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Students at commencement

Stewardship

St. Alban's Episcopal Church

Location: Austin, Texas
Denomination: The Episcopal Church
Size: 150 average Sunday attendance

Download St. Alban's VCP report or see report contents below:

Ministry context
St. Alban’s was founded thirty years ago in a location where the founding rector believed the city of Austin would grow. Only now is civilization beginning to come near us, but we are a thriving, growing, diverse, and generous parish in spite of considerable limitations. Our worship is casual but reverent, we have extraordinary Christian formation opportunities for all ages, and the outreach accomplished by our people is nothing short of amazing. The nurturing of effective lay ministry leadership is of prime importance to the rector and vestry.
Pre-existing practices

1. Stewardship Preaching

Stewardship is not just discussed during the annual campaign, but woven into sermons and discussions throughout the year.

2. Personal Testimonies

During the annual stewardship campaign, a parishioner will tell a story about their stewardship journey each week during the service. We also have others that provide a short written testimony and it is sent by email to the congregation during the week. We try to get testimonies from a diverse group, so that everyone can relate to at least one of the stories. People feel closely connected to each other by hearing heartfelt and personal testimonies.

3. Weekly Financial Update

A summary of the pledge and plate income, along with the total income and expenses to date are published each week on the announcements sheet. We started this 4-5 years ago as a way to be more transparent about our finances.

Discoveries from listening process

The Congregation was Not Very Fluent in Biblical Stewardship Stories

Stewardship is a spiritual practice that is better understood through the biblical stories. Perhaps we need to be more intentional about teaching people not only to know the essential stories of the Christian narrative, but also how to use stories as interpretive tools in their own decision making.

Opportunities for growth

1. Biblical Fluency – Adaptive Challenge

2. What does it Mean to be Steward of God’s Gifts – Adaptive Challenge

3. Education on Faith and Finances – Technical challenge

Experiments undertaken

1. Own the Story

Take the stories we have chosen to accompany each session of the Share/Save/Spend curriculum and create scrap books for each. We expect that there will be 18 total. A family will take a scrapbook home for a week, live with the story, and add to the scrap book. They will then bring back to church and pass along to another family. As a result, we hope, each family will get a much deeper understanding of the stories and how it relates to their lives today. We hope that people will own the story after this exercise and understand it as an interpretive tool when considering what they want to do with their resources.

2. Youth Finance Program

Hold a series of gatherings to present a responsible finance program high school and college youth. This would be an event that the youth could invite friends and their parents. As our youth head out on their own, they need a good financial foundation rooted in stewardship. This will also serve as an evangelism tool.

3. Education/Awareness on Different Areas of Stewardship

Use bulletin boards, articles in the monthly newsletter, and other media to provide education and awareness of the many stewardship opportunities at St. Alban’s as well as how our money is used for stewardship. We hope to illuminate the work that is already being done by the parish, and that the momentum of giving to and participating in outreach will increase.

4. Generational Giving

Develop and implement methods of giving that are tailored to the different generations. Each generation has their own preferences for how they give money to organizations, and we should make each generation feel welcome and comfortable in the process. This will require good communication to all generations as new methods are deployed.

Discoveries from experiments (July 2014)

Update filed in July 2014 by Allen Evans

At our last meeting in September of 2012, we had completed most of our experiments on stewardship, and reported on our successes and failures. Since that time, we have gone through several ups and downs on our journey, but have been reshaped by our participation in this experiment on stewardship vibrancy. Below are reflections from our continued journey over the past two years.

All Things Come in God’s Time

  • After finishing our experiments and thinking that the congregation was energized and engaged, our stewardship drive for 2013 was very disappointing, with the number of pledges and total amount down considerably. We continued forward with our stewardship practices and found ways around the setback that did not compromise our ministries.
  • 2014 was the complete opposite, with record high pledges and a very engaged congregation. We believe continuing to adjust our experiments and continuing our emphasis on stewardship throughout the year was a big reason for the difference.
  • The failure of the Biblical Stewardship books and the success of the narrative lectionary were revamped into weekly emails sent mid-week by the rector that included the Gospel for that coming Sunday, a few paragraphs providing a deeper understanding of the passage and its context, and then some questions to ponder. Stewardship was a major theme in these emails.

Electronic Giving

  • Electronic giving accounts for only about 10 percent of our total giving, but has been well received by those interested. We expect it to grow as the demographics change over the next 5-10 years.
  • We have a Square account and use it to swipe credit card during special events.
  • We also plan to add text giving in the near future.

New Challenges

  • Our rector, Margaret Waters, retired earlier this year and we are in the beginning stages of the search process.
  • There are no new stewardship experiments at this time, as the energy is now focused on the search process.
  • We will continue to discuss stewardship throughout the year and be transparent about our finances in this transition period.

Looking back to when we began this journey, I think we did not realize the energy that it would take to undertake these experiments and the length of time it would take to make significant change in the congregation. We now know to expect change to be slower and more difficult than what we first anticipated.