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Students at commencement

Vibrant Stewardship

Augustana Lutheran Church

Location: West St. Paul, Minn.
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Size: 2225 baptized members

 Download Augustana Lutheran's VCP report or see report contents below:

Ministry context

The ministry of Augustana began on South Robert Street a little more than 100 years ago and has experienced slow, fairly steady growth and change throughout its years. Augustana is known for a long history of generous giving (top 10 in the ELCA for benevolence giving for many years). The congregation demonstrates a commitment to providing meaningful, Christ-centered worship, mission opportunities to serve globally and locally, and the chance to build deeper relationships with other Christians. The challenge Augustana faces is to nurture the stewardship perspectives and giving habits of the “next generation” of stewards.

We are a Regional church drawing members from the communities surrounding West St Paul. These areas are generally experiencing a 0% growth rate. The membership consists of roughly 34% children & youth, 15% 20’s & 30’s, 29% 40’s & 50’s, and 22% 60+. The average age in the congregation is 37.

Pre-existing practices

1. Strong Emphasis on Mission and Ministry

Our mission statement is: Seeking to grow in faith, we proclaim, celebrate and share Jesus Christ with all. Parishioners acknowledge that impactful sermons and hearing testimonies of giving by members are ways that Augustana emphasizes mission and ministry. There is a shared perception that Augustana appropriately balances an emphasis on the financial needs of the congregation with the opportunities and accomplishments of ministries.

2. Leaders are Transparent and Trusted

Overwhelmingly, Augustana members say that they trust church leaders to manage money responsibly. 80% of the members responding to a survey indicate that they “give in response to all God has entrusted to us.” Parishioners say that the Pastors lead by example and talk about their own giving.

3. Stewardship Messages are Clearly Communicated

Money is talked about openly and with gratitude. There is a strong sense of what our faith tradition expects regarding giving. The vast majority of the congregation says that they know how money is being spent. Almost 90% of members responding to a survey said that they remember specific stories about how giving furthers mission and ministry. Every year, there are visible examples of situations where a need is made real and money follows.

4. Community of Givers

There is a strong sense among members that they belong to a giving community and they want to do their part. Augustana has a long history of visible commitment to local and global communities. People feel like they are asked directly to give and to be generous. Most members recall stories of faith and generosity from lay people that evoke specific images and that speak to their hearts.

Discoveries from listening process

1. Validation of Things we Knew about Ourselves

The listening process validated a few things we thought we knew about ourselves:

  • Members trust and hold in high regard past and present leadership (both lay and pastoral). During the last 10 years, Augustana has experienced a smooth Senior Pastor transition, a large building expansion project including two successful capital appeals, and fairly steady growth in stewardship giving.
  • Augustana has a proud history of being “ridiculously generous.” Giving is part of Augustana’s narrative with decades of stories that reinforce a culture of abundance.
  • Mission and vision are the driving factors behind the generosity of Augustana.
  • People are repeatedly moved by stories told by pastors, members, and the people we serve. Communication around mission and vision is intentional and well done.
  • Money is spoken about regularly and people see where money is spent with a focus on the results of generosity. 

2. Need for More Direction and Biblical Context for Relationship with Money and Giving

We discovered that people are looking for more direction and biblical context for their relationship with money and giving. Members respond to targeted opportunities for giving and don’t necessarily have a biblical perspective on stewardship. In particular, the generations that come after the Baby Boomers are lacking a “whole stewardship” perspective and are interested in growing their giving.

Opportunities for growth

1. How do we Nurture the Stewardship Perspectives and Giving Habits of the “Next Generation” of Stewards at Augustana?

2. How do we Enrich the Biblical Framework for our Culture of Generosity and Gratitude?

3. How do we Offer Useful Resources to Help Congregants with Personal Money Management?

Experiments undertaken

1. Being a well Rounded Steward

Create a “Whole Steward” calendar as a centerpiece for encouraging year-round and holistic stewardship. Highlight six aspects of stewardship that are reinforced thematically throughout the year and across existing and new activities: Mind, Body, Spirit; Personal Relationships; Giving; Growing Community Partnerships; Caring & Serving; Gratitude; and Earth-keeping. The whole steward concept will come to life as a stand-alone calendar, messages in the newsletter and through social media, a way to highlight ministry activities, an organizing mechanism for the annual stewardship fair, and as a piece of the Building Blocks of Faith stewardship 2012 campaign.

We are hoping to educate the congregation that EVERYTHING they do is a result of a gift from a good and gracious God. Our hope is that members will realize that there is hard work and intentional planning to be a good steward of their health, for example. There are many steps to take to become healthy. Once they realize this for something tangible like health, they will also realize that there are many steps and intentionality required to become a good financial steward as well. Initially, measurement will be from casual conversations evaluating changing attitudes toward the meaning of stewardship.

2. Having a Healthy Relationship with Money

Create Augustana’s version of the Money Autobiography to be introduced in groups and integrated into activities and conversation through:

  • Individual reflection
  • Panel discussions in Adult Forum
  • Share autobiography stories in Augustana staff, Church Council, and Stewardship Committee meetings
  • Share autobiographies in small group ministries
  • Integrate money autobiography discussion in youth ministry
  • Share the tool and encourage discussion through social media – such as the website, Facebook, YouTube,
    Integrate money autobiography discussions into the annual stewardship campaign

Offer Financial Peace University courses to members – particularly to young families. Personally invite members to participate in the initial course and to facilitate future courses. The biblical framework of these sessions provide meaning for how members spend, save and give and also contribute to the goal of reaching "the whole steward." "Financial Snapshots" provided by FPU can be filled out 3 times over the course of the class and will provide a means to measure the impact of the class. In addition, we will ask participants to share the impact of the experience.

We want members to understand what it means to have a healthy relationship with money. That needs to start with understanding how you feel about money and then offering a method for helping members manage money responsibly.

3. Living in Gratitude 

  • As we move to the narrative lectionary this year, highlight gratitude through messaging monthly themes that align with the lectionary.
  • Focus on gratitude as one of the six aspects of stewardship identified in the Whole Steward calendar. Incorporate expanding our culture of gratitude into the strategic roadmap (as part of our ongoing strategic planning process).
  • Explore the formation of a Gratitude Team to more intentionally focus on shaping a culture of gratitude. Focus on gratitude as one of the six aspects of stewardship identified in the Whole Steward calendar.
Once members begin to focus on what they have versus what they don’t have, they will feel the freedom to give to the church in order to further God’s work in the world. Living in gratitude helps people evaluate their lifestyle and simplify. We hope to measure progress by noticing less talk about what people lack and more talk of what they have.