Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about Visiting

If you have been thinking about visiting a new church in a new town or even a church for the first time, then you may be feeling unsure or cautious as to what to expect. Guess what, you are not alone! Most, if not all of us have had questions like that because we all come from different places and have had different experiences. Whether you have never been part of a church before or if you’ve been a long-time member somewhere else, we are here to help welcome you on your journey. Here is what you can expect.

Will I fit in here?

Bethesda United Church of Christ (Bethesda UCC) is a very welcoming faith community.

We are an “open and affirming church” which means we are committed to welcoming people of every race, language, age, gender, ethnicity, economic status, mental or physical ability, and sexual orientation into the full life and ministry of the church.

Will I be welcome for who I am?

We don’t require you to pass a test or even recite a pledge. We all share the desire to explore our individual faith with others doing the same. You will find some who have been on a lifelong spiritual journey and others who may just be beginning to come to grips with what it means to have faith.

Where are you located? Is there parking?

We are in Bethesda at the intersection of Democracy Boulevard and Fernwood Road just east of Montgomery Mall. You will find ample parking right next to the building.

Are you accessible?

The building is all on one floor with easy access to the parking lot, sanctuary, classrooms, and fellowship hall. It’s a simple design that is inviting at every turn. We also have assisted hearing devices and large print bulletins for anyone who needs them.

What happens when you come for the first time?

When you arrive at the front door for our worship service, there will be some friendly people to say hello, answer any questions you have, and direct you to the worship service. We will also give you a copy of our weekly bulletin which shows information about the Sunday service and has the week’́s announcements. And we will invite you to make a name badge (a nice way to connect with other people) or you may wish to be anonymous. Either way is fine!

What is available for my kids? Will they feel welcome?

If you have children, we will show you the way to the Sunday School classes and introduce you to their Sunday School teacher. Or if your kids feel more comfortable staying with you, they are more than welcome in the worship service. There is also a rocking chair that we can bring into the sanctuary if that helps! There is an intercom in the next room if you need to step in and out. Our Sunday School teachers are parents or other members and they are wonderful at helping new children feel comfortable. We have a paid, experienced nursery attendant for the littlest ones so they have that consistency and care.

Will my teens find a place?

We have a great youth class for kids from 7th to 12th grades–a place where they can discuss the issues they face as young people, ask questions, and discover how their faith can be relevant and challenge and strengthen them. The sessions are highly informal (couches, donuts, etc.) and mostly unstructured.

What do people wear?

On Sunday mornings at Bethesda UCC you will notice a wide diversity in what people wear. However you come is fine! Most everyone dresses as they wish, comfortably, in anything from “office casual” to jeans and sneakers.

What is the worship space like?

Our worship service is in a sanctuary with a high peaked roof and curved rows of chairs. You can choose to sit anywhere you’d like. A plain wooden cross hangs on a brick wall above a simple wood worship table decorated with candles and flowers. Colorful banners often hang from the high beams including three quilted banners – love, faith, and hope – that were created by Bethesda UCC members.

What is the worship service like?

There is a meditation time in the sanctuary 15 minutes prior to the service. That time provides a space for quiet reflection and prayer – so many of us need that in this busy world.

The service begins with music by the choir. We have lots of singing by everyone throughout – a mix of musical styles from African American hymns, to “oldies but goodies” and contemporary hymns. There is a time for “joys and concerns” when worshippers offer what they wish to have lifted in prayer. Examples of what might be shared include a concern about strife in other parts of the world, prayers for our homeless sisters and brothers, joy in the progress of someone recovering from an illness or the celebration of the birth of a new baby or a special birthday.

Our minister offers a message/sermon rooted in the readings from the Bible that morning and delves into issues of what it means to live with love and hope, and follow Jesus in the world we live in today. We hope it will touch your heart, be relevant to your life, and leave you with something to reflect on in the week ahead.

