One of my favorite leadership principles goes something like this: systems are organized to achieve exactly the type of results they ultimately achieve. In other words, it’s unrealistic to expect results out-of-line with how we’ve organized our systems, even if we’d really prefer a different sort of outcome.
When it comes to stewardship, this type of thinking highlights the church’s conversations about finances. If, quietly, we confess stewardship as more than merely about money and budgeting, and yet, publically only speak “stewardship” each fall, we’ll never get different outcomes. Today’s post by Larry Smoose helpfully highlights this fact, but with a different sort of invitation. Larry argues that our members are, actually, desperately seeking…stewardship. Amen!
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Desperately Seeking Stewardship
Larry V. Smoose
Members of our congregations and of our community are desperately seeking to embrace stewardship in their lives and the church has not (yet) accommodated their cry for help.
In fact, the church has created confusion regarding this important need with a short-sighted, theologically-truncated, biblically inadequate re-definition of stewardship that has effectively deafened congregational members to any mention of that word. By equating “stewardship” with a congregation’s annual fundraising, budget-balancing campaign, our clergy and congregational leaders have missed the opportunity to meet a critical need of our members and of society while limiting the potential gain for congregational ministry.
Meanwhile, bookstores (electronic and brick/mortar) and libraries are filled with self-help books that people eagerly acquire with the hopes of managing their money, their time, and their lives. People are struggling to meet:
- Expectations of a consumer-oriented society that focuses on spending and borrowing
- Financial obligations as savings shrink and debt soars
- Demands of balancing job expectations and career advancement
- Family obligations that immerse them in children’s resume-building extracurricular activities and care of aging parents
- Concerns about retirement challenges
They are crying out for help.
Thankfully, the church has answers -- stewardship -- but we need to embrace the true meaning of that word by understanding stewardship as management of that which belongs to another. All that we have, all that we are, belong to God. Our job is to manage the time, resources (money and gifts), relationships, and good creation that God has given to us.
So how about changing (expanding?) your stewardship ministry to help people in their need? Year- round stewardship is not about talking more often about money, it is about the opportunity to look at the many opportunities for ministry that speak to the needs of our members and our society.
- Support groups for people trying to work on balance in their lives
- Time-management seminars for youth, young adults and adults who all have a variety of struggles with the multiple demands on their lives
- Helping parents talk to their children about money; having a pre-college seminar for high schoolers and their parents about credit cards, bank accounts, and budgets
- Financial seminars for newly married couples
- Sessions for retirees regarding long-term care, living options, legacy opportunities
- An ecology ministry that elevates responsible care of the earth and celebrates the ecological tradition of Native Americans and First Nation people
- Health related seminars that teach the value of caring for yourself with exercise and good nutrition.
Bring in an expert (or perhaps a congregational member is an expert and will share his/her time), but be sure, as we provide such opportunities, seminar leaders also teach the best practices of our Christian values:
- God is in control and will care for our needs
- Sufficiency -- having enough for ourselves and enough to share -- time, money, talents
- Proportionality -- sharing according to what we have
- Thankfulness -- recognizing how blessed we are
- Generosity -- acting in ways that reflect our faith in having enough and gratitude for our blessings.
A ministry based on these rock-solid foundations and built on the discerned needs of our people will yield a harvest beyond our expectations -- a harvest of generous financial gifts; enthused ministry volunteers; happier and healthier relationships for individuals and families. And, your ministry will embrace the full meaning and understanding of stewardship as good managers of all that God has given to us.
The Rev. Dr. Larry V. Smoose is a retired parish pastor who served 40 years of parish ministry in Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod and now volunteers as chair of the Synod Stewardship Team.
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
"Church" image by Tom Graham. Creative Commons licensing on Flickr.