1. What is Stewardship?
A reflection from the Provincial Stewardship Executive
Christians believe that everything they have comes from God. Our world with all its resources, our abilities and the money we earn are gifts God has given us. So we believe that we should try and follow God’s teaching in how we use our world and our money. To describe our response and love we use the words “Christian Stewardship”. We do so because the word “steward” is used in the Bible to denote the person in a household with responsibility for the use of material possessions and money.
Jesus taught us to love people and use things – and not the other way around, as society often seems to do.
Jesus told stories to help people understand how their attitude to money and possessions reflects what really interests them. He talked so much about money because he knew how our lives often revolve around it. Many of his sayings, including the one mentioned below, challenge people about how they use their money and possessions.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Some people say “the Church is always after your money” and that money shouldn’t be discussed in church. We believe that with over 2,350 verses in the Bible relating to money and possessions, the subject should not be ignored. We believe that the way we handle and use our money speaks volumes about our discipleship. Giving money is part of giving the whole of yourself to God.
Those of us who have struggled with our weight know well that it is not simply a case of going on a diet for the odd week or two, but of re-educating ourselves in our eating habits that will really transform our situation and bring about a permanent improvement in our health.
A similar programme of re-education needs to be undertaken with regard to Christian Stewardship. Too many still regard it as a means of extricating a parish from its financial problems, as a “crash diet” for a week or two, and not as a way of life in response to God, a steady programme of growth in Christian discipleship.
Unless our money gift has cost us something, it is not really a thanksgiving but more like a tip. And one of the tensions in our discipleship lies in whether we live our life and give to God the odd crumb, or whether we give to God first, and then manage the rest. If the Christian disciple does the first, he will never be satisfied: if he does the second, he will always have enough.
2. Gift Aid
As part of their responsibility to provide careful stewardship of their resources, parishes are encouraged to make use of the Gift Aid scheme. Gift aid is a scheme operated by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to provide tax relief on money donated to UK charities. HMRC treat donations as if the donor had already deducted basic rate tax from them. The charity can then reclaim this tax to increase the value of a donation.
As this is a tax-relief scheme, there are certain rules. Donors must:
- their name
- their home address
- the charity’s name
- details of the donation – saying that it is a gift aid donation
- confirmation that they have paid UK tax – to cover the tax the charity will reclaim.
A declaration can be made to cover individual donations or a series of donations. It can cover donations made during a specified period or all future donations. From 31 March 2010 declarations can also be backdated for up to four years prior to the date of the declaration.
In practice it is really quite simple for parishes to use. There is a wide range of help and advice available to ensure that parish treasurers and Gift Aid secretaries can be confident in operating the scheme as part of parish’s giving strategy.
The HMRC website has detailed advice on Gift Aid: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/charities/gift_aid
In addition, you can talk through any queries you may have on the Gift Aid process with members of staff at the diocesan office and also at the Information department of the Provincial Office.
3. Gift Direct – Giving with a Direct Debit
One way in which the Representative Body seeks to help parishes in managing regular direct giving in general, and reclaiming tax relief on that giving via the Gift Aid scheme in particular, is through the Gift Direct facility. Gift Direct is a direct debit giving scheme operated by the provincial office, which collects money from donors on a monthly basis, reclaims tax relief on that donation if appropriate, and pays that money (together with any tax relief reclaimed) to the parish of the donor’s choice.
Once members are signed up to Gift Direct, the parish treasurer or Gift Aid secretary receives regular statements of donations received and paid to the parish account(s); all other administration is carried out by provincial staff. Donors are given the option of increasing their gift automatically on an annual basis (they may also adjust the level of their donation at any time), and receive an annual thank-you letter. This is an easy-to-use scheme intended to relieve some of the administrative burden on parish officers, and feedback from parishes suggests that it is greatly valued by those already making use of the facility.
More information on Gift Direct is available on the Church in Wales website: http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/publications/downloads/#giftdirect
If you would like to talk to a member of the provincial Information department staff about the scheme, please call 029 2034 8200.
4. Contacts for Advice on Stewardship and Giving
Exploring and deepening our understanding of Christian stewardship and discipleship can be a hugely liberating and positive experience, both for individuals and for the local church. Each diocese will have people who specialise in working with churches on the subject of Christian stewardship. More information can be obtained from:
- Your diocesan office
- Your diocesan website
- The Church in Wales website
Church treasurers can also obtain further assistance on financial and accounting matters from all the above sources and from:
- The Association of Church Accountants & Treasurers (Membership has been obtained for all parishes) www.acat.uk.com
- The Representative Body of the Church in Wales
- Finance Department 029 2034 8200