe and all that is within it, also believing that they must take care of creation and look after it.” Stewardship, as a practice of discipleship, begins with the realization and acceptance that all we have and all we are comes from and belongs to God. This fundamental belief helps us keep proper perspective regarding ownership of the “stuff” we work so hard to accumulate, our achievements, and the rewards we may receive for our God-given abilities. In fact, giving itself is an actual spiritual discipline. We accept prayer, Bible study, worship and fasting, as spiritual disciplines, but giving? Yes, indeed! (See scriptures related to spiritual giving, tithing and more in the addendum.) When we begin to think and believe like a steward, giving is a blessing, an opportunity to return to God what is God’s to expand the good work of the church.
The Ask: We ask that you consider pledging even more generously from your heart because we anticipate a budget shortfall of $38,631 in 2021. With your help and God’s grace we believe we can balance the budget. We believe this can happen by increasing your monthly pledge by $50 to the General Fund (or $600 annually). Can you please help us?
No one can foretell how long this season of uncertainty will continue. So, we must work with what we know and prepare the church to resume next year financially, physically and spiritually. Not knowing when a vaccine will become available, all the church committees and ministries gave their best estimates for what was needed for the next full year. We pray some form of in-person church worship will resume before Easter.
The Numbers or Let’s Get Real: The church’s annual expenses averaged $319,000 for the previous two years. This includes the salaries of five employees, support of our ministries and conference, and the operation and maintenance of the church office and parsonage. Income from annual pledges averaged $194,000 for the same period with the remainder coming from building rental, fundraisers and special offerings. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has left us with little control over three of our four sources of income. In addition, 2019-20 has sadly seen the loss seven longtime members. We mourn their loss while acknowledging their decades of faithfully supporting SJUMC with their gifts.
We think many are unaware of how much to give so, here’s an interesting fact. While tithing 10% is the goal, the average giving among Christians is 2.5% of net income. (i.e., a monthly net income of $5,000 per month is a $125 per month pledge) Another a statistic many non-profits experience is the 80/20 ratio in which 80% of all income received is given by only 20% of its donors. SJUMC is even less. No judgement here, but if your income has increased….couldn’t your pledge have also proportionately increased? We encourage everyone to take stock and step up if you can to help support the church.
Details behind The Ask: After much budget trimming, we need at least $224,000 in pledges to cover 2021’s expected expenses which may increase further. We really need your help to get us through this downturn. While a $50 per month or more increase to last year’s pledge or donation may seem like a lot, put in perspective, each of us probably save at least $50 month on gas alone by not driving as much and the vacations we aren’t taking easily save $600! So, you see, it is possible and it doesn’t even have to hurt!
At this time, our needs are specifically for the General Fund. If you absolutely cannot increase last year’s pledge, may God bless you! For those who also give to the Kingdom and Improvement funds, just for this critical time, please consider giving more or all your donation to the General Fund. The Kingdom and Improvement funds are currently healthy but are designated funds that cannot be used for General Fund expenses. And, if you have never pledged before, it would be such a blessing if you would start now!
Hold on! The Holy Spirit is nudging! Our God is the God of abundance who faithfully loves SJUMC as much as we do! God doesn’t just want God’s children to survive, God wants us to thrive! God has blessed each of us in so many ways, even during this pandemic. We have shelter and food and family and friends. So, in gratitude and in witness to God’s grace and love, we can choose to joyfully and generously return more of what has been given to us so freely! If an additional $50 per month is less than the 2.5% average, let’s bring it up! Why settle for average? If you can tithe 10%, hallelujah!! Remember, gifts to the church are gifts to God. They are a way to “Lay up treasures in heaven”. Matthew 6:20
We close with this thought: GIVING OPENS THE DOOR TO GOD’S BLESSING.
“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 9:6) The best solution for a thin crop is more sowing, and that requires an open hand…and a grateful heart! Give thanks with a grateful heart!
Please fill out and return the enclosed pledge cards or fill it out online and submit before October 25, 2020 when they will be blessed at the Stewardship Sunday worship service. For your convenience and security, we now have online giving available through Vanco available on our website. Thank you, thank you, thank you in advance for your generosity and witness to God’s grace!
God’s blessings from your Stewardship Committee: Wayne Shimizu, Chair, Ernie Lehr, Curtis Notsinneh, Joyce Oshiro, Margaret Yeh, Jayne Muraki Rasmussen, lay leader and Rev. Motoe Yamada Foor
Tithe: Wikipedia: noun “The tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like.” (i.e., a $2000/year tithe is 10% of an annual income of $20,000) How much is God’s grace worth? Priceless!
How giving is a spiritual discipline: 4 key points in scripture:
1. God owns everything and has provided us all that we have (Psalm 50:10-12, 115:16)
2. We are stewards of what God has provided, which involves management, not ownership. (1 Peter 4:10)
3. Every one human being was created to give. (Genesis 4:4, Leviticus 27:30, Proverbs 3:9)
4. Each one of us will give an account of how we manage the resources God has given us. (Romans 14:12,
2 Corinthians 5:10)
Giving doesn’t always come naturally. That’s why Paul held up Jesus as the example of the ultimate giver. In the end, our giving must be motivated by our GRATITUDE for God’s grace. Those who have received the abundant grace of God cannot contain their desire to give graciously themselves. This is where Christian giving differs from non-followers who also compassionately give. The reason a disciple gives is directly related to our understanding of mercy and appreciation of God’s grace.