A financial stewardship update

When you give an offering at Zion, not every dollar stays at Zion.  We are a church with a missional mindset that is always looking to support ministries beyond our walls.  For every $100 given to the general fund, $10 goes to support organizations like Christian Assistance Ministry, the Southwestern Texas Synod of the ELCA, CASA Helotes, and SAMM.  Each of these ministries do some wonderful work in the world on our behalf.

One of the difficult decisions our congregation council had to make last year was to temporarily suspend our benevolence payments to our ministry partners. The council did not make this decision lightly because they knew that the contributions we send do some wonderfully important and life-giving ministries that extend the work of Zion beyond the church’s walls. The goal was to do this for as little time as possible and to increase our Blessed Change collections from every 5th Sunday to every last Sunday of the month.  That has helped offset some of the losses.

The council made the decision to examine the finances on a monthly basis to determine when we could begin benevolence payments. The council also committed to keeping the congregation informed on what’s been happening. In that spirit, we want to let you know some good news on this front.

We have been able to make our benevolence payments for the last three months!  This impacts so many in our community and around the world.

We think that this is trend will continue so now we are operating under the assumption that we WILL be sending our benevolence payments rather than not sending them.

The only way this could have happened is because of your faithful financial giving. Thanks be to God for your generosity!

God’s Work at Zion

One of the joys of being a pastor is seeing signs of God’s goodness in lots of different places.  I thought I’d share some signs of God’s Spirit stirring here at Zion over the last few weeks.

-We’ve met our challenge grant!!  As was announced in worship last week, we had a family step forward with a generous gift to challenge the people of Zion to help meet some major unexpected expenses with our building.  We were able to collect over $156,000 (with more pledged on the way!) in a little over a month.  $150,000 of that will be matched through the challenge grant.  It looks like by the time the rest of the pledges come in, we will have collected around $325,000.  Thanks be to God!!!

-Last Sunday children in grades 2-5 assembled 210 school kits for children throughout the world in need.  Their kits, along with other congregations, will be sent to Lutheran World Relief.

-Our Sunday School is off to a great start.  Our education director, Karen Stein, is working with the teachers who help form faith in the lives of the littlest disciples.

-Our Blessed Change ministry sent $319 to our partners at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio in honor of our former vicar, Pastor Emily Ebert, who was recently ordained and called to serve a congregation in the Buffalo, NY area.

-This Saturday we have a group of 28 people heading downtown to help feed the homeless with Taking it to the Streets.  They will cook the food here at Zion and then feed anyone that is hungry.  Thanks to Tim Tiemann for heading up this important ministry!

-Next weekend we have a group of people going to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity.  We’re working with other Lutheran congregations in the area on this house.  We also have a group of volunteers that are feeding the crew on Saturday.

-We will have the bloodmobile here on Sunday.

-Third Graders are receiving Bibles this Sunday, September 11, as a way of Zion fulling baptismal promises to them. Three year olds have been given Story Bibles in their classroom as a way to introduce the Bible to them. They hear stories from these Bibles in their classroom.

-Our youth minister, Travis Baker, is having a confirmation ministry kick off this Sunday.  We give God thanks for the adults that spend their Sunday evenings with these youth as they go through this important part of their faith journey.

-Our musical groups have started back after a summer break.  We thank God for the people that use their musical gifts to praise the Risen Christ in worship!  It’s not too late to jump into one of our music groups.  For more info, contact Rob Mikulski.

-We recently commissioned a new Stephen Leader for our Stephen Ministry.  Several people in our congregation are considering becoming a Stephen Minister.  If you’d like to have more information about this ministry, contact Pastor Russell.

We are a blessed church!  God is doing some great things through this congregation.

In thankfulness for our partnership,

Pastor Russell

WIGIAT?

One of my favorite questions I was taught to ask is, “Where is God in All of This?”  It’s a great question to help us to begin to realize that God’s presence is surrounding us in all of life.  I thought I’d share two moments of God’s presence in the midst of ordinary moments that happened today:

1.  This morning I received an email from a Northside ISD principal who works at a high poverty school.  We were able to take school supplies to this school and I received a touching thank you note from them.  Here’s a portion of the note:

“On the first day of school, a small sixth grade female student was walking around campus with half of her needed school supplies in a trash bag. She provided what she could. As soon as I noticed her, I took her aside and gave her a backpack and the missing school supplies. Her smile and demeanor brightened immediately. Your donation enabled this event to happen and made a difference in the lives of many of our students. Our kids want support, not sympathy. Thank you for supporting our kids.”

2.  I also found out that we collected over $580(!) with our most recent Blessed Change collection.  Every fifth Sunday we ask people to bring spare change for a cause to support God’s mission in the world.  This time we’re buying a great resource from the wider church called Prayer Book for the Armed Services.  We already give this important resource to people when we know that they are being deployed.  What we collected on Sunday will be given to our partners in ministry in the chaplain’s office at Joint Base San Antonio so they can give them to soldiers stationed at JBSA.

What is striking to me is how God takes ordinary things and uses them in ways we can’t begin to imagine.  A few coins dropped from our pockets or purses on Sunday morning become enough to order lots of books for soldiers serving our country in places across the world.  People purchasing school supplies at the store blesses a young girl in our community.

