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Stewardship: A Way of Doing Parish Ministry

The author proposes how she as a stewardship leader will lead. Her paper is organized around six themes:  

  • Vision of Vibrant Stewardship Congregation
  • Core Biblical and Theological Perspectives
  • Personal Embodiment  
  • Leadership Initiatives
  • Collaboration
  • 5 Year Stewardship Plan

Stewardship:A Way of Doing Parish Ministry
By Valorie Putt

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
hat are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?  
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.  
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet.
Psalm 8:3-6 (NRSV)


Any conversation about stewardship must first begin with a statement about who God is and what God is and has been doing throughout history -- past, present and future. First we must understand that from the very beginning of the story of the human family, God has been at work loving, caring and providing for everything we need. It is God's intention that we should live well, surrounded by and provided for out of the abundance of God's creation. In fact, God has provided so richly that God gave us Sabbath, which according to Walter Brueggemann can be translated as "there's enough bread, we don't have to hustle every day of our lives."  

Psalm 8 beckons us to imagine the majesty of creation; the creation that God called good and very good. The Lord God created order out of chaos, separated light from dark and water from dry land, called up the mountains, created plants, animals, fish and birds of every kind so that everyone, everywhere can eat, work, make babies, live and laugh, and love one another and God.  

Then the singer invites us to consider where God put us mere mortals in relation to the created universe and the Creator -- we have been crowned with glory and honor!  

And in true biblical wisdom, what mortals think it means to be so crowned gets turned upside down. Ruling over and having dominion in God's universe does not look like the lifestyles of the rich and famous. In God's universe, being crowned with glory and honor and having all things under our feet looks more like a shepherd or a servant. Our crown is that God trusts us with the creation God called good and very good!  

As a future leader in the church, which is the Body of Christ on earth, I will be entrusted with the responsibility to lead and guide a particular people into living fully and confidently as Christian stewards -- servants of God and shepherds of God's blessings, which includes our neighbors, near and far. To do that well, I must be able to:

  • identify myself as a "steward" and "leader";
  • faithfully communicate core biblical and theological perspectives regarding money and faith in all aspects of life;
  • articulate a theology of money;
  • understand stewardship as a pastoral care issue;
  • embody beliefs and messages into core personal practices;
  • propose strategies to transform a financially dysfunctional congregation into a healthy, generous and missional congregation over a five year period;
  • utilize financial tools such as planning, budgets, financial reports;
  • identify the leadership gifts and skills needed for the task of transforming stewardship.

In this article, I will propose means to reach these goals. To that end, the paper will be organized around six themes:  

  • Vision of Vibrant Stewardship Congregation
  • Core Biblical and Theological Perspectives
  • Personal Embodiment  
  • Leadership Initiatives
  • Collaboration
  • 5 Year Stewardship Plan

Vision of Vibrant Stewardship Congregation

My vision of what a vibrant stewardship congregation looks like would be one in which I am constantly surprised by God's abundance.  --Ethan Hulme, seminary classmate

Stirring up the vision of vibrant stewardship congregation is starting with equipping true identity of stewards about money. - Chongsun Kim, seminary classmate

If you don't think you can make a difference, just think what one mosquito makes when it is with you in bed. - Unknown

I believe that God wants us to dream with the money that God has given us.  God wants us to dream because dreams are the fuel for creativity and life.  Dreams are the product of hope and without hope there would be no life. -- Courtney Young, seminary classmate

Imagine a congregation that knows the difference between a Theology of Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity. Oh the things they would do! The joy they would have in giving themselves -- their time, their talents and their treasures -- away for the sake of the world! This would be a congregation that dared to dream and imagine a future that seems impossible by human standards.