The children all come into the sanctuary near the end of the service for a special children’s moment. Usually there is laughter and much insight. The service closes with a blessing as someone carries the light of the candles from the worship table out into the world.

Will children be part of the worship service?

During the first part of the service the children and youth join the congregation for a special “Moment for Children,” often in the form of a conversation with the minister about faith. The kids stay for the rest of the worship service for the joys that are shared, the closing singing, and the blessing. As a church community, we celebrate the gifts our youth and children bring to us when they read scripture, participate in drama, or offer musical talent.

Will I be able to receive communion?

On the first Sunday of the month we celebrate communion as part of the worship service and remember Jesus’ last supper with the disciples. We welcome everyone who would like to receive communion because we are celebrating Jesus’ extravagant welcome and love.

Will the service be the same each week?

Worship at BUCC is never static—it is full of meaning and the Spirit! Chairs move and banners change. During our intergenerational services where children, families and everyone of all ages worship together, the service focuses around a theme or Biblical story and has many creative elements. If you worship at Bethesda UCC you will find the arts, drama, powerpoint, music, banners, and surprising visual elements that engage the gospel and the scripture in new ways.

Will people be welcoming after the service or will I be able to head out if I need to?

After the worship service, we’d love to have you stay for a cup of coffee or some cookies and meet folks in the parlor. But we know you may also have to get to a soccer game or other activity! As you walk out, you may find colorful posters on the wall filled with photographs of members’ recent activities – building houses with Habitat for Humanity, cooking and serving meals at a homeless shelter, and repairing homes in the local community.

We hope this will give you some idea of what to expect. We would love to welcome you and share in your faith journey experience!!!

Questions About Giving

What is Stewardship at the Bethesda UCC?

It is a way of enabling God’s dream for the world to come into focus at BUCC. Stewardship is an active understanding of our needs and sharing an honest portion of our time, our skills and our money for God’s work in the world through Bethesda United Church of Christ.

We feel called to live out our mission in this community and meet our commitments to local and wider mission organizations that help us spread Christ’s healing, love, and justice throughout the world. Like most families, we also have to pay our bills in order to continue our current programs. What we are able to do is based on the income the church receives. We rely heavily on the pledges of members and friends of BUCC. The amount pledged determines our ability to pursue God’s mission at BUCC.

What does Jesus say about giving?

In Jesus’ teachings, he first talks most frequently about the Kingdom of God and secondly talks most frequently about money! Steve Gray notes that Jesus is concerned with “how believers use their money and possessions in relation to what they say they believe. For Jesus, the lifestyles we adopt, the way we use our financial resources and the possessions we acquire are indicative of what we truly believe and what we truly value. As Jesus said, ‘Where your treasure is there is your heart also.’” How we decide to live our lives and share the resources entrusted to us is a “powerful witness to what we believe.” Jesus challenges his followers to take risks, to love with heart and soul and mind, to be extravagantly generous and to trust that there will be enough.

Why should I give?

Giving also brings great joy. It does something to free us especially in our culture where worth is so often tied to material wealth and where the acquisition of more and more stuff can consume us. How we use our money is a “spiritual decision.” When we give we remember that all of life and everything we have is, in fact, God’s gift to us. When we share our resources with those in need it is a way God’s love is made real in other people’s lives and their prayers are answered! We are the ones who are so often more blessed by giving than receiving!

I can’t be the only person who wonders, “How much should I pledge?” Are there guidelines?

There are two ways to answer this question. The first way is to ask that you just prayerfully reflect on the money and resources God has entrusted to your care and decide on how much you feel you can give. For those of you who want a more definitive answer, there is a guideline or what is called the “modern tithe”. This guideline sets a goal of at least 5% of income to your church and 5% to other worthy causes. Since it is possible that some people at BUCC are not yet at the 5% goal, we are suggesting that members and friends consider proportional giving. Please read the next question and answer!

I have heard the term proportional giving? What is it?

