Stewardship season is upon the church—and asking for money isn't always an easy task. Over the past two years, Luther Seminary has examined the successes and struggles of this work.
Luther Seminary's Vibrant Congregations Project on Stewardship teamed up with seven congregations, selected from 85 applicants, to find out what encourages exceptional stewardship. The congregations have collaborated for two years in self-study, discernment, research, planning, action and evaluation.
Chick Lane, director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary, leads the project. During his time with the Vibrant Congregations Project, he has seen congregations build a community invested in giving generously to God's work.
"This is the beginning, but only the beginning. If all a congregation does is a really great three-week stewardship program in the fall, a lack of vibrancy is almost guaranteed," Lane said.
One trait they discovered in vibrant congregations is the ability to help members connect their financial lives with their faith in Jesus. Members are encouraged to reflect on what the Bible has to say about money and possessions. They then articulate their own unique values around money, and what it might look like to live consistently with those values.
With those steps sometimes comes anxiety. Members are encouraged to talk about and overcome their fears about money, especially their fear of talking about money with others. One congregation in the project had Fearless Feasts, which were meals that invited members to engage in money conversations based on a few simple questions.
The project also found that congregations who have strong stewardship programs work hard year-round to thank those who have given. They communicate clearly and repeatedly what has happened in Jesus' name because of giving to the congregation.
Lane challenges congregations to look beyond the typical three-week stewardship drive mode.
"What could happen next month that encourages members to reflect on their financial lives through the lens of faith? How might you communicate the congregation's appreciation to those who have given? What are you doing to make sure everyone knows the good work you are doing together?" he asks.
Find out more about the Vibrant Congregations Project at www.luthersem.edu/vcp.
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