The Rev. Rene Yon Pak (left) and Faith Community United Methodist Church in Bayville, NJ, are doling out gifts with their church’s Talent Program, coordinated by its Finance and Worship committees.
Pastor Pak preached for two Sundays last October on the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew’s Gospel (25:14-30). Her sermons inspired some worshippers to explore the talents they possess and to share them with the community.
During the second sermon on the parable, members of the two committees performed a skit with a title not often heard in church: “Let’s Make Some Dough!” They presented the parable through the lens of a modern game show.
At the end of worship, offering baskets filled with envelopes were passed throughout the congregation. Members and friends were invited to take an envelope from the baskets. Inside they found dollar bills, totaling from $10 to $25 per envelope, along with directions on how to participate in the program.
The Finance Committee had invested $1,000 in a stewardship experiment—in fact, a living parable. Participants were told they had seven weeks to make their money grow by using their talents in any way they saw fit. This was done totally with faith.
The beauty of this program is that it put people in a position to reflect on the talents they had and encouraged them to explore those endowments. Often, people don’t recognize their God-given abilities as the gifts that they are. They might assume that they are trivial.
But those gifts do matter and are given to us for a reason. The reward comes when we contribute them to benefit others. So, these faithful participants were given the opportunity to discover that reward.
Contributors offered anything from handiwork, cleaning services, nutritional counseling, coaching, home baked goods, soups, salads, crafts and musical talents. A “Talent Shop” was set up in the hall for participants to offer their creations for sale, and a church bulletin board was made available for those wishing to offer their services. Some turned to Facebook to offer homemade items, homemade pies and custom artwork to the highest bidders. Participants were enthusiastic and energized.
Talent Money was collected during the four weeks of Advent. In the parable the man who doubles his money is told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
When all the counting was done, the members of Faith Community had not only doubled the money they were given. They tripled it and then some. There were smiles all around as this exercise in faith and fundraising came to a conclusion. Members found it to be a very positive experience.
“It’s about more than just money,” said Pastor Pak. “It’s about the good energy that came out of it.”
The parable, like Jesus himself, became the word made flesh. The biggest lesson is that we should recognize and not neglect or squander the talents we are given by God. We should share them and multiply their value, so that we can hear the real Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”