In a time of tight budgets and a shaky stock market, most people are watching their dollars and cents very carefully. But for the Special Offering Leader Support Network, dreams and a little bit of faith can go a long way.
The network (SOLSN) informs churches about the worldwide impact of gifts through the four PC(USA) Special Offerings: One Great Hour of Sharing, Pentecost, Peace & Global Witness, and Christmas Joy. Special Offerings Ambassadors visit churches throughout their region and share stories of inspiration and generosity.
A group of ambassadors joined special offerings staff this week in Stony Point, N.Y., to connect, seek new ideas and share what has worked to create energy and excitement among churches.
“Each of you are Presbyterians in your neck of the woods,” said the Rev. Sally Wright, associate for the Special Offerings Ambassador Program. “Each of you has different connections and people you know. This is the time to make those connections.”
There are currently 26 ambassadors serving in 2016. Two-thirds are women, 10 are teaching elders and 14 have gone to seminary. At least seven are or were Young Adult Volunteers.
“I am always grateful for the work ambassadors do. I always need more ambassadors because the more we reach out, the more churches understand where the money is going and hear tremendous stories of how God is using churches to help a troubled world,” said Wright.
During a panel discussion, attendees discussed the various ways congregations give and effective outreach efforts. Some churches are responsive to mailers while others are specific as to how they want their gifts to be used, according to ambassadors. Olanda Carr, ministry relations officer with the Presbyterian Foundation, said he’s noticed that younger generations tend to follow where their gifts go all the way to ensure it is counted and appropriated in the right way.
“We often don’t look at stewardship as a means of evangelism,” he said. “People don’t always see that, but we as ambassadors have to dig that joy out of the congregations. We have to get into the spirit of generosity. It’s about giving to the ministries that these funds support.”
The Rev. Kate Rascoe, associate pastor of Bayside Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, Va., said she once asked her congregation to put together a dream budget of what they would like to accomplish.
“Once this dream budget was determined, we signed a dollar amount to it to see what we would need,” she said. “We started to think about things not dollars and this group did some amazing things because they had the freedom to dream and trusted that the needs would be met.”
Carr told the group that there is nothing wrong with the standard campaigns each year, but that churches should not stop there.
“We live in a model of ‘we don’t have.’ When you live in that model, you stay in that model. Some times we have to dig and dig,” said Carr. “We’ve heard stories of smaller congregations that have overcome these obstacles just by asking. When you challenge folks in the area of generosity, that’s when things happen.”