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Weekly Devotional

Faith, Family, and Friends - A Stewardship Witness

Reflection by Mark Lenci

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

 

I’ve spoken with many of you at our recent “pick your parties”. Thank you so much for the tremendous response to these get-togethers. Between the three evening gatherings and our lunch at North Hill next week, about 160 people will have attended these events. How wonderful is that! Those that attended clearly enjoyed spending an evening with friends in the congregation and appreciated each other’s company. The top feedback from you all is that we should make this an annual practice. Wow! This makes all of us on stewardship feel very grateful for your engagement in our church and very happy that you value time with your fellow church members. The Village Church and our program of ministry is clearly an important part of your lives.

We all come to the Village Church from different paths in our faith journey. I would like to share a bit about the path that brought my family here. We found our way here in 2000. Our oldest daughter Rebecca had died the year before. Our family was in disarray to say the least. We needed help to find our way out of the darkness. We decided I should change careers to allow more family time. We moved to the Boston area to be near family. We tried many churches in the area but none stood out as being special for us.

About a year after arriving in Natick, we visited the Village Church. We felt immediately that this was the one. The program of ministry was very extensive and we found many things that appealed to each us. Our two living children were completely embraced by the youth program. This proved to be a turning point for both of them. Looking back, we can see that at that point the worst was behind us and were on the way back. Can you imagine how much it meant to us as parents to see our children smile again? My mother said by far the best part of our youngest daughter’s graduation from high school was not the graduation – rather it was her witness at confirmation Sunday here at Village Church - the same day as the graduation. For the first time, our daughter spoke openly about her feelings about her older sister’s death. The youth group was responsible for that. It would take some more years, but I’m happy to report that our two children are now both the happiest they have ever been and are doing very well. What’s that worth? I can’t begin to put a value on it.

Six years after landing here, Bev and I realized that after 17 moves in the Navy, we had lived in Natick longer than we had lived anywhere else. We felt we should make staying here a conscious decision rather than something that just happened. When we sat down to talk about it as a family, it didn’t take long at all to realize that we were already home. The Village Church was the primary reason that we would not want to be anywhere else. We could again see a path ahead for our journey.

Bev and I talk about our journey out of the darkness as “shining through”. We came to understand that many families don’t make it through such a catastrophe and we are thankful we did. Our experience was that Faith, Family, and Friends - in that order - are what enabled us to find our way. The Village Church was truly God’s light shining for us.

So, when it comes to the Village Church, it should be no surprise that Bev and I are “all in”. We want to see our church grow and thrive. We want our friends in the church to find what we have found in the various ministries of the church. To make that happen for all of us, it takes first and foremost your engagement, but it also requires your financial support. That’s where stewardship comes in. It’s important and I feel called to it.

I would like to take a moment to share some thinking on how to decide what pledge amount is appropriate for you. You probably have already received a stewardship package, or will receive it soon. That package includes a letter from Sarah and I asking for your pledge this year. Please look at the back of that letter. You will find a table that shows the distribution of amounts pledged last year. In December, I mentioned that it takes about $4,000 per family to support our amazing program of ministry. Consider that when you look at the table. We realize that not everyone can swing this amount. On the other hand, the good news is that others will find it appropriate to give more.

When Bev and I go about deciding on our pledge, we start by recognizing that the church comes first in our charitable giving. We think this is both what’s right since God comes first and we think that the Village Church is the single most effective “bang for the buck” in our giving. Think about how many people our ministries touch and how broadly they reach. Think about the get-togethers in the last week. There’s nothing else that can compare.

We also make our pledge an item at the beginning of the year in our annual family budget. Our pledge is not what we think will be left in December.

Then we look at what we spend on discretionary items. A good example is vacations. We feel if we can spend some amount on vacations each year, that’s a good measure of what we should be able to do for a pledge. There are other measures of course. My daughter pointed out that buying one Starbucks coffee each day at work adds up to more than $1,000/year. You can undoubtedly find other examples for your family.

I would offer this perspective: For all of us here, deciding on the amount for a pledge is a “first world problem”. If only the other 90% of the world was fortunate enough to have the luxury to make a choice like this. We are truly blessed. Let’s have our actions reflect our blessings as we shine God’s light.

I hope all of you will engage fully in the church and find joy in all that it offers.

Thank you.

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