Look at the glorious things around you – smiling babies, beautiful sunsets and people who do extraordinary things to help others. This is the world into which the Christ Child enters. Look at the pain around you – COVID in its many variants, families caught up in the cycle of addiction and children who really will never have a chance to thrive. This is the world into which the Christ Child enters. Look at your life filled with joys and sorrow, hope and despair, and laughter and tears. This is the real world into which the Christ Child enters this Christmas to bring salvation, healing, wholeness, hope and joy. Are you ready?
By Mary Jane Silva
Farmington United Methodist Church is in Washington County, Northwest Arkansas, a hub of prosperity. However, estimates place nearly 82,000 persons at risk of food insecurity in the four-county area, (NWA Dem-Gaz, Nov. 28, 2021), which includes Washington County. In response, Farmington UMC serves many families in transition and persons who live on their own through its local Food Pantry. And as church members say, “every little bit helps.”
To minister to those neighbors who are food insecure, alone or are under any other circumstance that doesn’t allow for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, Farmington UMC church members worked to feed their neighbors hot, prepared meals-to-go; served drive-through style on this Thanksgiving Day. This is a ministry outreach that the church has named “Thanksgiving Feast to Go.”
The meals consisted of turkey and dressing with all of the trimmings, including pie for dessert. In addition, free children’s books were displayed outside on mobile shelves for families to pick up as they received their meal. The turkey was donated through Cargill in Springdale and all of the prep and the food sides were provided by the congregation.
Rev. Dee Harper offered prayer support as people picked up their meals. He said, “The Thanksgiving Feast to Go is a wonderful opportunity for our church to serve our neighbors. Many people right now have obstacles or life situations they are struggling through; not only do we offer a hot meal for Thanksgiving but we also try to offer hope, compassion, and understanding.”
Organizer Jeff Silva said, “We think it is very important for the folks to have a hot meal served to them on Thanksgiving Day. It’s just a small way that we can show our love and concern for those in need.”
This year was the church’s sixth Thanksgiving Feast to Go and more than 140 feasts were shared. Farmington UMC plans to continue this annual event.
For more information on setting up a “Feast to Go” for your ministry, please contact Mary Jane Silva firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rev. Chris Hemund
In the fall of 2020 we were pretty well shut down with very few folks in-person, so we created weekly videos featuring our ministry leaders in the church who shared the importance of stewardship from their perspective. I shot those 5-week videos from my iPad Pro. Very basic, very simple using iMovie.
This year as we look to 2022, we are in-person… but we have 4x more people online each week. We had good results last year, that we felt we could do something similar again keeping the Both/And approach as a priority.
This fall, we invited four of our local ministry partners (Boys and Girls Club, our next-door neighbor Great Futures, Jackson House in Hot Springs, and a teacher from Mt. Pine schools where we partner in a weekly food pantry) to share how our stewardship impacts their outreach efforts and ministry. I spoke at the end of the 12 minute video inviting all who call VUMC home to consider partnering with us in ministry outreach for 2022.
This year we have a young man (a high school senior) as our A/V tech who has really good camera equipment, tripods, and a passion for video production. We gave him our basic ideas, helped him make contact with our ministry partners, and he did the rest.
You can view our video if you desire on our website – www.villageumc.net – under the Stewardship tab. We also added an online ‘pledge card’ with a submit button AND an online giving option. We went live with the video last weekend.
We are now working on 5 video clips 45-60 seconds in length. Think puzzle pieces coming together on the screen. Each section has images of our church community, people, events with a caption of “how do these pieces fit”. When the puzzle comes together, we see either the exterior of the church building or the sanctuary with the church logo. We plan to run them on FB and boost them while targeting our zip code.
We are learning as we go.
Questions? Reach out to Rev. Chris Hemund of Village UMC here.
Rev. Carness Vaughan
Senior Pastor of Central UMC, Fayetteville
The Biblical model for giving back to God through the church is the tithe, meaning the first 10% of all that God has blessed you with. But beyond the tithe, there are other types of offerings that are important and can be beneficial to the local congregation. This includes memorial and honorary gifts given either in memory of one who has passed away or in honor of one who one who is still alive.
These gifts, if left undesignated, are usually spent on items around the church that typically would not be funded through the regular operating budget – items like new pew Bibles, paraments for the altar, choir robes, technology improvements, etc. If there is a major project that a church is working on – a playground, for example – a church might encourage the congregation to make memorial or honorary gifts designated specifically for that project. People often will give toward a project before they’ll give toward a budget, so this gives them a chance to at least “dip their toe in the water” when it comes to giving. Too often pastors and Finance Committee Chairs have been afraid that if they mention this type of giving, it will take away from budgetary giving or building debt giving. The truth is that in most cases, the opposite is true. Once someone gives to a project and sees what God does for the Kingdom with their gift, it encourages them and spurs them on to further giving.
What are the challenges churches face in this area? Some people tend to think of this type of giving as just beneficial for small churches, but in reality, every church of every size can benefit from receiving these gifts, and every church member can benefit from giving them. Other people tend to think of this type of giving as just for when someone dies, but in reality, recognizing someone in the church by giving to God in their honor is a powerful witness.
If you have a person retire from teaching Sunday School after 30 years, for example, what better way to honor them than giving to the church in their name? Other people just don’t realize that this type of giving is an option. Efforts need to be made to put this in front of people: Highlight it in a newsletter, speak about it one Sunday just before the offering, extol its benefits in an All Saints Day sermon, or put together a testimonial video from people who have been honored or family members of one who has been memorialized. The more churches can talk about it, the more people will be aware of it and the more opportunities for ministry can be funded by it.
In Romans 12:10, Paul tells the church to “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” May you take delight in honoring each other through your giving, and may you take delight in lifting this opportunity up to your churches!
It doesn’t look like much is changing tax-wise in the upcoming year that will affect our local churches.
There have been a few minor changes to payroll taxes for 2022: In 2021, the IRS extended the COVID-19 related credit for qualified sick and family leave wages and COVID-19 related employee retention credit. The COVID-19 related credit for qualified sick and family leave wages are for wages paid for leave taken after March 31,2021 and before October 1, 2021, this credit has not been extended again and will not be on your 941 report for the 4th quarter 2021 or on the reports in 2022. The COVID-19 employee retention credit is available for qualified wages before January 1, 2022, it does not look like this credit will be extended as well so it will also be taken off the 941 reports for 2022, but will still be available for the 4th quarter 2021. Arkansas’s minimum wage will continue to be $11 for the upcoming year.
Something to make note of for 2022, is that GCFA has discontinued Ezra (the statistical program we have been using to collect data and generate statistical reports). We have weighed several different options and are now in the process of finalizing plans to move our information back to the Mission Connect system. Once those plans have been finalized, we will be sending out more information.
Center for Administrative Services, Assistant Director