First, this would be a people who kept the Sabbath as God intended. This would be a day of vibrant worship, a day of ascribing value and worth to God, a day free from laboring for "daily bread." Believing that God always provides enough would give them cause for great thanksgiving.
Secondly, out of all the activities that a part and parcel of being the church, one of the characteristics of this congregation would be taking the message of God's enoughness -- enough grace, enough forgiveness, enough hope, enough provision, enough love, enough safety, enough compassion, enough comfort, enough friendship - to others.  Sometimes the message would be shared with words, other times it would take the form of a warm blanket and sometimes it would be the presence of a listening ear. This people would do these in great globby groups and simple solitary singles. They would do it by invitation. They would do it unawares. Sharing the abundance of God's enough would be part of their DNA.

Finally, this would be a congregation that was wise, wise, wise about the blessings of financial wealth. Talking about money and how it is used in the church and in the private lives of disciples would be as normal and necessary and expected as talking about prayer or baptism. It would not be the first thing on the council agenda because money would be seen as a tool to help them do God's mission. God's mission is to love and bless and save the world. Money is one of the many resources needed to help God do this. They would be careful, diligent and resourceful stewards so that the greatest amount possible of this blessing could be put to use for God's mission.

Core Biblical and Theological Perspectives

The question is not, how much of what is mine do I give to others. The question is:  how much of what is God's do I reserve for myself. The answer we give is a faith issue, a stewardship issue.
- William Avery

Jesus spent a great deal of time establishing that our relationship to the material world has strong spiritual implications. Seventeen of the thirty-eight parables are about possessions. Of the number of various topics mentioned in the Bible:

  • Believe(ers/ing) appears 272 times.
  • Prayer appears 372 times.
  • Love or loving appear 714 times.
  • Possessions or giving appear 2,172 times.

Assigning value to things and people is no longer a matter of human control or magic but is an essential part of God's created order.....What we are worth has nothing to do with how much money we have but is based instead on Jesus Christ's complete love for us. -- Scott Thalacker, seminary classmate

There is no getting around it; God, in the Old Testament, demands and commands a tithe from God's people (Deuteronomy 14.22). The tithes of the first fruits brought to the altar were for the support of the priestly class while the tithes of the field were for gleaners (Deuteronomy 26.12). Jesus, on the other hand, demands everything (Luke 14.33). From a biblical perspective, God thinks of everything that we have and everything that we are as God's gifts to us. Further, God expects us to share those gifts (Mark 10.21). And, God wants us to do this sharing with a glad and joyful heart (2 Corinthians 9.7) for the sake of love (1 Corinthians 13.3).

Our first language of faith, the Bible, also teaches us that God is faithful and has created a world where there is enough. Sharing, tithing, giving back to God... whatever way we choose to describe it, is our way of saying, "Yes, God, we trust your promises." We share because it is good for us -- our faith and trust in God deepens and grows. We share because it is good for our neighbor -- their children do not go to bed hungry and we become the answer to their prayers and they learn to trust God too.    
Finally our faith in Jesus teaches us that our real worth and value is not tied to things we can loose or break. What makes us without compare is Christ's love for us. It is a grand privilege to share this news with everyone we meet. Stewardship makes it possible.

Personal Embodiment

Stewardship is everything you do after you say yes to Jesus Christ. - Clarence Staughton

Example is not the main thing in influencing others.  It is the only thing. -- Albert Schweitzer

What does it personally mean for me to share of my time, talent, and treasure? It means not only that I myself am a wise steward of these and model these as a public leader, but also that my marriage and family's values reflect the biblical and Christ-filled teachings of the joys of sacrificial giving, wise saving, and appropriate spending to the glory of God. -- Angela Fairbanks, classmate

If I were the sort of person I would really like to be, then what would I do? -Mark Allan Powell

These wise and faithful stewards have said it all! And they have said it well! It is clearer than ever before that stewardship is a matter of faith and that it must be led by example. Not that it works well in any other setting, but it is certainly not possible to lead a people in becoming a vibrant stewardship congregation with a "do as I say not as I do" mentality. The pastor who wants to be an effective stewardship leader must talk the talk AND walk the walk.

Furthermore, I want to be the kind of person that is generous with financial wealth! As a result of this class I feel more confident and competent that I can and will embody the biblical values of sharing, saving and spending as a wise and faithful steward. Imagining a future that includes paying back student loans and providing for my family and feeding hungry people and saving a little for emergencies  means believing that God will provide a way for me to respond to God's call. Indeed, God already is!

Leadership Initiative

Stewardship should include social, political, and economic justice as well as looking after creation in general and particularly for the church such distinctiveness is expected to be very visible.
-- Mesfin Ayele, seminary classmate

One of the keys in ministry and money is when the church asks the Holy Spirit to guide them into God's mission.  It is exciting when we invite God to enter in our planning and the budgeting process. -Denise Rakotozafy, seminary classmate

Stewardship is much more than tithing or giving money to the church, it's a way of life that reflects our relationship with God. -Tony Fair, seminary classmate of now money is ... taboo....  Breaking these barriers is clearly the way to help with these issues.  --Gregory Ennis, seminary classmate

I think that the church's fear of discussing matters of money and global mission actually provide an opportunity for increased discourse and a new climate of free talk about stewardship.
-James Bixby, seminary classmate

As it is true in almost all areas of a congregation's life, the pastor has to have more than a simply proactive role or giving the "green light" for certain things to take hold, to move forward and to happen. Nowhere is this truer than in stewardship. If the pastor is not leading the congregation to experience stewardship as a way of life, it is a given that it is not going to happen. Stewardship leadership is not for wimps!  Pastoral leadership will require initiative (and wisdom, patience, fortitude, grace, trust, and a collaborative spirit too).

The stewardship of the church should be distinctive; it should reflect our core Christian values and beliefs. Some congregations do much work in the social justice arena and never pause to consider where God is in all that they do. Some congregations spend all their time figuring out what God is up to but never actually get involved with being active in it. It takes strong and capable leadership to lead a church into harmonizing these two aspects so that stewardship is understood to be not just about money, but a reflection of our whole relationship with God.

There a few specific initiatives that pastoral leaders will most likely need to implement.    

  • Financial giving is a spiritual matter and that makes it a pastoral care issue. This means that the pastor needs to know who is giving and who is not and when the pattern changes.  It may take a pastor a long time and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to build up the trust of the finance people in the congregation to get access to this information.
  • People need to be asked to give money. This can be difficult since some, sometimes a lot, of what is asked for and given goes right into the pocket of the pastor. Even so, the mission will not grow without financial support. People must be asked; often as individuals.
  • The pastoral leader needs to be able to talk openly about their giving. This may take much grace on both sides.
  • Money is important, but it is not the mission of God or the purpose of the church. The pastoral leader may need to take the initiative to move the treasurer's report to reflect its proper role in God's mission. Probably it would be a good idea to do some preparation with preaching, teaching, prayer and fierce listening.
  • All financial dealings need to be transparent. For the sake of the leaders responsible for handling money directly and for the sake of the congregation's ability to build trust in the financial leaders, the issues of risk management need to be addressed.  


All the leaders of this congregation must be willing to give generous amounts of time, self and money to develop the mission in this place. Without such resources the congregation cannot move forward, and without this modeling others will not follow. -- Rev. Michael Meier

When doing visioning, financial or other types, the big question that should be asked is: What is God doing in this place at this time, and how can I/we participate in that?
-- Ann Zastrow, seminary classmate

The pastor would be fighting a losing battle were they to ignore the vast wealth of talent and passion in the people around them. -- Nancy Quatier, seminary classmate

This is my favorite part! I love to invite people to be collaborators and I am pretty good at it too. Inspiring disciples to be co-creators around the issue of stewardship as a way of life, as a way of being the church -- well, I do not see how it can get any better than this. This combines all the things I love best:  building relationships with people; digging into scripture; connecting worship on Sunday to work on Monday; growing in faith and love toward God in a community; and dreaming, scheming and imagining new ways to "ask, thank and tell."

