Ohio Congregation receives Foundation award

Washington Avenue Christian Church in Elyria, Ohio, under the exemplary stewardship leadership of its senior minister, the Rev. Dr. Janet Long, has received the 2015  James P. Johnson Stewardship Award from the Christian Church Foundation.

The honor was presented at the Foundation’s banquet July 21 at the General Assembly in Columbus, OH. The award recognizes a congregation that has demonstrated leadership, creativity and integrity in answering God’s call to faithful stewardship, including the faith discipline involved in the stewardship of accumulated resources.

Since Rev. Long joined the church in 1985:

  • The budget has nearly tripled from $124,000 to more than $353,000 in 2015;
  • The church’s Permanent Funds invested at the Foundation have increased more than six-fold to $1.36 million;
  • The congregation during these 30 years raised more than $2.2 million in capital and debt reduction campaigns.

“Numbers alone cannot illustrate the passion of this church to fulfill Christ’s call to care for the marginalized within their community and world,” said Foundation Vice President Darwin Collins. “The Washington Ave congregation demonstrates in many ways their commitment to be generous in the service of Christ…from the building of Habitat for Humanity homes, to donating thousands of dollars and volunteer time to the Cleveland Christian Home, to becoming a Circle of Caring congregation with the Week of Compassion, to tithing their debt reduction campaigns toward major gifts for the capital needs of ministries beyond their doorsteps, to shopping carts filled to overflowing in support of local ministries.”

Faithful stewardship leads to faithful outreach, which is the heart of Washington Avenue Christian Church. A grocery cart in the hallway receives weekly contributions of food items for a local charity whose volunteer director is a faithful member of the congregation. The Outreach Committee asked for cans of tuna to fill a large fishing net over the course of a month and 747 cans of tuna nearly broke the net. Besides the ongoing food collection, WACC invites contributions of clothing for children and youth of the community and of the Cleveland Christian Home. Other drives benefit the homeless, including veterans.

The congregation committed to tithing their debt reduction campaign toward major gifts far beyond their doorsteps: for building a cabin cluster at Camp Christian, for building a Habitat Home in Elyria and for building improvements at Cleveland Christian Home. Those gifts totaled over $132,000.

Most significantly, this congregation encourages and empowers its members to live out their stewardship and mission as witnesses in their community. When a woman of the church found $400 at a local store and turned it in to the authorities, it was soon returned to her unclaimed. She gifted that to Rev. Long hoping it could become seed money to help others. That $400 has blossomed into more $24,000 as both a part of their “Circle of Caring” to support Week of Compassion and a special fund in the congregation to help neighbors.
Thousands of dollars have been contributed through the “Children’s Change Change-ing Lives” coin collection for Cleveland Christian Home. 

“We are honored to receive this award from the general ministry which has as its mission, ‘Helping Disciples Make a Difference,’” said Rev. Long. “ At Washington Avenue Christian Church, we believe our mission is to make disciples--and then to help those disciples make a difference, from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.”

Washington Avenue raises funds in both traditional and novel ways. In a push to erase building debt, a giving unit in the congregation offered a challenge grant of $4,000 – with the stipulation that each person in worship that mid-November Sunday be given an envelope with $20 in it and asked to multiply the gift. Six months later, on Miracle Sunday, the original gift had been multiplied by a factor of 4—to $16,000!

Washington Avenue is a leader in giving through Disciples outreach. The Disciples' four special day offerings, along with Week of Compassion and Reconciliation, have been expanded to 11 special offerings. In addition, 13.7% of the congregation’s annual budget supports outreach ministries.  Disciples Mission Fund receives the largest share of those offerings, making Washington Avenue the largest DMF givrt in the Ohio Region. In all, 83.5% of the congregation’s outreach budget is given to Disciples outreach programs and ministries. 

Rev. Long traces her own passion for stewardship as a “generosity coach” to a host of mentors, including Robert Sandercox at Bethany College, Gilbert Davis at Brite Divinity School and James P. Johnson. This award, presented at each General Assembly, is named in honor of retired Foundation President James P. Johnson and recognizes his commitment to funding the witness and ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in all of its manifestations.

Watch the video that was shown during the presentation: