Mission Giving Overview
One of the most perplexing aspects of life at St. Andrew is how we fund our mission efforts. There are three elements in our approach to mission giving:
1. Our Church’s Mission We believe St. Andrew is the primary mission we support as members and friends. The local church is the foundation of God’s work in this world. Every ministry offered here (worship, adult discipleship, our efforts with youth and children and our mission outreach) is designed to promote our mission statement: To lead people to Jesus and participate in their becoming His fully devoted followers. We are to be a mission outpost in the Sonoma Valley, proclaiming the good news that Jesus is lord and savior. The general budget supports this mission.
2. Our Commitment to the Denomination We are members of a larger body of Presbyterian churches—the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. The denomination is organized into presbyteries, each of which has their unique ministry. By giving money to the larger body we invest in joint ventures such as our Westminster Camp North of Occidental and New Church Development projects like The Cove in Santa Rosa. Presbytery staff members are funded to help struggling churches and oversee the Presbytery mission which encompasses the Redwood corridor from the Golden Gate bridge up Highway 101 to the Oregon Border. We also fund this mission effort through the general budget.
3. Our Discretionary Mission Ministries effort Here’s where it gets interesting. We are called by Jesus to reach out to those hurting around the world. Whereas most churches adopt a “top-down” method of identifying and funding specific mission projects, we have opted for a “bottom-up” approach. What this means is we have and will offer a smorgasbord of mission opportunities for members and friends of St. Andrew from which we can choose as we’re guided by the Holy Spirit’s prompting. These are the mission offerings which represent giving over and above the general budget.
The most prominent example of this grassroots approach to funding mission is our efforts in El Salvador. It all started with a plea to help with relief after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. We followed that with special offerings to rebuild houses after the earthquakes. Having adopted the village of Buenos Aires, we went on to build a school, all funded with special gifts from the members, friends, and other interested parties. Other invitations have been extended to support Young Life and the Romanian Vacation Bible School. New opportunities are always being developed and offered to us as a congregation for our consideration.
We don’t expect everybody to respond to every invitation to give. What we do know is that there have been examples of only three people giving to a particular opportunity and almost $2,000 being raised because these people were moved to give generously. Another party funded Young Life meetings for an entire year. At the other end of the spectrum, some of our mission ministries are supported by scores of contributors bringing more modest amounts, eg Shoe Box, and Angel Tree. The idea is that our missions team sorts through the many appeals for money, passes on their recommendations, then we get to choose. Rather than being a burden (the church is always asking for money) it is taking seriously God’s guidance at work in the individual heart. What might not grab my heart may be like a Holy Spirit lightning bolt in the heart of the person sitting next to me.
Finally, we try to find mission projects which involve not only money, but hands on involvement. This is especially true of our Christmas missions: the shoe boxes we supply to children overseas through Samaritan’s Purse and the Christmas presents we deliver to children of prisoners (acting for them) through Prison Fellowship Ministries. In both cases, our children are involved in helping buy the items that go in the shoe box and picking out the toys that will delight a child whose parent is incarcerated.
We will continue to grow our mission giving as each of us finds opportunities which mobilize us. Currently, the Missions Team is retooling itself to be a facilitator of mission by asking members and friends of St. Andrew to come forward with mission proposals. If you have an idea and can enlist two or three others to join you in your proposed effort, we want to hear from you. Your proposal will be reviewed by the Missions Team, then if it seems like a mission opportunity we want to offer, the Session will be asked to concur.
Then the rest of the congregation will be asked to participate as they’re moved by God’s Spirit. What we continue to strive for is the development of an entrepreneurial mission spirit that has the appropriate accountability.
We hope this demystifies some of the mission giving mystery. If you have further questions, direct them to our pastor, Rich Gantenbein. By the way, since we instituted this system for mission funding, our mission giving has nearly tripled.