Today's writer addresses the question of what motivates Lay Leaders in their participation in the congregation's stewardship ministry. He encourages us to look at the resources that will help us to move in a new direction.
Glenn Taibl, Co-Director
Center for Stewardship Leaders
A New Stewardship Direction: Towards Out Of the Box Thinking
By: Gary Moore
Pope Francis recently preached a rather harsh sermon to his staff at the Vatican. In particular, he said many had become so self-centered and felt so indispensable they should visit a cemetery. Such soul searching on the part of leaders is so unusual in both the church and business these days, even the financial media reported on his sermon at length. Yet Luther might tell us stewardship educators that we might be enriched by such a sermon too.
Years ago, Professor Robert Wuthnow of Princeton conducted a major survey of pastors' attitudes toward stewardship. He found pastors have great difficulty getting out of the four walls of the church, just as Vatican officials do according to Francis. In God and Mammon in America, Wuthnow wrote: "When we asked pastors to talk to us about stewardship, we encouraged them to tell us how they understood it in the broadest possible terms. Repeatedly, however, we found the church was their own frame of reference. They immediately talked about serving the church, doing church work, and giving money to the church."
In a later book entitled Crisis in the Churches: Spiritual Malaise, Fiscal Woe, Wuthnow wrote: "The steady drop in donations, volunteering and personal involvement is a direct result of a spiritual crisis -- a crisis caused in large part due to the clergy's failure to address the vital relationships between faith and money....The solution is not to simply talk more about the financial needs of the church. Thirty percent said they would actually give less money if churches talked more about finances than they do now. The answer is to talk about the broader relationships between faith, work, money, giving, the poor and economic justice."
Very simply, even Protestant churches seem to have become as self-centered as the Vatican five centuries ago under Pope Leo. That surely causes Luther to roll over in his grave. For he wrote these words in Theses 43 and 44 of his 95: "Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences (which he thought Pope Leo was using to build St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. In reality, much of the money was going to repay the debts the local bishop had incurred to purchase his office.)
Most pastors intuitively sense money has been the soft underbelly of our faith since at least the days of Judas. I believe that's why most are so hesitant to approach the subject. Others instinctively dread beginning pledge card Sunday, detested by clergy and laity alike, by asking the laity to give to God when much is actually coming to them as pastor's salary. Worse, stewardship theology begins with God's ownership of all, suggesting the laity can't give anything to God anyway, assuming the clergy don't want to burn our offerings on the altar. So our pastors are usually more conflicted about money than the laity, even if all workmen and women, including the clergy, are worthy of their hire, which should prompt no unease as it's surely modest in the clergy's case.
All those unspoken realities are precisely why I agree with the recent book Passing the Plate, which concludes: "We believe lay church leaders, and not pastors, should take the lead...Pastors stated that they simply do not like to address the matter of money...They often receive no denominational support through education, instruction, or pastoral networks on how to handle this difficult topic...We asked parishioners what works and does not work in terms of motivating them to give money. They overwhelmingly named raising money to address community needs."
That should come easy to us Lutherans as Luther taught the priesthood of all believers and hoped the clergy and laity together would help the world become a monastery. Unfortunately, the forces of secularism and clericalism have caused the monastery to become the world.
Gary Moore is the founder of The Financial Seminary where a number of free stewardship resources are available for congregational stewardship leaders including the Omega Financial Plan.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.