Story Magazine - Winter, 2012

Stewardship at seminary—and beyond

by Tracy Behrendt, Correspondent

For countless students, a call to ministry isn't the only factor in the choice to attend seminary.

Instead, money—from tuition and housing to the costs of utilities and food—often becomes the biggest obstacle to attending seminary. And even those who have been able to attend Luther Seminary have all too often graduated with debt or a limited knowledge of finances.

The Center for Stewardship Leaders is working to educate such students and improve their overall financial health. Through all that, the Center hopes to also influence students' future stewardship ministry in the congregations they go on to serve.

"The first item on my position description is to 'infect and influence a culture of stewardship theology and practice in all academic disciplines of the seminary,'" said Charles "Chick" Lane, director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders since 2010. "This summarizes my plans and hopes for the Center's work in the Luther community."

Lane hopes to accomplish that through both a spring course called "Money and the Mission of the Church" and a successful financial coaching program. Last year, more than 100 students worked with a financial coach to learn healthy financial management. Lane expects that number to increase this year.

"Many students work with a coach to develop stronger day-to-day financial management skills," Lane  said. "Other students are looking for help to deal with the burden of educational debt. Still others want to grow in their confidence as a stewardship leader, better equipped to serve a congregation."

The Center also is reaching out to students through its new blog initiative called "Frugal Community." Written by Grace Duddy, a Master of Arts senior who has worked at the Center for two years, the blog gives students tips on how to use their money wisely.

"Financial stewardship is not just about budgeting--it's about creating a sustainable lifestyle that allows you to be a good steward of all that God has given you," Duddy said. "The Center wants to create space for students to discuss stewardship at both the personal and congregational levels so that they might learn to see the world through the lens of abundance rather than scarcity."

While students remain the Center's priority, Lane also works with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregations in their stewardship efforts. He primarily does this online through a stewardship website and the weekly Stewardship for the 21st Century email, which reaches approximately 4,000 people and offers tools for strengthening stewardship among leaders and congregations.

"I hope our website can one day be the first place congregational stewardship leaders go for  stewardship information, inspiration and resources," said Lane, who previously served as director for
the ELCA's Stewardship Key Leaders.

All this work builds on the Center's simple beginnings at Luther in 1990, when then-President David Tiede gathered a group of local church leaders to discuss how to engage students in stewardship leadership. It wasn't until Luther received major gifts in 1999 and 2004, though, that Luther started
the stewardship website and opened the Center for Stewardship Leaders.

Since then, the Center has reached hundreds of students and served as a stewardship resource to  congregations within and outside the Twin Cities.

"The Center has helped me see the abundance in my own life, in my congregation and in the world," Duddy
said. "When you realize the power of God's abundant grace toward God's people through creation, you cannot help but rejoice and be moved to share what you have been given with your neighbor."


For more information about the Center for Stewardship Leaders, or to sign up for the Stewardship for the
21st Century newsletter, visit www.luthersem.edu/stewardship.