From the very beginning of the church, God’s people wrestled with money, their relationship to possessions, and how their assemblies might please God. Stewardship guru Keith Mundy hasn’t been around since the beginning, but he does have quite the history of leading stewardship ministries with the ELCA. In today’s post, Keith reflects on some shifts he’s seen in recent years and what they mean for our ministry leadership.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Reflections on What Has Been, and What is to Come
Keith A. Mundy
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the fall of 1978, my wife and I became members of a new congregation in Maple Grove, MN. After about two months, I agreed to serve on the stewardship committee. While not exactly a novice, I was pretty green. Where to begin? As a recent MBA graduate, financial analysis seemed the right place to start. Wait a minute, I realized, there is not any data! And so I began watching, listening, reading, and engaging in conversation to gather detailed information.
I am still on that journey, engaging in stewardship conversations every day. Having tried many strategies and approaches, my vantage point allows me to see the range of changes in the marketplace of Christian stewardship. Here are some observations:
- The stewardship of relationships has become more important. Who are the people most important to you? Who are the ones you are partnering with to do God’s work together? Investing in these relationships is important. It is through these relationships that we experience God’s presence and actions, including growing in our own faith and accompanying others in their journey. New technology such as mobile apps offer new opportunities to shape these relationships. (Check out ASC Technologies for some examples.)
- The way we learn keeps changing. I started attending stewardship workshops in the 1980s, when there was a strong emphasis on learning history, reading books, and applying practices of the past. Today, learning is more accessible, flexible, experiential, interactive, and attentive to shared learnings. We want to know what has worked for others in which context, and how can we adapt strategies for our own context. Distributive learning makes working in diverse cohorts possible. We learn how to differentiate theology and practice for what is appropriate in a specific context. (Go to ELCA.org/stewardship and see stewardCast in action.)
- We’re more aware of the ways the Christian community is economically and ethnically diverse. I recently led a one-hour discussion on stewardship for leaders who started new congregations in homeless communities. Navigating ethnic differences on top of housing issues, I knew traditional stewardship approaches would not work. We began with the book Gratitude by Diana Butler Bass. The sharing of life experiences of gratitude provided common ground for discussion and learning. We talked about how gratitude and generosity are two traits of a good steward that cross economic, ethnic and social boundaries. When was the last time you talked with someone demographically different from you about gratitude or generosity? Who is shaping how these understandings are evolving?
- Fundraising practices are receiving more attention. Are the number of invitations you receive to contribute to different causes increasing? There are almost 10,000 non-profits in the United States, and the number is rising. To better understand new patterns, I turn to The Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen. His writings reflect current thinking about connecting to the passions of a giver. Who is connecting with Christian passions and teaching us what it means to be a steward? And how do we continue to faithfully engage and critique culture? For generations the church has played a key role in addressing these questions. Through teaching, preaching or practice, congregations shape people’s understanding of what it means to be a steward. Fundraising is part of financial stewardship, yet faith formation around being a steward shapes how we acquire, regard, manage and spend what God has entrusted to us (Giving to God by Mark Allan Powell, p. 81–102).
These are opportunities to live the life of a good steward in new ways. May we embrace what is ahead with a living daring confidence in God’s grace.
About the Author
With more than twenty years of experience in stewardship ministry, Keith A. Mundy is a Program Director for Stewardship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. For more than ten years, Keith has served ELCA congregations and synods by engaging leaders in the formation of healthy and missional congregations. This ministry has included earthkeeping and caring for creation as part of a holistic understanding of being a steward.
"Mountain, crest, outdoors..." image by Yun. Usage license via Unsplash.