This aspect of leading a congregation is the make or break point in becoming a vibrant stewardship congregation. The most inspiring teaching and preaching about stewardship will have little or no affect if people are not invited to DO stewardship with the pastor. This is also true about personal embodiment, leadership initiatives and even 5 year plans. The pastor who tries to do it alone will be like an airline pilot trying to also be the load master, navigator, co-pilot, flight attendants, ticket agents, baggage crew, ground crew, air traffic control, and the FFA. How absurd!    

A Five Year Plan

Getting people to give is simple. Thank them. --Joseph Midthun, seminary classmate

The days of parishioners carrying their checkbooks to services are quickly evaporating but that doesn't mean we should abandon the historical benefit of structured giving environments, they just need to be re-envisioned. -- Peter Christ, seminary classmate

Jesus was not a fund raiser. He talked about money a lot, not because he wanted people to give money to any particular cause. He talked about money because he cared about us and because he knew that what we do with our money affects who we are spiritually. -Mark Allan Powell  

Do everything you can to be interesting. -Charles Lane

Part of our final assignment is to lay out a plan for leading and guiding a congregation from a dysfunctional picture of stewardship into a congregation of vibrant stewardship disciples. Besides all of the wonderful insights and resources we have been blessed with in this class, one of the enduring beliefs I leave this class with is that being a vibrant stewardship leader is largely an art form. Much of what we will need to do as pastoral leaders is determine the right time. And yet, as Pastor Bob Winkel often says, "It's not our job to come with a plan carved into stone. Neither should we come empty-handed or empty-headed!" So, along with all the above "stuff" I offer a brief outline of what a 5 year plan might look like if and when I am called to serve a congregation.

Year 1

  • Fall in love with the congregation
  • Pray for each and every member and ministry
  • Listen to the stories of the people
  • Cast a vision -- Preach Theology of Abundance
  • Invite them to dream about the future
  • Invite people to specific ministry involvements
  • Thank them for welcoming you (even if they were mostly cold fish)
  • Read one good book about stewardship
  • Find a stewardship mentor/prayer partner

    Year 2
  • Keep doing everything from Year 1
  • Preach and Teach stewardship-- let the scripture do the work!
  • Name and Identify the Myth of Scarcity
  • Stewardship is a spiritual matter
  • Stewardship is a way of life
  • Stewardship is a pastoral care issue
  • Begin implementing Leadership Initiatives
  • Begin implementing an Ask, Thank, Tell "mentality" in all publications
  • Build or support an intentional prayer ministry
  • Celebrate vocations as calls
  • Thank people for everything they do -- personal notes - get someone to help with this

Year 3

  • Keep doing everything from Year 1 and 2
  • Evaluate and modify plan
  • Begin to identify stewardship collaborators -- give them all one good stewardship book to read
  • Invite collaborators to a retreat
  • Begin a conversation about a formal stewardship "campaign"
  • Implement an annual Stewardship "Campaign" -- Ask, Thank, Tell
  • Invite people to identify their Spiritual Gifts -- find a way to immediately free each person into at  least one area of ministry

Year 4

  • Keep doing everything from Years 1, 2 and 3
  • Equip a team to host a Ministry Fair
  • Invite council and all leaders and interested people to an evening of "Imagining the Future"
  • Equip council to develop the "imaginings" into ministry goals
  • Equip ministry teams and task forces to implement the goals
  • Increase Giving Opportunities

Year 5

  • Rinse and Repeat . . .
  • Make Financial Coaches and Money Management Classes available to  disciples (hopefully this will have been a grass roots request prior to year 5!)
  • Celebrate!  You are still here -- something must be working.




Valorie Putt wrote this paper for a course, Money and the Mission of the Church, while in her second year at Luther Seminary.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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