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Stewardship and the Young Adult Volunteer

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Deborah Rexrode is curating a blog series called “A New Perspective on Stewardship.” We’ll hear from some stewardship experts across the country on a wide range of what stewardship means for them. What are ways stewardship can be a spiritual practice? How might we come to a new understanding of the role of stewardship in ministry? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Sarah Dianne Jones

Stewardship is a topic I feel I’ve always been familiar with. As a child, I looked forward to the children’s sermons featuring the Stew Bear books that the denomination put out to explain stewardship to children, and I remember saving all of the change I found in various places to put in the special banks we had to bring to church. As I grew older, my perception of stewardship changed as I began to understand tithing, capital campaigns, planned giving, and the ins and outs of church world.

photo by Blake Collins

The thing that never changed was that stewardship was always about money. We talked about giving money, what the money should go toward, or how much money you should give. It was a lot of talk about money for an older elementary aged kid to fully grasp—I didn’t have much money. What could the church do with my money? I wanted to make a difference, but I didn’t know how much difference I could make.

As a youth going to youth conferences, stewardship began to show up differently. Stewardship was being defined as the gifts you offer to your church and the community. For once, it wasn’t all about money! What gifts did I have to offer to the church? How could I best be of service? That reframing of how I thought about stewardship helped me to be able to more strongly connect with what we were talking about during stewardship season.

There came a point, however, that I slipped back into thinking about stewardship in terms of money. Maybe it was when I started working in churches that were desperately feeling the pressure to increase giving or face budget cuts, or felt that they were constantly asking for money to fix a roof, or hire a new position, or update the website. I can’t pinpoint it, but in the last few years, money has been the name of the game.

At least that was true until I began my year with the Young Adult Volunteer program. As a part of the YAV program, the YAV is required to fundraise a minimum of $3,000. This helps to fund the local site where you will be serving, and offers the added benefit of illustrating for the YAV the wideness of their own community. Donors were offered the options of making a one time gift or pledging monthly, and the YAV was informed of each donor so that they were aware of the people who cared enough to give a monetary gift toward their year of service. YAVs would not be able to serve in the program without these generous gifts.

YAVs are expected to commit to “simple living,” or living with intentionality around how they spend the very limited stipend they are given. This season of life in which I’m engaging in simple living has brought me back to my past understanding of stewardship. As a YAV, I’m not able to give as much as I might like to the congregations or organizations that I feel so connected to and supported by. Stewardship has meant living into my role as a YAV in the most authentic way possible, giving whatever gifts I can in order to do good for the wider community in which I am living. This has meant offering myself as a resource whenever possible, showing up for the pieces of mission work that aren’t the fun parts, and trying out things that seem incredibly difficult, not because I’m so great, but because my church and my community deserve the best that I can offer in gratitude for the incredible generosity and support I have been shown.


Sarah-Dianne Jones is a Birmingham, Alabama native who graduated from Maryville College in 2016. She is currently serving as a Young Adult Volunteer in Washington, DC, where she works with NEXT Church and New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Turning

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During August, John Wilkinson is curating a month of blog posts exploring where we are as a church through the lens of the new Presbyterian hymnal, Glory to God — what are we thinking about? how are we worshiping? what matters to us? where are we headed? Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Katie Styrt

“My soul cries out with a joyful shout that the God of my heart is great.” The worship hall in Stony Point’s retreat center looks big until you crowd it with millennials. Dozens of future Young Adult Volunteers were packed in, worshiping with our fellow Presbyterians in a way that didn’t feel very Presbyterian at all. There was no stained glass, no pews cemented to the floor, and no bulletins, just us singing loud enough to shake the rafters. I’d signed up to spend a year in discernment and service, and already I was learning new things. We sang hymns brought back from other countries by past mission workers. My favorite was “Canticle of the Turning,” (hymn 100 in Glory to God) a loud, brash song.

More like a pirate shanty than a traditional hymn, the song retold the Magnificat to an Irish tune. Sung as a crowd at the top of our voices, Mary’s words sounded more like an anarchist manifesto than a virgin’s hope. “From the halls of power to the fortress tower, not a stone will be left on stone.” I sang it and I believed it. Soon our group would be spread throughout the world, completely devoted to fighting injustice with groups in their communities. I had spent years praying for change, without the focus to actually do something. Now I would finally get my chance.

A year went by quickly. Unsurprisingly, I was changed more than the place I served. Also unsurprisingly, I went on to seminary (if you want to feel excited about the future of the church, go be a YAV). Now I’m at my first call, a church in a stately behemoth of a building. And here, we sing the “Canticle of the Turning” every Sunday of Advent.

Our first week was an experience. Here was a song I’ve only heard on guitar and djembe, now ready to be performed on our sanctuary organ. I looked at the brick walls around us and tried to imagine this place in post-Kingdom revolution. I was surrounded by retirees and their grandkids in satin dresses. Our choir was robed up and immaculate. And then, we stood up sang about turning the world upside down.

It was perfect.

Week after week in Advent, our souls cried out. Every member of our congregation proclaimed that the world is about to turn. And we they took those words with us, out into our imperfect, stuck-in-the-mud lives.

I love singing “Canticle of the Turning,” because it reminds us how truly revolutionary Mary’s hopes for the Christ child still are today. Those big dreams and revolutionary songs fit in our solid church buildings just as much as in drum circles ; if anything, our established churches need them more. Song by song, we proclaim our allegiance to changing the world, whether it’s comfortable or not. We celebrate the dream of God’s kingdom, and admit that we aren’t there yet. The tension between our lives and God’s call resonates through us, shaking us forward to new things.

As we seek what’s next for the church we lift up these texts that demand revolution. We hold them close and cry out with joy, even when the gap between the gospel and our reality seems too far to overcome. That distance drives us to keep searching for the Spirit’s influence in our communities. Ready or not, our world turns, and we are preparing ourselves to turn it into the Kingdom of God, song by song.


katie styrt pic

Katie Styrt

Associate Pastor, Gates Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York and

Pastor, Laurelton Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York