Celebrating Stewardship: This Spring, Living Waters is taking a look at the various ways our community engages in stewardship, both within and outside our church ministries. The intention is for this activity to be celebratory. Using our time, talents, and treasure to respond to needs is a wonderful part of our witness to the risen Christ.
What does stewardship look like? Good stewardship is about how we use all that God has entrusted to our care to love God and our neighbors, both inside and outside of the church walls and our homes. That means stewardship looks as diverse and unique as all of us. If you are not sure what counts as stewardship in your life, ask a few simple questions:
* What gifts and talents do I use, even in small ways, to bless others?
* How does the way I spend my time offer benefits to my community or other people?
* Where and when do I experience financial generosity as a life-giving experience in my life?
Goals in Celebrating Stewardship: Taking the time to celebrate stewardship gives us the opportunity to stop and recognize all the ways that we are already giving, and how our giving blesses us, our church, and our broader communities. It also gives us the chance to consider how growing our stewardship can grow our impact and the transformation we experience when we live generously.
This celebration will be support through the LWLC'S Stewardship Tree “They are like a tree replanted by streams of water, which bears fruit at just the right time and whose leaves don’t fade.” Ps. 1:3
To help us celebrate the many ways that the community of Living Waters is bearing fruit through our stewardship of God’s gifts, we will be “planting a new tree” by the water wall.
Over the next several weeks, we will be invited to fill the branches of our stewardship tree with leaves to represent the ways we are already responding to God’s call of stewardship:
- One-time or ongoing activities to which we give our TIME
- Formal and informal ministries in which we use our TALENTS
- Organizations and purposes to which we give our TREASURE.
Our stewardship can reach into all areas of our lives, so our leaves are not limited to our giving within Living Waters. Think of all the ways you/your family use the gifts God has given you to bless God and others.
Remember – this is not a competition or an evaluation, it is a celebration! God is actively working in our lives and transforming them through the gift of generosity. By naming these gifts we can glorify God’s work in us and through us in our community and in the world.
Stewardship Temple Talks available under separate Temple Talks tab
Stewardship Temple Talk by Tom Kull
Debt as part of a Financial Plan
Last stewardship season I discussed the need for a budget both for our families and for Living Waters. This year, I would like to discuss how debt fits into a financial plan.
Some can live their lives without debt.
Most have/need/want debt to be part of achieving personal goals and financial goals.
If you recall from last year, I defined a budget as a road map to achieving goals. (check on this)
In the ideal world, we would save the money needed to purchase everything we need including big ticket items like a car, a home, a college education, etc.
In the real world an installment purchase is an acceptable way to borrow to purchase “large items” rather than wait to save the cash for a one time purchase or use our rainy day funds for the large purchase.
When we borrow money – from a friend, from a family member, from a bank or from some other source, we should have a plan to pay back the money we borrowed. Payback plans – are like all plans – something we hope happens as planned but we need to be on the look out for bumps in the road. As with a budget, not every plan works the way we want it do. In both cases – borrowing and budgets – we can make adjustments. The bigger challenge with adjustments to debt payments is we have signed papers legally obligating us to make regular payments.
In most guides to financial planning, there is a discussion of good debt (or borrowing) and of bad debt. Not being able to afford the monthly payment is bad debt. Paying 18% on credit card debt is mostly bad debt – exception would be a critical short term loan and then refinancing or paying off in less than 3 months. Obtaining a 3.5% mortgage or home equity loan can be good debt if the monthly payment fits your personal budget. In general, good debt carries a low interest rate and a monthly payment that fits your budget or financial plan.
As you regularly review your financial plan, review your current debt or anticipated debt. Does the monthly payment fit within your financial plan? Have your explored all of the options to lower the interest rate and/or your monthly payment on your debt? Do you have a rainy day fund that can help make payments when life throws you a curve ball? Are you ready to celebrate when the loan is paid off?
Living Waters has debt.
Living Watters borrowed $1,060,000 in May 2010 to pay off the construction loan for our church building. The Mission Investment Fund of the ELCA made the loan at a special term for new congregations’ first building – 3% for the first 7 years and an adjusted rate for the remaining 8 years of the 15 year loan.
Living Waters built this church building with the faith that the congregation would grow into the $7,341 monthly mortgage payment. (it is not recommended to use “faith borrowing” for personal loans)
Is this good debt or bad debt? Right now the answer would be a little of both. Good -interest rate. Bad - not making monthly mortgage payments for regular giving.
The annual mortgage commitment of $8x,xxx accounts for about 40% of Living Waters’ budget. This annual expenditure will remain the same until 2016. To make our mortgage payments, our congregation voted this year to sell its parsonage and to use the cash obtained from the sale to make the mortgage payments. Living Waters expects to tap into the proceeds received from the sale of the parsonage for $54,000 in 2012 to pay the mortgage and $40,000 in 2013 for mortgage payments.
As Living Waters members continue to give generously and Living Waters’ congregation continues to grow, I expect that Living Waters will debt will become good debt and our congregation will celebrate paying off the loan before the current maturity in 2024.
