Preparing to run a 5k run taught Rev. Brenna Baker lessons about building a step-by-step congregational stewardship plan.

The legs of a runner, shown racing down a forested road.
Credit: Daniel Reche from Pixabay
Published On: January 31, 2023

In the winter of 2021, when I was growing weary of ongoing COVID lockdowns, I got the wild idea to register for a 5k run. Now, while I have always loved other ways of being active, I notoriously have always hated running. Still, those of us who had the privilege of simply being bored during the pandemic felt the lure of challenge and achievement — whether it was baking all our bread from scratch or taking on ill-advised home renovations. We needed a way to mark the days and have something to look forward to as all our other plans were cancelled. For me, that took the form of running.

Well, I’ll cut to the chase (pardon the pun). I successfully completed the 5k run in May that year, but the how I did remains more interesting to me than the event itself.

First, I made a plan. I got a fun app that gradually increased my pace and distance every time I went out for a run. On Sundays, I would sit down, look at the week ahead, and block out time for runs just as I would with other appointments. And, I actually signed up for a specific race. I realized early on that if I waited until I felt ready, I would never actually do the darn thing. Having a timeline and having paid a fee made sure I stayed invested in the process.

Last, I asked for some accountability, and signed up for the race with my sister-in-law who is an experienced runner. She gave me tips and encouragement in the training process, but more importantly, she also provided a healthy dose of peer pressure. I knew I’d never be as fast as her, and that she’d have to slow her pace for me, but my ego also ensured that I trained hard enough to really do my best and not have to stop and lie down on the sidewalk.  

In our lives of faith, we’re also called to set goals: to grow, to learn, to stretch ourselves in order to better follow Jesus. We do this both as individuals and as whole communities. It can be challenging, though, to actually follow through on a goal, which is why our stewardship program, Called to be the Church: The Journey helps communities of faith establish goals that are both compelling and attainable. We focus on making a plan, breaking goals down into smaller pieces, and creating accountability and follow through. When goals are set this way, we see such pride and joy in those we work with as they cross the metaphorical finish line —increasing generosity in order to strengthen their communities, grow their outreach, and build confidence that they can take on to another challenge.

When I think of my short-lived running days, I’m grateful for the experience of working through something that once seemed, if not impossible, at least very daunting. As a teacher, it also instills confidence in me that, with the Spirit’s support and nudging, our communities of faith can succeed in trying new things and learning new skills together. You really can slowly, but surely, learn to speak passionately about your ministry in ways that inspire. You really can slowly, but surely, add to your donor base or increase your offerings to Mission & Service. Because, if I can run a 5k race with just a bit of planning and accountability, then with all the gifts and resources your congregation holds, you definitely can make a difference in your community and world.

— Rev. Brenna Baker is the Community of Faith Stewardship Support staff for Horseshoe Falls, Antler River Watershed, and Western Ontario Waterways Regions.


The views contained within these blogs are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of The United Church of Canada.

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