It was good to be at our church’s convention last month in Kansas City, Mo., representing more than 350 of my associates at Everence.
The theme focused on the road journey to Emmaus.
Last year was a time of journey for me. Receiving a call to Everence, I left a 29-year career in secular financial services companies in eastern Pennsylvania, where I worked in banking, insurance, investment advisory and charitable services. Sue, my wife, and I moved to Indiana, where I grew up.
During those 29 years, I had the opportunity to serve the community and my congregation, Blooming Glen Mennonite. Coming to Everence brought together my vocation in financial services and my avocation in community and church service, prompting me to think a lot about calling.
In the convention passage about the road to Emmaus, one verse, Luke 24:19, flashes back to Jesus’ life, “[Jesus] was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.”
Jesus was powerful in word and deed.
Following his model in our actions remains a central spiritual discipline for our faith community. This discipline is embedded in the foundation of Everence. Our mission reflects the Anabaptist yearning to walk the talk through stewardship.
Last month, Everence celebrated its 70th anniversary. Our organization began in 1945. Its first program was offering loans to help young adults, returning from Civilian Public Service, or CPS, to get reestablished.
Everence continues to serve young adults who are getting their feet on the ground. Watch a video of the story of one such couple in Colorado, Bethany and John Simpson, at everence.com/ar.
At Everence, we pay attention to life stages. Bethany and John are at one life stage; others we serve are at different places, with different needs. We’re on a journey through life, like Jesus’ followers on the Emmaus road. Everence advisors accompany people on life’s journey, helping them navigate financial decisions in ways that express their values.
We counsel people about how to be intentional with money.
For years, Everence has helped people plan their future. Now we’re helping them with financial planning in a more focused, systematized fashion. I love hearing our clients say they’re now able to be more generous than they ever imagined to their congregations and causes important to them.
Planning shapes our good intentions into action, making sure our money does what we want it to do so that our thoughts about money match what actually happens to it. In our corporate video, also learn the story of Abe Landis, from southeastern Pennsylvania, who put his good intentions into motion.
Abe has great passion to help others through his charitable gifts.
I was privileged to know him when I lived there. And, Everence is privileged to work with many people like Abe. Last year people donated over $54 million through Everence to charitable causes.
This level of generosity is possible because many people come together, from multiple Mennonite and Anabaptist faith communities, to manage and share their resources. In addition to Mennonite Church USA, Everence serves another 25 denominations.
Within our church, even when we don’t see eye to eye on various issues, we work together on advancing Christian stewardship. People unify around the idea that everything we have comes from God and that we want to be good stewards of our gifts.
Lastly, I want to recognize pastors.
Since 1963, Everence has managed their retirement plan, Mennonite Retirement Trust. Last year, we partnered with Iglesia Menonita Hispana to initiate a new program to encourage more Hispanic congregations to participate in the plan.
We administer The Corinthian Plan, the mutual-aid health plan for pastors, on behalf of Mennonite Church USA. And we offer financial education to pastors, including within seminaries.
Now, Everence has been invited to apply for a Lilly Endowment grant to deepen our work with pastors on their personal financial issues. Our initial research shows that pastors struggle with money issues like everyone else.
Pastors told us their biggest concerns include retirement planning, student debt and basic money management. We’re working with denominational leaders to design a program to be funded by Lilly to help pastors in these areas.
Everence looks toward the future with hopeful expectation.
In our strategic plan, we’ve named a goal of strengthening stewardship and generosity within congregations. We see this work as contributing to healing and hope on the road ahead, wherever it takes us.
Ken Hochstetler is president and CEO of Everence, the stewardship agency of Mennonite Church USA.