This is a great time in the life of our church. Our worship services are vibrant, diverse, participatory, and full of grace and love. We have more people participating in worship, missions, education, and fellowship opportunities. There is a positive energy throughout the congregation as new visitors are attending, new ministries are starting and new dreams are forming. We have some great days ahead.
The Stewardship Theme this year is “So That…” comes from I Timothy 6:17-19 in which the Apostle Paul writes, “Command those who are rich in this present world… to do good, to be rich in good deeds…to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
Paul gives those of us with a surplus two compelling reasons to be generous and willing to share. One, our treasures that we give away in this life will become a firm foundation for us in the next life and two, by being generous, we will be able to experience that which is “truly life.” You see, true life is not found in what you get or in what you keep. It is found in what you give.
I hope you choose to give generously to UPC because you know that gift will be a foundation to share God’s love, experience God’s joy, and live God’s truth. The reason we give of ourselves and our funds to UPC is not for our own benefit, but So That our children can learn about Jesus; So That there is a community of faith where all are welcome; So That our youth can become more grounded in their faith; So That our worship can bring glory to God; So That local and foreign missions can thrive; So That our community can hear the good news that God is with them and for them; So That members are cared for in times of need; So That we can all grow in our faith; “So That we may take hold of that which is truly life.”
The goal this year is to receive $575,000 in pledges to underwrite the vital ministries of our church. That’s a ten percent increase over what was pledged in 2015. This amount will allow each ministry of the church to grow, enable us to fix, maintain, replace some old capital resources, and keep us from having to make cuts to programs, missions, or staff. We are asking you to participate in the 10% Challenge and increase your gift to UPC by ten percent. We aren’t asking you to divide your gifts between the MAP or Operating Budget this year, though you may continue to do so if you wish. We are asking for one gift, for one vision, and one goal, so that we may grow and nurture followers of Christ in welcoming community. Together, we can meet our financial goals so that we can meet our ministry goals.
Together, our generous gifts will create a foundation of God’s love in Peoria. We will help others know that which is truly life. I ask that you think about giving generously this year so that UPC can continue to be a place to worship, a place to serve, and a place belong. God asks you to give so that we may grow and nurture followers of Christ in a welcoming community. That is our mission. It is why we exist. It’s what Christ has called and commissioned us to do. It is God’s So That.
In common calling,
Why We Give
Our Stewardship Theme this year is “So That…” taken from 1 Timothy 6:18-19 which says, “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
The reason we give of ourselves and our funds to UPC is not for our own benefit, but so that our children can learn about Jesus; so that we can invite our neighbors to join us; so that our youth can become more grounded in their faith; so that our worship can bring glory to God; so that local and foreign missions can thrive; so that members are cared for in times of need; so that we can all grow in our faith; “so that we may take hold of that which is truly life.”
Our goal this year is to receive pledged gifts totaling of $575,000. This amount will not only allow each ministry of the church to grow a little, but provide for much needed capital improvements and maintain the wonderful staff we are blessed with.
We give SO THAT…
SO THAT OUR CHILDREN CAN LEARN ABOUT JESUS
Our goal is to surround our youngest disciples-in-making with a safe and nurturing Nursery and Children’s ministry. Childcare is provided for ongoing ministries every week including Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, and for special events and services. Also, the Parents’ Night Out ministry provide opportunities for families to have affordable and quality childcare for their children while enjoying much needed time as a couple or with friends. We have family activities throughout the year and parent groups that meet to nurture and support each other and our children. Our VBS, Sunday School programs, and Young Explorers help grow and nurture our children as followers of Christ. We give so that we have the space, the resources, and the staff to provide all these things and more so that our children will know who Jesus is and how much they are loved by him.
SO THAT WE CAN INVITE OUR NEIGHBORS TO JOIN US
One of our Core Values at UPC is inclusive Hospitality. The Church Growth, Mission, and Member Care Committees are committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ by providing a welcoming environment to visitors and members and by giving them a place to belong and grow in their relationship with Him. In order to attract visitors to our congregation and encourage committed membership, we reach out to our community, to our visitors, and new and old members alike through various forms of fellowship, media, personal contact, and assimilation. We provide visitor bags to all new visitors with information, brochures, and other goodies. Our Church Growth Committee sends notes to new visitors using special UPC cards. We host brunches for new members and visitors to learn more about our church.
Communications is a vital area of ministry that includes our church website, news articles, emails, posters, and other print and electronic media. Our goal is to tell the story of our life-changing ministries both to our members and to the broader community. We created a new website this year to make our online presence more attractive, informative, and easier to navigate, but it is a more expensive site.
We are blessed with large facilities and grounds to serve the many missions of the church. There are very few days or nights when the building is not in use by various church or community groups. Each month, our largest expense other than staff is the upkeep, maintenance, cleaning, repairs, landscaping, and improvements to our building and grounds. We want UPC to be a welcoming place, which means the building and grounds needs to be welcoming. If our grounds were not kept up, people would believe that if nothing is happening outside the church on their grounds how could anything be happening inside? We want a clean and functional space for worship, education, mission, and fellowship, but it is a large expense every year from snow removal to cleaning supplies to maintenance on kitchen equipment.
SO THAT OUR YOUTH CAN BECOME MORE GROUNDED IN THEIR FAITH
Confirmation is a meaningful point in a young persons faith journey and UPC has been walking with sixth graders through this period for many years. Classes have continued to grow in recent years resulting in more students being given the opportunity to prayerfully consider their faith with support from mentors and the church at large. The inclusion of confirmation in our ministries ensures that students at UPC are provided another vital opportunity to make faith their own.
