In the final article of our series on the foundations of a healthy corps, Major Norman Garcia speaks with Aux-Captain Glenna Cryderman, corps officer in Melfort, Sask., about stewardship. Balancing the budget is a challenge in the post-pandemic era, as fewer people attend church. How do we create a culture of generosity? Aux-Captain Cryderman explains how she encourages her church to be faithful in giving.
Tell us about your corps.
Melfort is a small corps that, since the pandemic, has had about 15 people who attend regularly on Sunday mornings. Most of our people have been faithful members over several years.
What has been a starting point in encouraging generosity?
The first thing for me is to know my people. This helps me understand what they are capable of so that I can help encourage faithfulness and obedience in their context. God does not ask of us what we cannot give. “Give as you are able, according as the Lord has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 16:17 TLB).
It’s important for people to be aware of the corps budget. Sometimes people don’t realize how dependent the corps is on external funding sources such as divisional headquarters, the corps thrift store or donations from the community. Congregations need to be aware of how much they are contributing toward such things as occupancy costs and personnel, as well as how they are investing in the corps’ ministries within their community.
Of course, people also need to know that generosity is a spiritual value. God is generous. If we are to be Christlike, we clothe ourselves with the type of graceful living that is consistent with how gracious and giving God is. As we grow in Christ, we increasingly develop in generosity of money, time and talents.
How do you encourage people, in their giving, to think of others, and not just about things that benefit the corps, such as HVAC systems, snow removal, etc.?
Outside of our church walls is a community that needs generous people to care for them. We discover what the needs are and then consider how we, as Christians, can help. Typically, these are not grand gestures. I think of one person who gave a pair of pants to someone who needed them (not the ones she was currently wearing, of course!).
Other examples of how we practise generosity are offering rides to appointments or stores, treating someone to a simple meal or coffee, or simply giving time by sending a card or making a phone call to someone needing care, comfort or encouragement. Like the widow giving her small donation at the temple (see Luke 21:1-4), the smallest act of giving can be mighty in God’s eyes.
I am so proud that our small congregation contributes many thousands of dollars toward the Partners in Mission Self-Denial Campaign, which supports The Salvation Army’s work in impoverished countries. The Salvation Army provides aid throughout the world, and it is exciting to think that our congregation is part of that.
How do you practise stewardship?
Along with the other leaders at my corps, I need to lead by example and tune my heart to generosity. I need to model giving. It is my hope that people will see more and more of Christ in me, which often will be measured by my attitude toward the things I have.
You spoke earlier about the spiritual motivation for people to be generous. Can you expand on that?
The more we give, the more God rewards. Keith, my late husband, used to remark that he could not afford to not give. Giving is a statement of faith, that God is faithful and will look after us. Very simply, God blesses us, we give, and God blesses us even more.
While our accounting systems probably wouldn’t allow it today, I think back to an officer who challenged her people to tithe for three months and if, after this period, someone believed that God hadn’t provided to them in abundance, she would give back their money. No one asked for a refund. That’s my belief. If I give, God is faithful and—regardless of the size of my financial portfolio—I will have more than enough.
Major Norman Garcia is the corps officer at Meadowlands Community Church in Hamilton, Ont. He recently served as the stewardship consultant in the corps mission resource department.
Illustration: Lisa Suroso