Ron and Phyllis Chewning have been married for nearly 47 years. They have raised three children and have six grandchildren and another is on the way. They aren’t slowing down anytime soon — evidenced by their active involvement in their congregation, Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Birmingham, Mich.
Phyllis sings in the choir, serves on the Altar Guild and leads a LifeLight™ Bible study. “We have a very strong group of women who just love to study God’s Word together,” she says.
Ron serves as a calling elder at Our Shepherd. He describes himself as “semi-retired,” overseeing a “little” ministry called Stewardship Advisors that provides monthly stewardship materials for pastors to give to their congregations, Ron says.
“It’s been important for us to give first to the Lord – to show our gratitude in our giving.”
“He says it’s a ‘little’ ministry,” Phyllis says with a smile, “but pastors keep asking him for the stewardship materials so they can use them in their congregations. Pastors are so busy and this relieves the need for them to have to come up with these resources.”
Ron’s extensive background as a stock broker and gift planning counselor along with his involvement in stewardship ministry has given him plenty of insight into making Bible-based financial and spending decisions. Stewardship is not only the reason for Ron’s ministry; it’s an important theme in the couple’s life as they know first and foremost that everything belongs to the Lord.
“We started giving beyond our tithe at least 30 years ago,” Ron says. “It’s been important for us to give first to the Lord to show our gratitude in our giving.”
Ron and Phyllis have much gratitude for God’s blessings in their lives and are often reminded of Jesus’ words in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
“He is our source for everything,” Phyllis says.
Both longtime donors of Concordia Seminary, these prayerful stewards are passionate about supporting Christian education beginning with their congregation’s day school, the Lutheran High School Association in Detroit, as well as Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Seminary.
“These men continue to give, and give and give. They are great servants of the Lord. Their preaching is excellent, their teaching is excellent, and they have an incredible amount of compassion for people.”
“We’re eager to help more young people go into church ministries, especially pastors,” Phyllis says. “We can help them financially and we also pray for them. I have some young men targeted who I pray will feel the call to ministry.”
Ron and Phyllis have enjoyed the tax advantages and convenience of gifting their Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) — the minimum amount required by law to be withdrawn from an Independent Retirement Account (IRA) — to the Seminary.
“It’s my honor and joy to work with Seminary donors like Phyllis and Ron,” said Roger Dow, a senior gift officer at the Seminary. “They have made gifts to the Seminary using the RMD from their IRA, which is a straightforward, simple way to make a gift. The IRA Charitable Rollover Provision allows donors to make tax-free transfers of charitable gifts from IRAs without tax or penalty.”
At their congregation, Ron and Phyllis feel blessed to have four pastors, including two who are Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) pastors and another who technically is retired but who “just can’t retire.”
“These men continue to give, and give and give,” Phyllis says. “They are great servants of the Lord. Their preaching is excellent, their teaching is excellent, and they have an incredible amount of compassion for people. There are congregations without pastors and there are pastors serving more than one congregation at a time. We need more pastors so that the Gospel can be shared and more people can be saved and go to heaven.”
Sarah Maney is a communications specialist at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.