Making a pledge or writing a check is the “treasure” part of Christian stewardship. What about the other two forms of Christ’s mission through us – our time (showing up for others) and talent (offering a specific gift or skill)?
The question has long floated around here: How much do parishioners give in unpaid service to the church, to neighbors, and to community agencies? The Outreach and Stewardship committees recently sought an answer by distributing a Time & Talent Survey to all 226 adults in the parish.
Just over half responded – 118. The survey asked parishioners to consider 60 different services, broken into 10 categories. One way of looking at the categories is to see two types – service inward to the church (Worship, Pastoral Care, Facilities, etc.) and outward to the community (Community Outreach, Informal Outreach). For each of the various services (e.g. attend adult study or book group, caring for a family member, etc.), respondents were asked to check whether they have “served,” are “serving,” or are “interested.” The total number of boxes checked was 1,672.
That suggests we’re an active church, doing a lot of good in quiet ways. Of course the results are open to interpretation. But to venture some statistical inference, one notices that community and informal outreach have some of the largest numbers, in both “served” and “serving.” For instance, 25 are helping at RARA or the food pantry and another 24 checked the box for a number of other service organizations. Numbers were even higher for small ways of helping neighbors or other parishioners in need, such as serving on Active Caring Through Sharing (ACTS). The highest number, 41, was for participating in R.E. Lee Church outreach projects like Angel Tree or the Summer Backpack program.
On the other hand, some church activities have noticeably fewer “serving” than previously “served.” These lower numbers were in hosting a Lemonade Brigade Sunday, joining a Table Fellowship, preparing food for receptions, helping with general upkeep of the facilities and singing in the choir. Not a single respondent checked “interested” in helping in the nursery, or teaching/helping with Sunday school or Vacation Bible School.
These results, which can be seen on a large poster in the Parish Hall, raise (or beg) another question that has been heard in a number of discussion groups: What is a living church? Is it the sum total of many good acts performed by many good people? Or is there something else that a living church does as a body, as a corporate response to the Holy Spirit to hasten or at least glimpse the kingdom?
Thanks to those who created the Time & Talent Survey, and to those who responded. It is a big help in answering some questions, and raising others.