Ask, Thank, Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation
- Author: Charles R. Lane serves as director for Stewardship Key Leaders Program for the ELCA. Prior to that he served as a pastor of three congregations and on synod staff.
- Updated: 10/15/2008
- ISBN: 0-8066-5263-2
- Copyright: Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis
The author advocates a biblically-based primary relationship with Jesus Christ that includes open, basic, plain and on-going talk about money.
The emphasis is on mission, not maintenance; discipleship not membership; the giver's need to give, not the church's need to receive.
Ask, Thank, Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation
Ask, Thank, Tell by Pastor Charles Lane, is a straightforward, easy-to-read stewardship guide that ought to be placed in the hands of every seminarian, pastor and congregation leader. Lane gives biblically grounded practical advice that, if followed, would transform the church. The emphasis is on mission, not maintenance; discipleship not membership; the giver's need to give, not the church's need to receive. The author challenges the unbiblical taboos that produce a "conspiracy of silence about money ... money as a private topic" and the separation of the "financial life from the spiritual life" of the congregation. He calls upon pastors to be stewardship leaders.
The author advocates a biblically-based primary relationship with Jesus Christ that includes open, basic, plain and on-going talk about money. Lane insists that this must occur for the spiritual health of people. "Each worshipper needs help in considering his/her finances in the light of his/her relationship with Jesus. Each worshipper needs to give generously of that which God has entrusted to them."
The last chapters of the book suggest practical and helpful ways to structure a congregation's ministry focusing on the words, "ask, thank, tell."
The first four chapters are Biblical teaching prescriptions that undergird congregational practices.
Chapter 1 - Discipleship, Not Membership
The author claims that stewardship ministry is first and foremost about making and growing disciples. He states, "The goal of stewardship ministry is to help God's people grow in their relationship with Jesus through the use of the time, talents and finances God has entrusted to them."
The biblically-grounded goal is not to "raise money to pay the bills next year." The entire focus is on "the giver's need to give," which grows out of a relationship with Jesus.
Chapter 2 - It All Belongs to God
A study of Scripture reveals truths that are cornerstones of everything we have to say about stewardship.
We are stewards not owners. God does not transfer anything to us. God continues to own it all. We have the privilege and responsibility to care for that which belongs to God.
By global standards, most of us are wealthy. We, however, are not the source of our wealth. The proper response is not to congratulate ourselves but to "give God the glory and the thanks, and to ask serious questions about how I am called to use what God has entrusted to me."
The fact that we are stewards is a reason to celebrate. God honors us by giving us that identity. God provides "all the resources we need to accomplish the mission to which God has called us." We serve a God of abundance, not of scarcity.
Stewardship leaders are called to help God's people know these truths and to invite them to live into them.
Chapter 3 - Money and Possession in the New Testament
The challenge is not money or possessions in themselves. The issue is that money and possessions pose a threat to a person's relationship with Jesus. This is why the New Testament is so concerned about money and possessions. Jesus wants nothing more than your heart.
The biblical call is to live the life of a steward, to recognize the duty of wealth and to give generously of that which God has entrusted to us.
Chapter 4 - Portrait of a Biblical Giver
Biblical givers possess six stewardship habits. Biblical givers are:
- Intentional -- They intentionally plan to give.
- Regular -- They follow a regular pattern of giving.
- Generous -- They are generous.
- First -- They give first of all they receive.
- Proportional -- They give in proportion to what they receive.
- Cheerful -- Those who practice the other values will become cheerful in their giving.
What people do with their money has a profound impact on their relationship with their Lord. Lane asserts, "If you grow in your giving, you will grow in your relationship with Jesus.
Chapter 5 - Practicing Biblical Stewardship
Two topics begin connecting biblical teaching with stewardship practices.
To help people to grow in their relationship with Jesus we need to talk plainly about money. Jesus talked a lot about money. We need to emulate Jesus. Jesus and the authors of the New Testament understood that money is a huge issue in people's relationship with the Lord.
Reluctance to talk about money is a huge roadblock in the stewardship ministry in many congregations. Lane challenges two taboos. First, "money is a private topic and no one else's business." The second is, "the financial life of the congregation is separate from the spiritual life of the congregation."
One of the consequences of these taboos is that many congregations "don't want their pastor to be involved in either stewardship ministry or the financial life of the congregation."
Lane insists that because the financial part of our lives has a direct impact on our relationship with Jesus, the pastor needs, for the well-being of the people served, to be a stewardship leader. "Money is not only an appropriate but a necessary topic of conversation." Stewardship leaders need to lead in this regard.
Chapters 6 to 10 focus on the stewardship practices in congregations that encourage congregants to follow biblical teaching. They are practical, hands-on advice from a pastor who has gained wisdom from years of experience in congregations.
Three key verbs suggest the way to structure a congregation's ministry:
- Ask: Describe ways to ask people to consider blessings God has entrusted to them and how they feel called to respond through generous giving.
- Thank: Describe the importance of and how to encourage and show appreciation.
- Tell: Suggest ways to make the congregation aware of the results of the work they do together.
Chapter 6 - Ask: The Annual Response Program
Lane considers this the cornerstone work of a congregation's stewardship ministry. There are many practical and helpful suggestions. The author cautions that while this is the greatest opportunity to focus on the biblical teachings discussed earlier, it is here where the greatest threat to abandoning those teachings occurs.
Chapter 7 - Ask: Making the Pie Larger
Helpful and thoughtful advice is offered regarding when, how often and how to ask for special offerings and conduct capital funds appeals.
Chapter 8 - Improving How We Ask
The author proposes alternatives on how to ask and who does the asking. The author encourages the asking of a basic stewardship leadership question: "What can we do to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through their stewardship?" We need to focus on what will be best for the givers.
Chapter 9 -Thank
This is basic. We cannot "over-thank." We need to create a culture of thanksgiving. This chapter provides a list of steps that can be taken to accomplish this.
Chapter 10 - Tell
People want to know their giving makes a difference. The story needs to be told. Testimony of how God's spirit is present must be shared. This chapter gives suggestions on how to tell the mission story.
Chapter 11 - Organizing for your Stewardship Ministry
Pastor Lane encourages stewardship ministry teams to form into three work groups around the three stewardship ministry tasks, "ask, thank, tell."
Lane concludes by reflecting on one of his favorite stewardship stories, Charles Dickens's, A Christmas Carol. The central drama is the change that occurs in Ebenezer Scrooge. He envisions similar changes in a church among people who, like Scrooge, have discovered the radical truth of Jesus' words, "Where your treasure is, there is your heart also."
Lane writes, "I do have a vision of people in your congregation whose generosity grows by leaps and bounds, and who discover that this generosity has indeed led their heart to Jesus. I do have a vision of people chuckling, or at least smiling, as they drop their offering into the plate on Sunday morning."
-- Reviewed by Jerry Hoffman
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