Review and Renew

By Fr. Paul Kucynda

A story was once told about a father who had three sons. Following his death, the sons gathered together to discuss the appropriate distribution of many of their father’s belongings.

The oldest son chose his father’s wrist watch which had belonged to his father before him. A family heirloom, it represented to him the values and Christian way of life that the grandfather had upheld as an immigrant laborer and passed on to his son.

The second son chose his father’s college ring which likewise symbolized to him his father’s desire for him and his brothers to continue living according to the same strict Christian tradition that he had received from his father.

Knowing his father to be an energetic, productive man, who gave a day’s work for a day’s wage, and yet always made time for his family and for the work of the Church, the third son expressed his desire to keep his father’s canceled checks. He wanted these because he believed that they would be the closest thing to the autobiography his father never wrote. He had wondered just what his father had considered important, or to put it another way, “where his treasure was.” Dad always spoke about the need to be generous and to care for the needs of others instead of being self-serving. A look at the checks would reveal much concerning the values he had preached. They would reveal many hidden secrets from within his father’s heart, as yet unknown to him.

Financial Records Revealing

As parish leaders, we can learn much from this story. Our parish financial records reveal much about our values and productiveness. They may not reveal everything, but will say much about what we consider important as a parish community. They will tell something about our “heart” and about that which we consider as our “treasure.”

For the most part. Orthodox parishes in this country—young and old alike—began with the actual establishment of the parish. Then, nearly all effort was directed toward meeting the needs of the local Church community. With few exceptions, this is where we are now. At a time when other Christians in America give as much as 40% of their local parish income to projects outside their local parishes, even when by common agreement at All-American and Diocesan Councils or Assemblies we assess ourselves and then add to this special drives for Charity, Missions, and Theological Education, our level of giving outside the parish is somewhere between 3% to 5% of our total parish income. While others give as much as 40% before thinking of themselves and their local parish needs, we usually give what we do after all parish bills have been paid. Do we lack trust in God’s willingness to bless us and multiply our resources?

Attention to the Needs of Others

One parish in the Orthodox Church in America decided to have a fund-raising project. When they began, everyone thought that the money would be used for their own building program. By the time the project was complete, it was decided that the money should be used for a worthy cause outside the parish. The sum of $3,000. was raised and given out of love and concern by a parish which easily could have used the money for itself. The following year, a similar project was undertaken. This time, over $6,000. was raised through the efforts of so many parishioners being blessed by God’s grace. This is a true story, and I wonder if it may be God’s way of teaching us something very important.

I believe that if we are really committed to Church growth, now is the time for us to give more attention to the needs of others. God blesses us in order that we can give more generously to those in greater need. Not only is it true that “to whom much is given, much is expected,” but it is also true that “he who is faithful in small things will be blessed with even more.”

Our theological schools, our charitable institutions, and the various service and growth-oriented projects of the Church are worthy of our commitment, love, and concern. It is highly possible that much of the anxiety that exists in the Church today will disappear as we grow in our experience as “cheerful givers” instead of grudging ones.

An Exhilarating Experience

In a booklet entitled, “Giving Children the Opportunity to Give” which is available from our OCA Department of Stewardship, the first paragraph reads:

“Sharing in the joy of supporting the work of the Church can and should be an exhilarating experience for all Orthodox Christians, young and old alike….

Exhilarating, wonderful, satisfying, positive, and spiritually enriching are all words that should be used to describe the act of giving financial support.”

All Christian Stewardship, and especially giving beyond the borders of our local parish, is based upon our need to give, and not the need of others to receive. It is more than just finances. It is an experience of faith as well as a matter of self-fulfillment. We have received a legacy of high Christian values from our forefathers in the Faith. As individuals and as parishes, we have the inner need to be productive and feel a sense of worth and achievement. We know of God’s promised grace to all who are faithful stewards—those who use their lives wisely. And certainly, there is no better time than now to accept the challenge of greater concern for the needs of the entire Church and its various ministries.

Any parish that dares to look closely at its checkbook and begins to express an increased concern for the needs of the Church as a whole—and not just their local ministry—is opening the door to a totally new experience in parish growth and development.

Editor’s Note: To learn how a church can give a large percent of its income to outside concerns, and still manage locally, check around in your community for a spokesman from such a church. Invite the person to address your church group and offer insights.

For Discussion:

1. What would reviewing your own canceled checks reveal about where your “treasure” is? (“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matt. 6:21)

2. What percentage of your parish income do you think goes to needs outside the parish?

3. Name 3 benefits to giving a greater proportion of your parish budget to projects outside the parish.

Fr. Paul Kucynda, pastor of the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Wayne, New Jersey, is Chairman of the Section on Stewardship, Department of Stewardship and Lay Ministries.

Fr. Paul Kucynda, pastor of the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Wayne, New Jersey, is Chairman of the Section on Stewardship, Department of Stewardship and Lay Ministries.