This year along with discussions during Adult Forum and Temple Talks following worship, we thought we would also try to post some of the weekly presentations on the internet, using either the website and/or Facebook page. On our Facebook page, you'll be able to post YOUR thoughts in the Discussions feature on the left side of the page, the only little hitch is that you need a Facebook account to do this. If you don't and would like to chime in, you may e-mail your thoughts to the Webmaster who will do the posting for you. We will also try to video most of the presentations for those who could not attend all the programs.
Documents; Pledge Cards, Time & Talent Sheets and Simply Giving forms found on the Downloads Page
Understanding Issues of Personal Finance
I am going to touch the very tip of the topic called Personal Finance.
One definition of personal finance is a dynamic process that requires regular monitoring and revaluation. There is a five step process included in comments below.
Another definition is a one word definition – budgeting – again, more detailed comments follow.
The most common definition of Budgeting is an estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expense for a given period in the future.
A broader definition would be – estimating how best to use your time, non-financial and financial resources.
If you think about how to spend your free time, think about how you use your skills outside of your regular job. Also, if you think about how you spend money you are likely making decisions that relate to budgeting your time and your non-financial recourses as well.
A quick example, do I take my time to plant a garden so I do not have to buy vegetables for the summer or do I take that time to coach a youth softball game and spend money to buy vegetables.
Let’s take a look at the first document with what is listed but what could be added if we take the broader definition:
Personal Finance Definition
Personal finance is the application of the principles of finance to the monetary decisions of an individual or family unit. It addresses the ways in which individuals or families obtain, budget, save, and spend monetary resources over time, taking into account various financial risks and future life events. Components of personal finance might include checking and savings accounts, credit cards and consumer loans, investments in the stock market, retirement plans, social security benefits, insurance policies, and income tax management.
A key component of personal finance is financial planning, a dynamic process that requires regular monitoring and reevaluation. In general, it has five steps:
1. Assessment: One's personal financial situation can be assessed by compiling simplified versions of financial balance sheets and income statements. A personal balance sheet lists the values of personal assets (e.g., car, house, clothes, stocks, bank account), along with personal liabilities (e.g., credit card debt, bank loan, mortgage). A personal income statement lists personal income and expenses.
Assessment of time
Assessment of talents
2. Setting goals: Two examples are "retire at age 65 with a personal net worth of $200,000" and "buy a house in 3 years paying a monthly mortgage servicing cost that is no more than 25% of my gross income". It is not uncommon to have several goals, some short term and some long term. Setting financial goals helps direct financial planning.
Goals for Time
Goals for Talents
3. Creating a plan: The financial plan details how to accomplish your goals. It could include, for example, reducing unnecessary expenses, increasing one's employment income, or investing in the stock market.
Plan for Time
Plan of Talents
4. Execution: Execution of one's personal financial plan often requires discipline and perseverance. Many people obtain assistance from professionals such as accountants, financial planners, investment advisers, and lawyers.
Execution of Time
Execution of Talents
5. Monitoring and reassessment: As time passes, one's personal financial plan must be monitored for possible adjustments or reassessments.
Monitoring and reassessment of Time
Monitoring and reassessment of Talents
Typical goals most adults have are paying off credit card and or student loan debt, retirement, college costs for children, medical expenses, and estate planning.
budg·et, [buhj-it] noun, adjective, verb, -et·ed, -et·ing.
1. An estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expense for a given period in the future.
2. A plan of operations based on such an estimate.
3. An itemized allotment of funds, time, etc., for a given period.
4. The total sum of money set aside or needed for a purpose: the construction budget.
5. A limited stock or supply of something: his budget of goodwill.
To many doing a budget is an overwhelming task and most of the time we focus solely on the number – what I/we earn needs to be equal to or more than what I we spend. When you love to work with numbers like I do, a money budget is fun to put together. When the thought of balancing a check book brings anxiety, doing a money budget is a task easily avoided.
If you are anxious about doing a budget – refer back to our first definition – it is an estimate which means that it is not a set of handcuffs. Any budget must have flexibility to deal with the unexpected. The flexibility is to change how one uses her/his time, non-financial resources and financial resources. An unexpected expenditure for car repairs might be offset by cutting back on expenses or finding some way to supplement income. An unexpected gift might mean taking time to share part of that gift. A drop in gas prices or a warmer winter may mean increasing savings for retirement, saving more for a child’s education or sharing some of the surplus.
Church budgets often break the rule of budgeting – anticipated income equaling anticipated expenditures. Faith that the ministry will grow in giving throughout the year has lead to budgets that have income from growing the membership.
Because there are rainy days individuals/families/and churches, it is a good practice to save at least 3 months of income and ideally one should have a year’s income in savings. Very aggressive goals when one is challenged to have income and expenses match each month. If your work has direct deposit of your pay check – would you miss $10 a month that went to a money market account (yes I know interest rates are low – other options are a topic for other discussion – but if you treat that savings the same as one of your “fun expenditures” you would be surprised how quickly the savings adds up. A quick way that I save for vacation is each evening I put all my change into a large bottle – when vacation comes, I count the money and take it to the bank – I can save over $200 a year doing this.