Proportional giving is a way of gradually increasing your pledge commitment. First, calculate the percentage of income you gave to Bethesda UCC last year, using gross or net income, whichever seems a proper baseline to you. The goal is to increase this each year until you reach the desired goal of giving 5% of yearly income to the church. If your gifts to BUCC last year totaled 2% of your income, plan to increase the amount to 2.5 or 3% for 2010. You can find more detail and a worksheet in our Proportional Giving Pamphlet. You will find the pamphlet enclosed with the annual stewardship letter, or you can call the church office to request a copy. Just making the initial calculation is sometimes an eye-opener for people.

I hear a lot of talk about money during the Stewardship campaign. Are we losing sight of why we’re doing this? BUCC is not a small business, but it is a place of worship. Where does God fit in?

Talking about money at church makes many people feel uncomfortable. However, let’s keep in mind our Mission Statement:

“We welcome all without exception as we worship God together, journey in the Sprit, and share our gifts with each other, our neighbors, and the world”.

These are wonderful words but it takes money to turn them into reality. The Stewardship Campaign helps people prayerfully reflect on the money and resources God has entrusted to their care and encourages them to give generously as Jesus taught us. Increasing pledges is important because it will take more money next year just to maintain the programs that support our mission. It would be great for BUCC to be in a position to expand some of our current programs, begin a new one, or hire additional staff to help with the growing number of children who are attending our church. It is a step of faith for BUCC members and friends to increase their giving—which allows our church to further God’s work.

I find joy in making an annual gift to BUCC, although it sometimes is a stretch and it requires faith that we will be able to meet our commitment. So far, it’s always worked. But, what if some year we couldn’t meet that goal?

A pledge is always an estimate made in faith. If your circumstances change, simply letting the Treasurer or the Minister know will help the church adjust accordingly. This is nothing to feel bad about. There are also other options. Some people pay off the previous year’s gift early the following year or add the unpaid portion to the next year’s gift and pay it throughout the next year. Or you can just start over for the next year with a clean slate! We understand financial circumstances may change throughout the year.

We don’t plan to pledge during the Annual Stewardship Campaign because our family doesn’t attend Worship services that regularly. We’ve adopted a pay-as-you-go plan, contributing money the weeks that we are there. Is there any reason to reconsider this approach?

Yes! Your question implies you understand that someone else is paying (through a pledged financial contribution) to keep the staff in place and the building open and in good condition—so it will be there for your family. Even if you don’t attend regularly, it is important to make a commitment through the pledge campaign so the church will be there when you are able to come. By pledging you support the church’s ministry so it is there for everyone when each person needs it!

I’ve heard that tithing 10% of your income is no longer considered necessary. Why?

The concept of tithing is alive and well, but the current definition reflects changes in society since Biblical times. The modern tithe is considered 5% to your church and 5% to other worthwhile organizations that help homeless and hungry people or contribute to other needs in our community, country and the world. In Biblical times, the church was the only provider of social services. Note: Last year BUCC donated over 12% of our income to help others.

With a baby, a toddler, a new home, and being early in our careers, we are only able to contribute a small amount to Bethesda UCC. We don’t feel our contribution is worth submitting a pledge card—in fact it’s a little embarrassing. We value this church and want to raise our children here, and we know that as our circumstances change, we’ll be able to give more. We know you don’t want us to stay away until we can increase our contributions. What should we do?

Definitely do not stay away! We’re grateful that you consider this your church home. Even if you can only give a very small amount, please calculate what it totals annually and commit to that by submitting a Pledge Card. No matter the size of the pledge, it makes a difference. It also helps the church to know your giving plans so we can plan more effectively.

I feel that Bethesda UCC is my church home, but I am only able to contribute a small amount at this time. What should I do?

Definitely do not stay away! We’re grateful that you consider this your church home. Even if you can only give a very small amount, please calculate what it totals annually and commit to that by submitting a Pledge Card. No matter the size of the pledge, it makes a difference. It also helps the church to know your giving plans so we can plan more effectively.

