Testimonies about Giving from Good Shepherd Members


November 2015

My Giving (short) Story
David Lester

Growing up in the Disciples of Christ and Presbyterian churches as a youngster, I would watch one of my parents carefully place an envelope in the offertory tray every Sunday. I often wondered what was in that envelope. Was it several hundred dollar bills from some secret business my parents were conducting without my knowledge? Was it a fancy check? Was it the same amount every week? Sometimes I would try holding the envelope up towards one of the congregational lights and try to see what it was. That was usually met with a quick interception from my parents and a hushed, “David!”

On special occasions, usually a holiday, or special fundraising Sunday, I would get a dollar bill or two to put into the tray myself. That felt good. I don’t think I was ever taught to consider putting part of my allowance in the tray on Sundays and even if I was, I’m not sure I would have done it at that time in my life. Needless to say, I had no connection with how all of the amazing things that were happening at my churches, like youth groups and other fun events and how things were funded until much later in my adult life.

Amalia and I began having more conversations about congregational giving early on in our marriage about six years ago. She challenged me to think about setting a regular, monthly goal for our gift that we could both live with and feel good about it. This was a big step for me and challenged me to move from making a gift only on the Sundays I could make it to church to making a pledge and committing to a monthly, automatically deposited gift. I was worried about making our budget work and how this would affect other things that were important to us. This was a big step for me.

But, it began to make more sense as I began to see my faith and my relationship with my partner grow. I began to connect my giving in similar ways to things that I do in my profession as general manager at the Co-op. Each year, I create a yearly business plan and 3-5 year strategic plan. I help my team set specific, attainable goals and we help each other try to achieve those goals or tactics so that we continue to have a vibrant store for our customers and community. I don’t like to confuse myself with church and business too much because they exist in my life for different reasons and are both important to my growth. But, I do see similarities with the importance of customers patronizing the Co-op to help it grow and our congregational gifts to help our church grow.

What I found was that this regular, monthly gift wasn’t as sacrificial as I originally thought. In fact, it helped us focus and prioritize our expenses and actually came to the realization that we could and should give more. Then, Amalia said, “We can give more.” I said, “okay, how much more?” She said, “I want us to tithe.” At the time I thought that tithing meant giving away 10% of your income and I was right. We were able to have a conversation about this goal and it helped us lay out what we were giving to other faith-based organizations and helped us set a goal and talk about the steps to get there.

This journey around giving has given me a new kind of joy and I feel like I am giving for the first time again.


On Giving
Amalia Vagts

When I was growing up at Zion Lutheran Church in Stewartville, Minnesota I remember very few conversations about giving and money. Once a year, someone from the congregation would stand up and give a “temple talk” about supporting the church. I also remember that every week, the bulletin would list the number of people in worship and the amount given that week, compared to the amount pledged. My parents paid their bills at the kitchen table, often talking with each other about this bill or that bill. I understood their “church pledge” to be part of that picture.

In my job as the director of a nonprofit, I’ve gotten very comfortable talking with people about their giving. But it has only been in the last few years that I’ve noticed some pretty profound changes in myself as I’ve started really looking at my church giving. When I started my job someone asked me to make the biggest charitable gift I’d ever given – $5,000, to be paid over 4 years. I couldn’t imagine making such a gift until I did the math, and realized it was about $100 a month. I could do that. That gift began my practice of setting aside a specific amount for giving to my organization and the church – my gifts came out of my checking account, automatically, right after my paycheck went in. Two years ago, I started working with a person who leads a lot of congregational stewardship campaigns. He is a Lutheran pastor, and he said something very similar to what Pastor Amy wrote about in the newsletter this month – “where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” He told me that by giving generously to church, we start thinking generously about God. He also asked me this – do you believe that all we are comes from God?

I decided to add up how much money David and I were giving away – at the time, I considered us to be a fairly generous couple. When I added it up, I realized we were giving away about 2% of our income – about average. This was startling to me – I started thinking deeply about this and David and I began talking about how we might increase our giving. A year ago we changed our giving to reach our first goal of 5%. As part of my service on the call committee, I was part of some wonderful conversations with our pastoral candidates about stewardship. We decided as a couple that we wanted to set a goal of tithing to the church. For us “church” includes Good Shepherd and also other ministries of the church – such as Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. As always, we give monthly, right after we get paid.

As our giving to Good Shepherd has increased, so has our love and care for this congregation. Another thing has happened – while David and I live very comfortably, we also say no to certain purchases or expenses. I have found that giving to God is changing how I see the world – I don’t “want” things that I used to want and I see more clearly what I value- time with our family, being active at church and in our community, living with “enough” instead of always feeling I want something more. We give because God gives so generously to us. And instead of feeling like we have less – we feel like we are living with more. We have set our goal for 2016 at 7% as we work toward our goal of tithing to the church. We know that some do so much more than this and we can only now imagine the way that feels. I invite you to look at what percentage of your income you are currently giving to the church and to set a goal of increasing that amount each year as you can. You’ll be richer for it.

Martin Bergan’s Violin

A violin hand-made by Good Shepherd charter member Martin Bergan was recently rediscovered by Drew Duffy during spring cleaning of the church.  Midge Kjome, who knew Bergan personally, has researched his life and written a biography describing his background and craft.

Midge Kjome’s Biography of Martin Bergan