January 27, 2016

Year-End Pastoral Care

Our parish administrator’s office is a bit more cluttered than usual these days, the top of her desk buried under piles of papers and boxes. Not only has she been pushing out the giving envelopes for the year ahead, she’s also printing and delivering year-end giving statements to parishioners and friends and, well, nearly everybody who’s given something to St. George’s in the past year. It’s tax time, after all.

This is a perennial duty I’d bet and it’s a strain on every one of our congregations. Big or small, urban or rural, the annual routine of pushing out the Year-End Giving (Tax Deductible) Giving Statements is a big deal. The fact that gifts to churches are tax-deductible isn’t the reason people give to our congregations, but it certainly is an added bonus. And ensuring that each congregation has sufficient administrative capacity to record and honor each person’s gift and present to them a final report for their tax prep is all part of doing our job.

On the one hand, then, this blog post is a great big shout out to those parish administrators and bookkeepers and clergy and other office help who are doing this work, right now. It’s meaningful, important, and sensitive work, and it’s one of those otherwise unnoticed duties that’s actually part of the glue of our common Christian lives.

On the other hand, this post is also a ‘heads up’ to those of us who are involved in this year-end process, a pastoral alert to keep our hearts and eyes and ears open for any feedback we might receive as we attend to this routine duty, no matter how insignificant the feedback may seem at first. At St. George’s I’ve noticed we get a good amount of feedback, even if it is from a minority of the people to whom we send these year-end giving letters. Sometimes as our parish administrator is trying to track down someone’s aunt’s mailing address, the parishioner, after sharing that information, just as quickly adds a little back-and-forth, a little “here’s how we’ve been doing,” or “thanks for what you’re doing over there.” So here’s to our parish administrators and bookkeepers and office help, people who truly are ministers in their own right; people who do pastoral care, day in and day out, even though the institutional church doesn’t always call it that, even though the parochial report doesn’t have a single line-item to celebrate these encounters.

I suppose this year-end process is yet another grace-filled opportunity to reach out and hear back, to check in and be in prayer, to be about the work of community and community-building in Jesus’ Name. Even if it is, on the surface, about making sure the dollars and cents line up!

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