Well, we’re three days into 2017. How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? My gym is bustling with new members, but come late February…well, if last year is any guide, it’ll again be much easier to find an open treadmill.
In this week’s newsletter, Bailey Walter shares her stewardship resolutions for 2017. As she notes, though, they’ll all take a dedicated focus over time. Even as it’s wise to approach it anew, the work of stewardship is, as always, holistic, communal, and year-round.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Each year I make my (somewhat rote) list of resolutions, filled with the things I never got around to the year before: eat more vegetables, exercise more, pray more, and budget. A quick Google search tells me that I’m not alone: “spend less, save more” seems to be in the top three, after health and happiness.
This year, in an effort to end my practice of writing repetitive and rudimentary resolutions, I have decided to plan out how to actually achieve these goals. What is it about budgeting I really want to change? Through my work and study at a graduate school for theology in the area of economic challenges facing students, money and theology have come to have a real connection for me. So this year, my budgeting resolution is much more about financial stewardship than just spending less and saving more.
Here are some of my financial stewardship resolutions:
Understand Better the Relationship between Faith and Money
It is not often that I hear about money in my church, and the times that I do hear about it usually end with an ask for me to give my money. Gifts are important -- our churches and non-profits need money, after all -- but I’m rarely taught about how my faith and money are connected beyond giving to my church. I plan to read more on the subject of faith and finances to have a better grounding for myself on the subject and to help the students I work with to make similar connections. A few books on my shelf to read this year:
- Sharing Possessions: What Faith Demands by Timothy Luke Johnson (2011)
- Money, Sex, and Power: The Challenge of the Disciplined Life by Richard Foster (2009)
- A Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen (2011)
I usually budget my monthly spending based on my needs/wants with availability of funds. The more I have come to internalize a connection between money and my faith, the more I know that spending and saving goes beyond just myself and is also about the community and the common good. Some guiding questions for my budget:
- How am I financially supporting my own faith community? What other organizations to which I may contribute are fulfilling the world’s needs?
- Am I sorting my needs and wants correctly?
- Are the items I’m purchasing produced by workers being paid just and fair wages?
- Am I supporting my local community and businesses with my spending?
Talk About Money and Stewardship More
As Christian communities, we have to talk about money. It's often uncomfortable, but it is a substantial part of people’s lives that cannot go ignored. The better we understand money in light of our faith, the more relevant the topic becomes in our faith communities and becomes a normal part of community dialogue. Here are some small ways I plan to contribute to the conversation:
- In my workplace, I can be more open to talking about budgets and evaluate spending more often.
- In my home, I can communicate more about my budgeting goals with those who share my household.
- In my church community, I can help others understand their own financial stewardship practices, and I can become aware of how my own faith community is being a good steward of its resources.
- Lastly, I recognize the privilege in being able to make the choices in how I spend my income. This discussion also allows me to be a voice for those who struggle financially to fulfill even their basic human needs and fight injustices that sustain poverty.
While I don’t expect to be a perfect steward of my finances by next December, I do hope that when I write my resolutions for 2018 I can reflect on a year of being a better steward of God’s gifts in my life.
Bailey Walter is a graduate of and currently on the staff of Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, MN. She is the coordinator for the work of the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Upcoming Stewardship Education
Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising: Luther Seminary, in partnership with the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving, is hosting a four-day intensive course, May 1-4, 2017. For more information visit: Lake Institute or Lifelong Learning.
Lakeside will present the Generosity and Stewardship Conference on August 6-9, 2017. Major keynote speakers include: The Rev. Dr. Clayton Smith, Executive Pastor of Generosity at Church of the Resurrection, J. Clif Christopher, author and founder of Horizon and Bishop Ivan Abraham, former Presiding Bishop of Methodist Church in Southern Africa. Lakeside Chautauqua is located in Ohio along Lake Erie with a beautiful backdrop of spiritual opportunities, educational lectures, cultural arts performances and recreational activities. www.lakesideohio.com/generosity.