“Stewardship” is a very difficult word to define. Most of us have a good enough, general idea what it means. It has to do with managing resources, right? It’s theological too. Reading today’s article by Deborah Rexrode reminded me of a particular definition. Kerry Alys Robinson says that stewardship is, “both the proper care of all that has been entrusted to one and the recognition of and response to the potential at hand.” Rexrode’s post today examines that potential, and how we, well, steward it.
Adam Copeland, Director, Center for Stewardship Leaders
People, Passion, and Possibilities
Deborah Rexrode, Ph.D.
What does it mean to lead a Stewardship Ministry? For the past three months, answering this question has become an important part of my mission in my new position as an Associate for Stewardship. In my context at least, there is no manual; there is no precedent for this position. There is, however, a desire for the congregations where I provide leadership and consultation to broaden their approach to stewardship in the places where they have been called to serve.
I have served in stewardship ministries in both small and large congregations. One thing I have come to understand is the varied cultures in which we serve. What meets the needs of one church may not meet the needs of another congregation. What works in the culture of a large congregation may not fit into the culture of a smaller congregation. My work begins as a process of discernment with the congregations where I am providing leadership. I find the following three steps to be an effective way for us to design a stewardship ministry.
First, I reach out to the people who are serving as stewardship leaders in their congregation. In some situations, that may be the pastor, or it may the pastor along with laypeople within the congregation -- usually people who serve in leadership or officer roles. It may be a committee specifically designated to develop the stewardship plan and implement the stewardship emphasis for the year. The more people you include in this process, the more effective your stewardship ministry will be. People who serve as role models in the congregation are effective stewardship leaders. They demonstrate a high level of commitment not only in their financial giving but also in their gifts of time and talents.
Second, I begin to explore with these stewardship leaders their passion for this ministry. I invite them to tell me their story. Tell me some of the history of the church. Where has it been? What does the faith journey of this congregation look like? What is happening now? What is the ministry and vision of this community of faith? So much can be learned about the mindset of a congregation when asked to share their story. You can determine whether this is a congregation that has a history of success or struggle. In order to have an effective stewardship ministry, the congregation needs to know and claim their story and to be able to grow from those roots.
Third in this discernment process is the ability to broaden our understanding of what stewardship means. Stewardship is not only about financial giving. Quite often we give most of our attention to the financial aspects of stewardship and give less attention to the other things that create a holistic vision of stewardship ministry -- stewardship of time, talents, creation, relationships, worship, and even stewardship of our bodies. Our conversations about stewardship tend to be about the scarcity of our resources rather than the abundance.
I seek to turn the conversation around to help stewardship leaders see the abundance right before their eyes, to see the talent and the energy, the potential and the willing spirit, to focus on the positive and the possibilities. This is the way to build a new enthusiasm for stewardship.
As Paul encouraged those in Corinth, we should be encouraging our congregations to find abundant joy even in the midst of our struggles and let our poverty overflow in a wealth of generosity.
“For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints…they gave themselves first to the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 8:3-5)
When our people have a passion to give themselves first to God, the possibilities of sharing in the ministries of our congregations will overflow in a wealth of generosity. There will be an abundance of time, talents, and treasures enough to do all that God is calling us to do in the congregations where we serve.
Deborah Rexrode serves as the Associate for Stewardship for the Presbytery of the James, Richmond, VA. She is an ordained Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and brings to the presbytery a background of research, study, and application of the theological understanding of stewardship and the importance of ongoing stewardship education in our congregations.
Stewardship Speaker Series: Join us on campus this summer (June 16, July 21, August 18) for breakfast as we hear from groundbreaking stewardship leaders practicing distinctive, top-notch stewardship. Come to one event -- or all three! All events are free and open to the public. For more information, and to register, visit: www.luthersem.edu/stewlead.