“This past year, people have lost their jobs and are struggling. But this is what God does. Some people did have extra cash because they could not travel or do things they normally did. So, they increased giving.” Rev. Steve Anderson, who serves as lead pastor at Cornerstone UMC, shares about the congregations giving culture.
The giving spirit is alive and well at the congregation located in Watertown, South Dakota. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Cornerstone UMC ended 2020 in a favorable cash position and a Christmas Eve offering that brought in more than $86,000 to a local and international ministry.
“We have been worshipping in-person, in various forms, since May. About 15 percent of our congregations continue to worship online. The number of COVID-19 cases is decreasing.”
Cornerstone UMC held prayer drives when the pandemic was at the height. They also had a prayer walk downtown.
“People would get in their cars, drive around the neighborhoods and pray,” says Rev. Steve Anderson, who serves as lead pastor at Cornerstone UMC. “One week, at the height of COVID, we held a prayer walk downtown.”
Each year members give enough cash gifts that allow for slightly less than budgeted expenditures at Cornerstone UMC. This year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, giving exceeded the budgeted expenses for the 2020 fiscal year.
“That was very encouraging. Our Christmas Eve offering was crazy, to say the least, not what we expected,” says Anderson.
The congregation has a tradition of giving the entire Christmas Eve offering to a local and international ministry. This year Cornerstone UMC dedicated the offering to Brothers and Sisters Behind Bars, a ministry in Watertown, South Dakota, and Pastor Henry Mukisa, who lives in Mbarara, Uganda, and oversees Cornerstone Church in the East African country.
Brothers and Sisters Behind Bars works with people that are transitioning from prison into society or people transitioning to a sober lifestyle. Services include transitional housing, small loans, mentoring, and activities that promote a sober, healthy lifestyle.
“I reached out to them and said what would you do with $20,000? They said they would put the funds towards housing assistance,” says Pastor Steve. “People leaving prison or treatment need a place to live that is safe and sober.”
Cornerstone UMC has been connected with Pastor Henry Mukisa for several years. Together they sponsor and run a church and school where 250 children attend to worship, learn and eat. Mukisa assists orphans and widows in many ways. His dream is to get families a more self-sufficient lifestyle by owning and breeding livestock.
Anderson says, “The hope was to give $20,000 to the Uganda livestock ministry. Families could get goats, manage them, build a herd. They are learning a skill and becoming self-sustaining.”
The goal for the Christmas Eve Offering was $40,000 total. “That was the highest goal we have ever set,” says Pastor Steve. “I was a little nervous about that. I did not need to be. The total that came in was more than $86,000!”
The money was an opportunity for Brothers and Sisters Behind Bars to begin dreaming about building a housing facility. Pastor Henry ordered the goats and bought eight acres of land for the breeding project.
“It was very unexpected! There was $64,000 that came in on Christmas Eve. Another $20,00 plus has been given since,” Anderson says.
Anderson stated that the tradition of giving on Christmas Eve creates a culture of giving. He also notes that building relationships and making personal connections is vital to foster the culture of giving.
“Each week, we share stories using graphics and videos of what your gift means. I also share personal stories,” Pastor Steve says. “I told the story of Gordy, a gentleman I had worked with who had an addiction and ended up in prison. He was in jail and had a meth addiction. I told Gordy to call me when he got out, and he did not. But a so-called a friend who picked him up and gave him meth. It is a struggle that many friends and family face with addiction issues. That kind of story hits home.”
Doubling the goal of giving on Christmas Eve and ending the year with a positive cash flow was astonishing for Pastor Steve and the members at Cornerstone UMC.
How can you creae a culture of giving? Here are some resources:
Jeff Pospisil, executive director, Finance and Adminiatation, Dakotas UMC, e-mail, phone: 605-990-7786
Sheri Meister, CEO and president, Dakotas United Methodist Foundation, e-mail, phone: 605-990-7790