Many things strike me about today’s post by Kyle Meyaard-Schaap of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. First, I appreciate the urgency and theology. I’m also struck, however, by how his organization supports its mission with practices in line with their teachings. Such consistency should be normal and expected, but alas, all too often our organizations can fall below the standards we preach. As 2017 continues after the warmest year on record, Kyle’s mission is ever-so-important. May we embrace anew our call to steward God’s creation.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Transforming Stewardship for Climate Action
I think about stewardship for a living. As the organizer and spokesperson for a national environmental organization, my days are mostly ruled by familiar dictators: endless phone calls, administrative minutiae, and an insurmountable pile of emails that I just can’t quite seem to scale. But overlaying these daily responsibilities is a central, orienting question:
Am I being the best steward that I can be today?
Am I being the best steward that I can be today of God’s good creation and our common climate? Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA) is committed not only to empowering and equipping the Church to live more fully into its call to be good stewards of creation in an age of human-induced climate change, but also to making sure that we ourselves are walking the talk. We’ve tried to cut down on our travel as much as possible by meeting remotely and have instituted a carbon offset policy that seeks to mitigate the travel that we can’t eliminate. Our leadership team has made a number of decisions to alter their lifestyles in order to become better stewards of the natural world, from taking public transportation rather than driving to cutting out industrially-raised, carbon-intensive meat from our diet. As a team, we have seen that faithful stewardship and transformation go hand in hand.
Am I being the best steward of the limited financial and volunteer resources that we have as an organization? As the only full-time staff member of a small, nonprofit advocacy organization, I am daily aware of the need to be the best steward that I can possibly be both of our financial resources and of the more intangible, but no less important, resource of volunteer energy and passion. Having relied heavily on grants for the last several years, our steering committee has committed itself to the hard but necessary work of sustainable fundraising: communicating our mission in a winsome way, slowly cultivating relationships with donors, and building up our donor base. Thanks to a grant from the Lilly Foundation and the expertise of the Lake Institute, I am working toward an executive certificate in religious fundraising. Again, our team has seen that commitment to faithful stewardship leads to transformation.
And as I write this in late December, I’m thinking about another interpretation of the question: am I being the best steward of the story of the gospel that I can be? So much of our thinking and talking about stewardship is from an assumption of scarcity -- that there is a limited amount of time, energy, and money to go around, and that we must ration it as efficiently as possible in order to maximize its benefits. But the story of Christmas and God’s incarnation turns this assumption on its head. The kingdom of God operates inside of an economy not of scarcity but of abundance. It is out of the abundance of God’s love for his world that he empties himself, enters into it, and wrenches it around from the inside. It is the abundance of God’s love that overflows from the manger, from the cross, and from the empty tomb out into the world, bringing transformation to every corner of creation.
What does it mean to be the best steward possible of this story?
As followers of Christ, this is the story that we are invited into: the story that orients our entire lives. The stewardship of God’s gospel abundance is our life’s mission, and it looks a lot less like hoarding whatever we can get our hands on and calling it “frugality” or “prudence” or “stewardship,” and much more like taking every opportunity we have to give ourselves away. To give ourselves away in service and in love. To enter into God’s economy of abundance with our whole selves, and to expect transformation.
Kyle Meyaard-Schaap is the national organizer and spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. He lives in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife Allison.
Upcoming Stewardship Education
Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising: Luther Seminary, in partnership with the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving, is hosting a four-day intensive course, May 1-4, 2017. For more information visit: Lake Institute or Lifelong Learning.
Lakeside will present the Generosity and Stewardship Conference on August 6-9, 2017. Major keynote speakers include: The Rev. Dr. Clayton Smith, Executive Pastor of Generosity at Church of the Resurrection, J. Clif Christopher, author and founder of Horizon and Bishop Ivan Abraham, former Presiding Bishop of Methodist Church in Southern Africa. Lakeside Chautauqua is located in Ohio along Lake Erie with a beautiful backdrop of spiritual opportunities, educational lectures, cultural arts performances and recreational activities. www.lakesideohio.com/generosity