Our Youth Ministry has seen tremendous growth over the last several years. As a church we are reaching out to youth in our community with the message of God’s love. As we constantly create new ministry opportunities to meet the needs of our growing students, they are discovering what it means to learn, tell, and live the story. Youth ministry has a strong vision of where God is leading us as we nurture a generation of people to carry our faith forward.
SO THAT OUR WORSHIP CAN BRING GLORY TO GOD
Through our Sunday, Celtic, and special holy day worship services, we gather to praise and glorify God and to orient our lives in God’s direction. Our sanctuary is home to our blended worship service at 10:00am every Sunday that seeks to give expression to various forms of liturgy and music in the Christian tradition in order to worship God, hear God’s word to us, and respond to God’s love and grace. We also draw upon the celtic tradition to worship each Third Tuesday of the month in the sanctuary. We have a beautiful sanctuary, but it requires maintenance, cleaning, and resources like instruments, audio-visual equipment, and lighting.
This past year, we created a new chapel for reflection, prayer, and smaller worship gatherings. It is a beautiful place to gather for study, reflection, prayer and worship.
Since Old Testament days, biblical people have connected with God and one another as we “lift up our hearts” to God through music. Choirs, instrumental music, and visual presentations enhance our worship experience. As we continue to grow and expand our worship and arts offerings, we need more instruments, microphones, music, and resources to support our expanding and diverse ministry.
SO THAT LOCAL AND FOREIGN MISSIONS CAN THRIVE
Missions & Outreach is often considered the “Faith in Action” component of our church’s mission. We also believe that we “Learn” through our outreach efforts, and we “Tell” the story through our words and everyday actions. Risk-taking mission and service as a vision includes the learning, telling and living the story by understanding and addressing short- and long-term poverty, homelessness, education, hunger, health, and other basic needs of our internal, local, regional, and international brothers and sisters. UPC has a long history of being in service by supporting the work of volunteers and agencies. Direct assistance has been provided by partner-agencies that we fund, such as Common Place, Friendship House, Look! It’s My Book, Westminster Infant Care Center, and the Center for Prevention of Abuse are key partners. In addition, ongoing relationships with other countries such as Brazil and Ethiopia, and a potential new partner in Kenya, have enabled UPC members to understand, tell, and live the story on an international level.
UPC has a Mission Committee whose purpose is to enable and inspire persons, families, groups, classes, the congregation, and the community to be engaged in ministries of compassion and change to people in the world. It is through this team that the coordination of outreach, service, action, and learning often take place. Collaboration of this team with other groups within and without the church has and will continue to mark UPC as a place of mission and community. Your gifts enable all these opportunities to reach out with God’s love and support, to build community, forge relationships, and serve our brothers and sisters.
SO THAT MEMBERS ARE CARED FOR IN TIMES OF NEED
UPC has a deep commitment to people of all ages and stages of life. We see this through our deacon ministries, our visitation and home communion ministries, retirement community ministries, parent groups, parish nursing, Life Groups, and more. We also see this through the many bus trips we take in and out of the Peoria area. We offer bereavement and services of remembrance for those who mourn. We offer aid, meals, and support to those who find themselves in difficult times. We have family activities, exercise groups, and more to help people grow in mind, body, and spirit.
SO THAT WE CAN GROW IN OUR FAITH
We offer five adult Sunday morning education classes, Wednesday night classes, and Thursday morning Bible study for adults to grow in their faith and understanding of God. We have children’s Sunday school to teach our youngest members about the faith, and a worship preparation class to help middle school youth learn about worship and prepare to be a part of our worshiping community. We have small group study and conversation groups that enable us to teach and learn from each other. These groups are a critical place for guests and new members to make friendships, learn about God, and connect more deeply to the church. In many ways, they are the glue that holds the church together and a great means of spiritual growth. Whether it is a women’s circle group, men’s breakfast, or parent classes, we can be nurtured and grow in our faith with and through each other.
As a Christian, what is expected of me?
The Bible teaches us to give a tithe, or the first 10 percent of what we earn, to God and the church’s work. This approach to Christian community is different from “the way of the world,” where persons are valued for their net worth. God values everyone. Every person, and every gift, is important. The Bible’s focus on proportional giving is a way of honoring the faithfulness of persons regardless of income.
For those who are new to the discipline of tithing, giving 10% or more of one’s income may appear to be a very difficult goal. If you have not included the church in your personal or family budget, take a step toward tithing in 2016. What would it mean for you to give 3% of your income in 2016? If you are currently giving 3% or so, what would it mean for you to give 6% of your income in 2016? The important thing is to start where you are and move toward or beyond a tithe, that your giving reflects an appropriate offering to God given your means, and that your offering expresses both your desire to serve the Lord and your investment in God’s work.
Countless Christians have discovered the joy and freedom that comes through disciplined giving, with the tithe as our historic “benchmark” of faithfulness. Many Christians have found tithing to be a key ingredient in disciplined personal or family finances, such as setting a goal to give 10%, save 10%, and live on 80% of one’s income.
Begin by determining what percentage of your income you are giving to God. Remember, all wealth is a gift from God. By giving 10% you are acknowledging that you are using 90% of what is God's and giving 10% of what is God's back.
If you are not yet tithing, consider taking a step toward tithing this year. Our prayer is that everyone will grow in his or her faith through giving financially to the ministries of the church and experience the joy and blessings that come from spiritual growth through financial generosity.