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Three Thoughts on Stewardship

A forward-thinking editor would have organized an article for this Election Day that somehow connected stewardship and politics. Whoops! I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that you may be happy to avoid election coverage in your weekly stewardship email. If so, I have some good news: today’s fine post by Hans Dahl is not election-related! So, take a break from the coverage, and vote for stewardship.

If, however, you’re at your political wits’ end, here’s a “Prayer at the Time of an Election from the Book of Common Worship.

Under your law we live, great God, and by your will we govern ourselves. Help us as good citizens to respect neighbors whose views differ from ours, so that without partisan anger, we may work out issues that divide us, and elect candidates to serve the common welfare; through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders

Three Thoughts on Stewardship
Why? How much? And a “New Attitude”

Hans Dahl

Faithful stewardship today demands we answer two uncomfortable questions and change our attitudes.

The first question we have to answer for our people is: “Why should I give to the church?”

We’re not taught to answer this question in seminary, but answers like “because the Bible says you should tithe” don’t go very far today.

There’s an old stewardship joke that goes something like this: the church doesn’t have a money issue. The church has plenty of money -- it’s just stuck in peoples’ pockets. You’ve heard this, right? Well, the truth is I don’t believe it in the least. 

I find that the people of our churches are very generous. I live in Alexandria, Minnesota where our community had a vision for a new YMCA and the community contributed out $10 million. We dreamed of a new school, and our community voted to build an $80 million high school. When our historical society decided the giant statue of the Norwegian Viking “Big Ole” needed a facelift, $37,000 in donations was raised in a matter of weeks. Our people are generous! The problem isn’t that our people aren’t generous. The problem is that we make an assumption that people will and should give to the church even without us telling them why.

Why should someone give to the church you serve? It’s a bit of an uncomfortable question. But, when our YMCA explained the difference the Y would make, and our school district explained what a new school would do for our community, and it was made clear why “Big Ole” needed a little work, people of our community gave generously.  Today, you need to answer this question for your congregation: “Why should I give to the church?” What do you believe God is calling your church to do and be in the world? What difference does your church make? Your members want to be part of a church that is making a difference in the world -- let them!

The second uncomfortable question we’ve got to help people answer is: “How much should I give?”

Few in your church know what a tithe is. American Christians on average give 2-3% of their wealth, and 85% of American Christians believe they don’t have enough to share generously.

I’ve decided I have to tell my congregation what I give. I tell our congregation my commitment every year; I tell my stewardship story, and I invite others to share theirs. It’s powerful! We hand out giving charts and challenge people to grow their giving by a percentage. We gave every household a book about stewardship.  Help people answer “How much should I give?”

Finally, our congregations need a new stewardship attitude.

God has blessed us with more than enough. Even if your congregation’s checkbook looks a little bleak in the summer months, you know we have a God of abundance -- we just forget this sometimes. Our congregations get lulled into believing we are lacking, and a church-wide depression sets in. We need a new attitude. We need to move our thinking from scarcity to abundance. Shift your church culture from “not enough” to “more than enough.” From the “glass is half empty” to the “glass is overflowing.”

I invite you to brag -- yes, brag -- about all God is doing through your church. When the youth raise a couple thousand dollars for a youth trip, announce it boldly and talk about the lives changed through our youth ministries. Celebrate! Hand out grocery bags to everyone in church and ask them to bring them back the next Sunday filled with canned goods for your local food shelf. And when they do, celebrate like crazy. Before your quilters send off their quilts, drape them all over the sanctuary and talk about how you’re making a difference around the world! Learn how to celebrate. It will change your church. Celebrate God’s abundance and your congregation’s attitude about money will change, guaranteed! 

For More Information

Hans Dahl serves as the Lead Pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church in Alexandria, MN.

Check out Hans Dahl's previous post: "They Don't Know What They Don't Know"

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

"Love Offering" image by Naomi King. Creative Commons image on Flickr.

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