If you find yourself asking where to begin with learning proper finance, start with the definition of personal finance, budgeting. Why the definition of personal finance is budgeting we will outline in the following article, because truly there is no more important lesson as to what proper financial management entails, and what will most directly contribute to your success with your money.
Proper Budgeting is Personal Finance Mastery
There is no need to look beyond budgeting when beginning your journey towards personal finance mastery. Budgeting can be a scary prospect when you have not done so for a long time, the money tale told by your expenses and income can paint a poor picture. But whether you are a millionaire with investments, countless loans, mortgages and stock holdings, or an honest hardworking fellow just beginning your financial journey, budgeting is the key to continued success with your money.
Proper personal finance budgeting allows you to account for what monies you have coming in and what monies you have flowing out of your accounts. Mastery of your finances, no matter your level of income is a matter of using this information to make decisions that increase the money you have coming in each month, and decrease the flow of cash you have leaving your possession. If you choose to achieve this through additional investments, decreasing interest rates with consolidation loans or a job promotion the basics of personal finance budgeting remains the same.
Proper managing of one's debt, income and expenses is the soul of managing your money and that is why the definition of personal finance is budgeting. There is no need to get more complicated than this, with your credit cards, payday loans, investments and stock options, you will find yourself on a sound financial footing if you keep a detailed budget, follow your money, and ensure that you spend less than you earn each and every month.
To properly budget your personal finances you simply add up your sources of income, account for every penny that you have flowing to you each month, and track every expense. I am not concerned with the exact system you employ as long as you are detailed and know how your money is flowing. Track your loans, and if you have bad credit lenders, know how much you are spending in interest. Track your credit cards and what amount of your payments applies to principle and what cash goes towards interest. Make knowing your finances your business and when you have an accurate picture of the flow of your money, then work to improve your finances.
Most mistakes of personal finance are made because honest, hardworking people have an unclear, or foggy idea of how their money is spent from month to month. With a little attention to the details of your cash flow you will find that there are countless ways to save additional money, and increase your income. Keep a focus on the basics of personal finance and never forget that the definition of personal finance is budgeting. You too can start making a profit today.
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With a focus on Money, a good practice is some type of worksheet – see the examples from Thriven Financial for Lutherans. (Copies of this material is available at church)
I love working with numbers. In the early years of our marriage, Maggie and I wanted to track everything we spent. Now this is the day before personal computers so I tracked everything by hand. Today, excel or something like or personal finance programs like Quicken make it very easy to track savings, income and expenditures.
Our electronic or wall calendar is how we track how we spend our time at work and at home. That is the tool that we use when we want to change how we spend our time.
I am not aware of a tool for telling us how to use our talents but we sure have talents to use. Sometimes we underestimate the talents we have. Be bold and volunteer (but make sure it ties into your managing your time)
Temple Talk by Chris Kosmac
Six years ago this month, with Terry standing by my side for support, I announced to this congregation that I had breast cancer. Terry had done my ultrasound and was a huge comfort and support for me during my diagnosis and answering my countless questions.
From the moment I made my announcement, I felt supported and embraced and loved. For the next year or so, I came to church for purely selfish reasons. I came for the hugs, and the comments that my wig looked so real, and the compliments of how well I looked or how strong I was. People visited me, cooked for my family and prayed for me. The love and support I got each Sunday morning renewed my strength to continue my battle. My doctors cured my body while the people here fed my spirit. To me that’s what LW means…the faith here was strong enough to carry me, until I was strong enough to have my own again.
My experience taught me that there are times you need to be fed and there are times when you can feed others. I used to panic whenever someone told me they were facing a crisis. I never knew what to say. The day that Amy called me panicked about the lump she had found, I found myself wanting to panic right along with her, but faith simply took over. I don’t even remember the words I said, but she has told me it was a great help just to talk to me and hear my reassurance that she could face this challenge and she would be surrounded by great people who would help and support her each step of the way. When you are going through cancer it is a great gift to hear others tell you they survived.
Very few of us can be here every Sunday, but we come back from other places to this center and share our experiences. Stewardship is more than your time and your money, it’s also about your thoughtfulness and willingness to share your experiences and your faith. We share ideas from other churches by bringing back a bulletin, or using their ideas for an Advent craft, or a recipe for Christmas cookies. We hear of family members in the military and send them letters of support and care packages because we know the experience of being away from family. We share our ability of yard work, cleaning, teaching Sunday school, playing an instrument or serving on a committee because we’ve experienced how a small task can be a huge help. We offer to listen to someone who is going through a difficult time because we know how much it meant when we felt listened to. We pray for people we will never meet because we know how much comfort someone’s prayers brought us. We share the peace and never know how much that hand shake or hug may have just fed the soul of another member.