Thanks for your generous support of these ministries!  What you do makes a difference in a world and is powerful way to serve God by serving others.

Blessed to be in this partnership with you,

prp

Detroit

Today’s blog is by Travis Baker, Youth Minister.

At first, Detroit looked to be a new experience for our youth. They went in search of a place they could help. They went in search of the excitement that comes with a youth trip and a new city to explore. They went hoping they could reconnect with friends from the synod as well as make new friends from across the country.

In truth, all those hopes were fulfilled. Those hopes, however, paled in comparison to the experience they shared. Our youth went with expectations, but they returned having left those expectations behind. They returned as a group of changed people. They returned having shared in and become a part of the grand story of Detroit.

At first glance, it sounds great to lay claim to the numbers. Thirty thousand Lutherans all gathered into one city for service, for fellowship and for worship. The reality, however, is a different story. There were traffic jams. There were long lines at restaurants. There was a day with little food. But above and beyond that, there was a group of teenagers gathered together for a bigger purpose, to join in a grander story. The traffic jams became a way to remain in community on the bus longer. The long lines in restaurants became a way to get to know other Lutherans and fellow Detroitians better. The day without lunch became a way to spend more time in service to the community of Detroit. Instead of eating, our youth worked on a mosaic for a neighborhood park.

The youth of Zion travelled to Detroit for an experience. They left ready to share the stories of a city that has been mislabeled by the media, mishandled by officials, and misunderstood by all. They learned the names and the stories of the café employees, the food servers at Ford Field, the cops that lined the roads and the souls surrounding us in the stands at Comerica Park. They shared their faith in the middle of a city square, even as they handed out the leftover food from lunch to local homeless people, construction workers and a group of children. The youth spoke of their relationship with God to passersby who stopped to ask them where they were from and to seek a simple blessing from the guests of their city.

Perhaps the ultimate moment for our youth came while watching the Tigers play baseball. A gentleman turned towards a group of youth and asked if their perception of Detroit has changed. He smiled at the resounding yes that poured forth from the lips of our teenagers. Then he politely asked them to share what they have experienced.

Detroit is not a city that can be accurately described the media. Detroit is a city full of hope. Detroit is a city full of people that love where they live and love the citizens that walk the streets. There is life in Detroit. There is salvation in Detroit. There is God in Detroit. And for our youth, fresh off the trip and speaking strongly of a desire to return, there is the wisdom and recognition that they each returned from Detroit as a new person. They have been moved by the cohesion of a people put through the ringer yet working to come out the other side together. Our youth have been touched by the joy that comes from living the depths of the valley while knowing the mountain is worthy of the climb. Our youth have experienced life, and have experienced it abundantly, all while walking alongside their neighbors and friends, the good people of Detroit.

The Extravaganza!

Today’s post is written by Travis Baker, our Youth Minister.

Each year, over the last weekend of January, Youth Ministers and volunteers across the ELCA come together in one place to think, discuss and reflect on our various congregational contexts and what it looks like to work with children, youth and families. This year, over 1000 people gathered in Detroit to take part in worship, mass gatherings, workshops, and roundtable discussions, all centered on the theme of Story. The idea of Story has become sort of a buzzword in youth ministry the past few couple of years. Many of us, as we’ve gathered and talked and dreamed about the direction youth ministry seems to be taking, have been caught up in the idea of story. What stories are our congregations telling? What stories are our youth telling? Is there a disconnect between those two or are they on the same page? And, perhaps most importantly, what is the story we are being called to in the days and months ahead?

As I spend my time reflecting on the ideas presented and the conversations engaged in over the weekend in Detroit, I can’t help but continue to reflect on the work of our youth ministry in the language of story. We all share our stories with others. Our worship on Sunday morning is a great gathering in the midst of an incredible and long-told story that has us as players on a grand stage. When we gather over meals or water coolers or wander through the hallways of our schools, we are constantly speaking in terms of story. This is a major facet in how our community is forged.

Yet we often continue to march on without a second thought as to what story we are actually telling. Each step we take, each person we come into contact with, each prayer we offer up, becomes a part of the story that we tell with our life. And that story is intricately linked with the stories that others tell around us, to the point where we often find that our story shares many similarities with others. And as I reflect on this, I think of our Confirmation class, which has been telling and retelling the stories of our faith all year long, through many different mediums. Week after week they are challenged to share of their own stories and the intersection their story has with the grand story God is telling alongside of us. Then they relate these stories through puppet shows, through art they create, through skits and songs and poems that they then present to the rest of their fellow Confirmands. And as we work through the year, we as adults working and learning beside our youth find that the stories of our faith have so much more depth to them than previous thought, all because we have found where our stories exist inside the stories of God’s people as related in the scriptures.

So as we journey through our days, let us keep our eyes open to the stories that are being told around us. Let us look at others and catch a glimpse of their stories so we can see the world through their eyes. Let us find new ways to share of our own stories and, above all, let us remember that we are part of a story that is bigger than any of us but is not possible to be told without us.