As a prelude to Stewardship Sunday, the following speech was given on Sunday 11-13-16 by John Pardenek, Parish Council member and former St. George Stewardship Chairman addressing our current Stewardship Program status on behalf of Fr. Andrew, the Parish Council and Barbara Terlecsky, current Stewardship Chair.

From 2004 to 2009, I was our St George Stewardship Chair.

Stewardship was a new program back in 2004.  Most G.O. Churches, including St. George, funded their operations through a "Fair Share" program.  It was a simple idea that worked for many years where, if the Church needed $100,000 to operate and you had 200 families, every family's Fair Share was $500.  Once you paid the $500 you were considered a member in good standing.

The problem was the "Fair Share" really wasn't "Fair".  A family that could afford $5,000 a year was paying only $500 and a family that couldn't afford the $500 probably chose not to attend our Church at all.

The Stewardship Program introduced a new way of thinking about support for our Church.  The financial component of Stewardship was a decision for each individual to make on their own, instead of giving a predetermined amount.  All the program asked was that each Steward assess their own financial situation and give "from their heart" what they could afford, in a sacrificial manner.  There were fears that if we left the decision up to each individual we may not have enough support to run our Church.  From 2003 to 2007 our St George Stewardship Contributions increased from $135K to over $250K a year, so the program worked. 

But Stewardship is not just about the financial obligation.  We are also asked to contribute our Time & Talents. After all, I think we all would agree that both the time we have here on this earth and the talents we possess are truly gifts we receive from God.  Therefore, it is only fair that we give back to God some of that time and talent for the benefit of HIS Church, its Operations, its Maintenance, its Ministries and its Outreach to our community. 

A strong and successful Church is not just the responsibility of  Fr. Andrew and the Parish Council, it's the responsibility of each and every parishioner to offer their talents for the common good of our community.

Back in 2007 we broke ground for our new Church Complex here in Ocean Township.  A great deal of financial planning went into the decision to build our new home.  Not only did we have to raise the money to construct the complex but we had to plan for the increased yearly operating budget once it was completed. After all, you don't go from a 12,000 sq ft facility like Asbury Park to the 42,000 sq ft facility here in Ocean Twp without an increase in every expense category.  As part of our planning, we projected that our operating budget would rise from $400,000 to about $650,000 the first year. 

Even with that increase, we felt strongly that the new complex could be supported without increasing the Stewardship burden on our community.  With that in mind, our plan included income from the rental of both our gymnasium and Cultural Center as well as holding our Greek Festivals once again.  We have worked hard to keep the Stewardship component of our Budget fairly steady from year to year.  The result being that the average financial contribution per steward has been much the same over the last decade.

We cannot afford to be complacent about Stewardship.  Anyone who thinks that their Stewardship isn't really needed because our rentals and Festival income cover our expenses, couldn't be more wrong.  Our Stewardship has fallen off considerably this year.  And while the year's not over, the trend is disturbing.  With only 6 weeks left in 2016, the number of pledge cards received is down, the amount pledged is down and the total Stewardship contributions to date are significantly down, being just 75% of what we received last year and only 66% of this year's $309,000 budget, that's more than $100,000 less, if contributions don't pick up dramatically by year end. So we strongly encourage you to fulfill your 2016 Stewardship pledge by the end of this year. 

For our 2017 Stewardship Program, next week is Stewardship Sunday where we ask only for your 2017 Stewardship pledge card, not any contributions. The pledge card is important as a statement of your intentions allowing us to properly plan for our 2017 Church finances.  Please remember, a pledge can be changed at any time during the course of a year, so don't worry that you are locked into something that may be a problem if your financial circumstances change. 

If we all give generously, from our heart, we can put our Stewardship Program back on a solid footing.  That will allow us to sustain, maintain and improve our Church and its many ministries for the good of all our St George community. 

A 2nd tray will be passed next Sunday to collect the pledge forms and we sincerely hope everyone will take the 5 minutes required to fill out the form before next Sunday.

On behalf of Fr. Andrew, the Parish Council and Barbara Terlecsky, our Stewardship Chair, we thank you for your time today and your continued support for our St George Greek Orthodox Church and our Stewardship Program