Story Magazine - Third Quarter, 2008

Incarnation Lutheran Committed to Nurturing Culture of Stewardship

by Shelley Cunningham, '97, M.Div.

Glenn Taibl, '72, spends 50 percent of his time fostering stewardship at Incarnation Lutheran.

Where does a generous spirit come from?

In some people, it's a natural part of who they are. But for many, it is cultivated--through example, encouragement and time. Rev. Glenn Taibl, '72, of Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview, Minn., sees the congregation as a primary means by which those spirits can be nurtured. His call as pastor for stewardship ministries reflects his--and his church's--commitment to that work.

Focus on stewardship

Incarnation's senior pastor, Gary Medin, '78, created a staff position dedicated to issues of giving and stewardship about a year ago. 

The call was crafted so that in addition to preaching and pastoral care, more than 50 percent of Taibl's time is spent on stewardship issues. "I see this as an emerging position, that more and more congregations will be [staffing like] this," Taibl said. 

The call is a perfect fit for Taibl's gifts and passions in ministry. He spent 26 years as a parish pastor before joining the staff of Luther Seminary's Office of Seminary Relations as a philanthropic adviser. There, it was his goal to develop relationships with donors and encourage them to financially support the seminary. But after eight years at the seminary, he felt God calling him back into the parish. 

"In the  course of my career [at Luther] I met some incredibly beautiful, generous people," Taibl said. "When I'd ask them, 'Where did you learn generosity?' most would point to something that had happened in their home--from watching their parents or grandparents and absorbing the attitude with which they gave.

Creating imagination

"Sometimes I'd visit someone who had a big capacity to give--lots of money, plenty of interest, but they didn't have that DNA of generosity.  They couldn't imagine letting go of what they had. I'd walk away wondering, who is  going to lead them into that imagination?" 

Taibl's role at Incarnation is to help let loose that imagination. "We probably have 10 to 20 percent of our people who live out of this spirit of generosity. My goal is to intentionally try to open that up for a few more people every year."

This happens, he says, by building relationships. Though Taibl has only been on staff at Incarnation for a year, he and his wife, Rebecca, have been members for close to a decade. The relationships he established over time have helped him in earning the trust it takes to begin these conversations.

"When I meet with people, I start by telling them I'm not trying to solicit them into giving more money to our church. I just want to talk with them about what it means to live richly out
of God's abundance.We talk about their faith story and what brought them to this place, what their values are, and what and who shaped those values."

Broadened horizons

Since not everyone is ready to sit down for a one-on-one conversation, Taibl is developing programs that make stewardship a broader part of the culture at Incarnation. He has developed a personal financial management group, classes for teens and young adults, and a series of "talkback sessions" focused on money and faith. He's encouraged by an overwhelmingly positive response from the congregation. 

"When you start to talk about faith and money, you really do stir up the bottom. But we have to start these conversations for things to bring about change." 

He's also the first to admit that his time cultivating relationships for Luther Seminary has been an incredible asset, both professionally and personally. 

"I have learned a great deal from the generosity of the people who support the school. Their vision and hope for the future is something that inspires me to be generous." 

Taibl subscribes to author Mark Taylor's definition of stewardship as "the organizing of our lives so that we can give ourselves away."

"It's really the management of our lives with Jesus at the center," he said, "especially how it impacts our relationship to God, others, ourselves and creation. When we become givers, we are opened up to a whole new dimension of the faith journey.  That's what I want to help people discover for themselves."