Story Magazine - Second Quarter, 2007
Filling the Stewardship Education Gap
by Maria Thompson, Director of Communication
Stewardship is the management of life with Christ at the center," said Pastor Glenn Taibl, Pastor and former Philanthropic Advisor at Luther Seminary, who led the seminary's stewardship education program from its beginnings in 2000. "Luther Seminary's mission statement says that we educate leaders for Christian communities and I think that stewardship is an important part of that."
Congregations expect pastors to be strong stewardship leaders. Stewardship must be learned, however. Good stewardship leadership can help a congregation thrive. "What pastors do serves as a model and can encourage others," said Jerry Hoffman, Pastor and Director of the Center for Stewardship Leadership. "And it's not just about money. All we have is from God.We are entrusted with it--food, our bodies, opportunities, gifts, money. How we respond to that is a spiritual issue."
Luther Seminary's stewardship education programs are helping Christian leaders become good stewards of money, time, volunteers and other assets. The depth and breadth of Luther's commitment to stewardship education is unique within the ELCA and perhaps even more widely. The personal finance coaching program, in particular, gained recognition when it was featured in Smart Money Magazine in December 2006.
"Seminary students are not that different from other people their age," said Hoffman, noting that they often have a high degree of debt and aren't sure how to handle their finances. To address this, the seminary offers personal financial coaching for students. Currently, 45 volunteer coaches from outside the seminary work one-onone serving 61 students. The coaches help students to be faithful stewards, practice generosity, develop healthy money habits and exercise financial intelligence in managing their money. (The coaches do not provide financial advice or monetary support.)
In addition to coaching, the seminary also offers students a "Healthy Financial Habits for Seminarians" workshop in the fall and a "Running On Empty" workshop in March, along with a Good $ense budgeting course.
In addition to these efforts, the seminary also teaches students about generosity--something that, like good stewardship--doesn't always come naturally. The seminary works to place students in situations where they learn generosity and what it means to be focused outward. One example is the Blessings Squared event which gives scholarship recipients and the donors who sponsor them time share a meal and worship.
Once in congregations and communities, graduates can take advantage of a number of educational opportunities in stewardship offered by Luther Seminary. This includes working one-on-one in self-study, enrolling in continuing education classes through the seminary's Kairos program and using the extremely popular Stewardship in the 21st Century Web site www.luthersem.edu/stewardship.
Stewardship in the 21st Century
The stewardship Web site is designed to connect individuals and congregations to resources that develop their call to stewardship. It includes a variety of free stewardship-related resources including sermons, book reviews and a weekly e-mail newsletter. The site also offers Living in Abundance materials written by Luther Seminary professors for stewardship education in congregations.
"We have been blessed with generous donors--themselves good stewards--who have invested in stewardship education at Luther Seminary," said Kathy Hansen, Vice President for Seminary Relations. "They understand that their gifts can be multiplied by helping to educate students at Luther Seminary who will graduate and serve congregations, touching thousands of lives throughout their ministries. Think of the impact this stewardship education program will have throughout the church!"
Luther Seminary's work in stewardship education began nearly 20 years ago with a gift that allowed the seminary to create The Stewardship Council, which provided regular workshops on stewardship for students. In 2000, the program took another leap forward with a gift of $200,000, allowing the seminary to sponsor a major stewardship education event for recent Master of Divinity graduates and their spouses. In subsequent years, donors have added to the fund. Recently, a couple who wishes to remain anonymous pledged to match 1.25 million in gifts, provided that $1.25 million is raised from other donors. Luther Seminary must raise the matching gifts by Dec. 31, 2007. When combined with existing stewardship funds, the seminary will have a permanent $3 million endowment to support ongoing stewardship education.