The term “Black Friday” is a description of what retail companies hope will happen on and after this day. It is the time of year that businesses hope to get “in the black” financially. Americans are expected to spend record amounts of money on gifts and travel this holiday season.

There is an urgency that comes with the holidays, especially Christmas. We feel pressured to spend and give (often until it hurts). We often feel guilty if we can’t spend as much as we would like on gifts. We may hear our children or grandchildren begging for the most popular, and expensive, gifts and we may feel obligated to spend more than we should.

This is also a time when most churches are planning their budgets for the upcoming year. As average church attendance has declined nationally, and continues to decline, many churches are working to remain viable. I wish we felt as obligated to support our churches as we do to support the holidays.

Holiday giving can and should include your church. Consider including long-term gifts to your church, such as an automatic bank draft for your regular monthly giving, and a gift from your estate when you pass from this life. As you prepare your budget for the coming year, include giving to your church.

There are several scriptures that warn against “testing” God, but there is this statement from God that advises the opposite: “Bring the full tithe [10%] into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. … Then all the nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” (See Malachi 3:8-12)

The ministries of the Body of Christ (all churches and all Christians) depend on funding. In my idea of a perfect world, churches would not pay utilities or upkeep costs. Ministries would not be forced to the sidelines by limited budgets. They could boldly fill the needs of the communities they serve.

National estimates of financial giving to churches report Americans, on average, are giving 2% of their income to support their church. This is a far cry from the giving rates of 50 years ago, and well below the “test” suggest in the Malachi reading above.

Churches are a vital part of any community. We all want to do the work of Christ, and we are only limited by the availability of resources. The lives of many in our communities will be blessed when sufficient resources are available. Give to your church this holiday season and plan to give all year long. You will be blessed as you bless others.

Blessings and Peace to You All,

Fr. David+

Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at frdavid@standrewsgrove.org. St. Andrew's worship service is at 10 a.m., every Sunday, and broadcast on KWXC 88.9 FM at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.