by Rev. Fritz Ritsch
The last few months have been amazing for St. Stephen. There seems to be new energy and excitement. There are a lot of new faces in many places—visitors and new members in our pews, children and adults in choirs, participants in our various programs. I want to share a few numbers that demonstrate how well things are going.
The year 2018 saw St. Stephen’s membership increase by 18 members. To understand this number, one needs to understand that church membership is a constant battle against attrition—balancing those we lose by death or transfer against those we gain by evangelism and outreach. In 2018 we received 25 new members total and lost seven, resulting in our active membership growing from 439 in 2017 to 457 in 2018.
Not only did we increase our membership, but we also increased our givers! We had 130 pledgers for the 2018 stewardship drive; in contrast, we have 152 for the 2019 pledge year, an increase of 22 pledgers. This increase also affected our total pledge amount. Our goal for the 2019 capital campaign was to raise $560,000. Instead we raised $600,628 — $40,628 more than we had anticipated! The increase will serve the church well. Several committees were able to increase their budgets to do new things. The session had dropped giving to Grace Presbytery last year by $10,000 because of concern about meeting budget goals; this year they added the $10,000 back. Eddie decided to retire after the 2019 budget was prepared, and thanks to the increase in giving we can cover paying extra for retirement insurance for him and the salary for the person we hire to replace Eddie.
While worship attendance has stayed fairly steady for the last few years at around 156, but we’ve seen an increase of visitors. For the last two years, we’ve averaged two new members a month. Additionally, Wednesday Fellowship Night, with choir, children’s choir, dinner and Bible Study has grown steadily since implementation last January. Eighty-two were in attendance last week and average attendance is 70! Adult and children’s choir and Bells have also seen an uptick in attendance since the arrival of our energetic and talented Organist and Director of Music Ministries, Jordan Smith.
This past Sunday we said good-bye to our long-time sexton/facilities supervisor Eddie Shaw. Two hundred were in attendance—more than we often see for Kirkin’. But whereas many at Kirkin’ are guests, almost everyone at Eddie’s retirement was a member or regular visitor to St. Stephen. The energy and excitement around the church are palpable. God has blessed St. Stephen and we are grateful!