Stewardship at Jacob's Well
- Author: Mike Rusert
- Updated: 06/30/2011
I often find myself in conversation with church leaders who wonder how best to "do stewardship" with people under forty. Luther Seminary student Mike Rusert serves as Senior High Youth Director at Jacob's Well, a congregation filled with people in their twenties and thirties. Mike was a student in a class I taught this past semester, and wrote a paper describing his ideas for stewardship ministry at Jacob's Well. I am pleased to present his ideas here, because I am convinced that what he has to say speaks to the question I often hear lots of us posing, "How do we do stewardship with people under forty?" Here are Mike's thoughts. - Chick Lane
There are three indispensable qualities that younger generations seek in a church community- authenticity, compassion and self-sustainability. These qualities not only "get people in the door" but they develop trust which is necessary for self-giving.
First, we desire an authentic community where we don't have to pretend to be something we're not, but one that accepts us as whole persons. A church that claims to be made entirely of saint-sinners asking the hard questions of life and faith together is a community that we could see ourselves being a part of—a community we could invest ourselves in.
Second, we desire a compassionate community that seeks to change lives (both inside and outside of the community) for the better through listening ears and serving hands and feet. When God brings the water of new life to us, we cannot help but respond with gratitude and love for God and neighbor. Our church communities have to function as spring rains, bringing the waters of new life to the dead, dry creek beds.
Third, we desire a self-sustaining community that seeks to live within its means—a community focused on making the most of the resources they already have. This starts when we acknowledge that God is the source of our entire being. We are fully-equipped and gifted stewards entrusted with the task of loving God, our neighbor, and ourselves 24-7/365.
Ultimately, this is about creating a culture. The church of today and the church of the future can't run on the quick fixes, and true stewardship doesn't allow for them anyway. We have to consistently, with authenticity and integrity, speak and model these truths:
- All that we have is God's
- If all that we have is God's then what we do in every area of our lives matters
- God has been compassionate to us and so we are called to be compassionate to others—to be water in the desert, bringing new life to dead places
- What we need to love and serve others is what God has already provided us
One means to create and maintain culture is through the integration small group ministry into the everyday life of the church, especially into Sunday mornings. The following is an outline and suggestion for a series on stewardship using this integrated model of small group ministry and Sunday morning worship.
The series would be six weeks and scheduled during a time of year when the community is typically more fully engaged. The series would focus on specific areas of stewarding our lives, culminating in a type of Consecration Sunday. Each week would include a Sunday message and small group materials consisting of:
- A biblical story with practical and contemporary interpretation
- A personal story of a community member
- A question driven conversation time
- A weekly challenge related to the theme for the week
- A note regarding commitments to be collected at the end of the series, particularly focused on increasing awareness, understanding, and utilization of automated giving.
1. It's All From God—it seems appropriate to start here. Preaching and teaching on the biblical principle that God is Creator, Provider, Redeemer, Sustainer, Healer, etc., of all, of every atom of our lives. Week one could begin with the Money Autobiography Tool completed in group, or possibly sent out before the series begins.
2. Throw Me a Rope—debt is pervasive in our society, so many are drowning in it. How do we, as Christians, deal with debt? This week would include tools for managing and moving out of debt (possibly budgeting tools, debt classes, etc.).
3. My Account Summary—budgeting our whole lives (often this starts with our bank account). This week would focus on a holistic understanding of our lives and how we function as stewards. It may include teaching on priorities, what to cut, identifying imbalances, etc.
4. The World is Thirsty—we are called to be water to the parched throats of the world. This week would focus on mission—celebrating what God has done and will do through the community. It would encourage people to make use of their particular gifts in service to others and to tell about it.
5. Not Just a Sprinkle, but it's Raining, it's Pouring—a slight drizzle is not going to get it done. How can we, together, make it pour? This week would focus on calling the community to take the lead in ministry and mission. It would include stories that lift up the particular "assets" of individuals and how they have been used to change the lives of others.
6. What's Mine is Really Yours Sunday (Consecration Sunday model)—responding in gratitude and committing to service. This week would be the culmination of the series, including the collection of pledges. In addition to monetary pledges would be commitments to begin budgeting, work out of debt, increase gratitude, volunteer regularly, lead and invite others in mission, etc. It would be a week inundated with gratitude and hope. It may include daily video posts of community members' stories (of gratitude and changed lives).
The weeks following the series would be filled with "thank yous" and more stories of what our community has done and will be able to do "because of you".
Younger generations are used to constant change. The model above may work for a few years, but it isn't going to work forever—a church community must be attentive to the changes in culture and respond appropriately. We are the church, and though the make-up of the "we" changes, one thing remains the same—God's Spirit continues to work in the world, bringing new life to dead places.