Do you have to be a member to submit an Annual Pledge Card at Bethesda UCC?

No. Many people feel that BUCC is their church home without becoming a member, and their pledges and the gifts they share make a profound difference. We feel blessed that they are a part of the BUCC community. Some people may worship at BUCC while they’re temporarily living in the Washington, DC, area, and wish to support this community of faith. When they move back home, they will resume supporting their hometown church.

How is money spent in terms of BUCC’s Mission?

Mission Statement of the Bethesda UCC: “We welcome all without exception as we worship God together, journey in the Sprit, and share our gifts with each other, our neighbors, and the world”.

We have developed a narrative budget to describe how we spend our money in terms of our Mission. It shows the percentage we spend on what we have agreed is important to us: Worship, Education, Welcoming, Pastoral Care, and the Sharing of our Gifts.

You can view our narrative budget charts on how we use our resources and fund our mission by going to the following BUCC Giving Link. You will also find definitions of each category.

You can view our narrative budget charts on how we use our resources and fund our mission by going to the following BUCC Giving Link. You will also find definitions of each category. UCC’s “Sharing Our Gifts” budget supports?

Sharing our time, talents, and money with others is a priority at BUCC and a significant way we live out our faith. Sharing includes reaching out to our community (i.e. helping at homeless shelters, gifts for homeless children, and helping to build/rebuild homes). It includes time and resources used to put our “faith in action” and working for change (advocacy) that brings alive God’s kingdom of justice, peace, and love.

Much of this money is given directly to help local people in need and brings hope and change in our community (i.e. Interfaith Works, Bethesda Cares, Interfaith Housing, Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together, etc.) It includes money given to our local seminaries. It supports the ministry and mission of the United Church of Christ throughout the world through Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM). This money is used to support United Church of Christ congregations with worship, educational, and leadership resources, helps churches find new pastors and enables the UCC to reach out to those needing welcome through “God is Still Speaking” outreach. It also provides for interfaith dialogue, ministries in over 85 countries, refugee advocacy, and social change, economic justice, racial justice, public policy advocacy, and much more.

Are the other users of the church facilities paying their way—including a fair share of the utility bills?

The short answer is yes. The Trustees have agreements in place with most/all users and reevaluate their payments on yearly basis. This is based on several factors, including the amount of space used, ability to pay, hours used, janitorial service costs, utilities, etc. One of our missions is to share our facility with other organizations and churches, making a difference in our community.

We currently share our facilities with organizations such as Glenbrook Cooperative Nursery School, Ashburton Wyngate Childcare Center, and Alcoholics Anonymous. This helps provide affordable and safe childcare and after school care to children, gives other churches a place to worship, provides healing support for those facing life’s challenges, and enables groups such as AA to help those in need.

Didn’t we recently complete a Capital Campaign for BUCC? Why do we need more funds?

You’re right! In 2011 BUCC embarked on a capital campaign to address several deferred maintenance projects of our physical building. Safety and efficiency projects including a new roof, a new HVAC system, new windows and many other updates were funded by the capital campaign. Then in 2013 we were able to use capital campaign funds to renew our Sanctuary with new flooring, fresh paint, and all chairs!

Now that the capital campaign projects are complete, annual stewardship at BUCC supports all the operating needs of the church AND our mission priorities in the community. Pledges made through Stewardship pay for salaries of all our church personnel, building utilities, Christian education. It also includes many local mission projects (i.e. helping at homeless shelters, gifts for homeless children, and helping to build/rebuild homes), peace and justice advocacy, UCC-wide initiatives and MUCH more. Put simply, the church could not function as a witness to God’s love without the generosity of our congregation.

If I have additional questions, who should I contact?

You can contact our Pastor, Dee Ledger, or any member of the Stewardship Committee. You can also email your question or request that someone contact you by emailing the church office at Your email will be forwarded to the appropriate person.

These FAQs were adapted from Rock Springs UCC with permission.

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