This week, Alex Benson reviews a helpful stewardship book that works to step back from traditional stewardship frameworks to engage congregational development holistically. In Holy Currencies, Eric Law suggests a sort of program for sustainable mission, and a way to approach broadening that mission. I hope you find the review -- and, if it seems like a fit for your context -- the full book helpful for ministry. It’s certainly been a helpful framework for me to embrace in my work.
Center for Stewardship Leaders
Review: “Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries”
In his 2009 research with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Eric H. F. Law discovered a desire among local churches to consider anew how the Spirit might be sending them forth in mission -- and to do it in a way that is sustainable. However, he found an interesting disconnect. Law explains, “I discovered that people who spoke about being missional tended not to talk about sustainability, and those who spoke about sustainability often focusing on money as the only currency, tended not to talk about being missional” (2). In other words, congregations that sought sustainability as their main goal focused almost entirely on money, but that financial focus actually seemed to hinder more than support a true sense of mission.
With this experience as a backdrop, in his book Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries, Law sets out to redefine what it means to practice true sustainability in the church today. We might think of this as holistic sustainability because it approaches mission and ministry broadly. Law argues that money is not the only “currency” the church needs to practice faithful mission, and instead creates a framework of six “currencies,” or resources, to help the church reconsider its call toward hospitality, justice, and evangelism in the 21st century.
Drawing on experiences ranging from childhood lessons he gleaned around the kitchen table to his work developing the Kaleidoscope Institute, Law develops a model of sustainability centered on what he calls the Cycle of Blessings. This cycle, a constantly moving stream of six “currencies” (time and place, gracious leadership, relationship, truth, wellness, and money) nurtures life-giving ministry by “flowing inward to renew and strengthen internal relationships and increase gracious leadership capacity, and flowing outward to connect, discern the truth, and foster wellness in the wider community” (13). Before diving into a deeper exploration of each of these resources, Law describes the cycle’s movement this way:
- “First, it is the flowing of the currencies that gives them value” (12).
- “Second, the flowing of the currencies needs to include all six currencies in order for the community to be sustainable and missional” (12).
- “Third, the flowing of these currencies must recirculate back to replenish what was spent, so that the ministry can be regenerative” (13).
With these points in mind, Law explores the dimensions of each currency and provides real life examples of ministries living into this Cycle of Blessings. To encourage readers to experiment with this new framework, Law also includes group exercises, formats for Bible study and liturgy, ideas for community events, and even inventories to assess the health of each currency in a particular community.
So, what are these “holy currencies” and how do they work?
The currency of Time and Place takes into consideration use of physical space, as well as the ways communities prioritize and staff and volunteer time.
The currency of Gracious Leadership invites leaders to practice leadership characterized by compassion, empowerment, community, and innovation. Looking to Jesus as a model, Law writes, “Gracious leadership is not about holding power over others; it is about knowing how to empower others to share their gifts and experiences and to do that which is beneficial to the community (93).”
The currency of Relationship encourages congregations to engage both their internal and external networks.
The currency of Truth guides communities into a space of authentic and sometimes difficult perspective sharing and truth-telling. This currency unleashes the power of respectful conversation around divisive issues, revisiting historical narratives, or seeking to understand how ministries might better support those on the margins.
The currency of Wellness illuminates the importance of caring for all dimensions of community health. Observing Sabbath, creating community covenants, and tending to economic wellness and justice, sustainability, and social/community wellness are all crucial to the overall health of the community and ministry.
Finally, the currency of Money flows from and back into each of the above currencies. Law argues that money only has value when it is exchanged for something else, which can take shape in any of the above currencies. These currencies do not operate alone but are always flowing in and out of each of the others. All six are needed to foster truly sustainable ministry.
This book is written with congregations in mind, but the Cycle of Blessings can be applied to one’s personal life, the broader community, or particular ministries within a congregation. It might influence the redesign of current ministry structures or might inspire the creation of new ministries all together. Whatever the practical outcome, Holy Currencies invites congregations to experience the radical trust, life-giving creativity, and profound freedom that characterizes the Kingdom of God. I definitely recommend adding it to your library!
For More Information
Alex Benson is an M.Div. student at Luther Seminary. She serves as Program Assistant & Editorial fellow for the Center for Stewardship Leaders.
Check out Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries here.
Rethinking Stewardship: Join us on July 25-27 for three days of conversation and exploration at Luther Seminary's Rethinking Stewardship: From Solemn Obligation to Inspired Choice. More information here.