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How Do You Say “Thank You”?

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Deborah Rexrode is curating a blog series called “A New Perspective on Stewardship.” We’ll hear from some stewardship experts across the country on a wide range of what stewardship means for them. What are ways stewardship can be a spiritual practice? How might we come to a new understanding of the role of stewardship in ministry? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Chick Lane

Most people recognize the importance of saying thank you. We try to remember these two important words when someone does something for us. Those who have been parents recall trying to help their children get into the habit of saying thank you when they receive a gift. We know saying thank you is important, and yet we struggle, don’t we?

Congregations are no exception to this struggle. It is important for a congregation to say “thank you” appropriately when members and friends give time, talent and treasure to the ministry. And yet, most congregations will acknowledge that they fall short.

My experience is that those congregations who are most effective at thanking are those congregations who have a plan for how they will thank. I’d encourage you to consider developing your own congregational thank you plan. As you do this, you might think in terms of both general thank yous, in which many people are thanked at once, and specific thank yous, in which people are thanked one at a time for their unique contributions to the congregation’s life.

Developing a thank you plan involves three rather simple steps. First, you will want to assess how you are currently thanking people. Gather a group of people together who are familiar with the congregation’s operation and create a list of all the ways people are being thanked now for their gifts of time, talent and money. Take your time with this – you may be thanking in more ways than you think.

Second, consider how you would like to thank people. This might involve two steps. You might want to gather a group of staff and lay leaders for a discussion of the question, “How do you think we ought to be thanking people here at church?”  A second strategy might involve a focus group or two of members in which the question is asked, “How would you like to be thanked for your contributions to the life of our congregation?” A word of caution here: you will inevitably hear some people say, “I don’t need to be thanked, I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.” Try to get past this. It is a common response, but you don’t want it to be the last word.

Third, and perhaps most challenging, is to consider what you learned in the first two steps, and then develop a plan. Ideally the plan will be developed by the people who will be implementing it. Depending on your congregation’s size, this might be staff or a mixture of the pastor, a part-time parish office staff person, and some volunteers. Your plan should be specific – exactly what will you do. It should have time parameters – when will you say thanks. It should describe how the thanks will be extended – will it be in a letter or email, or will it be a more general thanks given in the newsletter? It should be clear who is responsible for extending the thank you.

A good thank you plan should not be overwhelming. If you try to do too many new things at one time, you will doom yourself to failure. Keep it simple and manageable at first, knowing that you can add to it as you go. A good thank you plan should include specific thank yous, thanking one person at a time for a specific contribution to the congregation’s life. It might also include thank yous to groups of people like the choir, the ushers, or church school teachers. Finally it should include general thank yous to the entire congregation either in worship, via mail, email, or in the newsletter.

If you would like to see a sample thank you plan, visit this Embracing Stewardship web page. If you are interested in more information about thanking, you might explore Chapter 9 in Ask, Thank, Tell and Chapter 8 in Embracing Stewardship.


Pastor Chick Lane is Pastor of Stewardship and Generosity at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove, Minnesota, the author of Ask, Thank, Tell, and the co-author with Grace Duddy Pomroy of Embracing Stewardship. Chick has served as an assistant an assistant to the bishop in the Northwestern Minnesota Synod, director for Stewardship Key Leaders in the ELCA, and director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Stewardship and the Young Adult Volunteer

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Deborah Rexrode is curating a blog series called “A New Perspective on Stewardship.” We’ll hear from some stewardship experts across the country on a wide range of what stewardship means for them. What are ways stewardship can be a spiritual practice? How might we come to a new understanding of the role of stewardship in ministry? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Sarah Dianne Jones

Stewardship is a topic I feel I’ve always been familiar with. As a child, I looked forward to the children’s sermons featuring the Stew Bear books that the denomination put out to explain stewardship to children, and I remember saving all of the change I found in various places to put in the special banks we had to bring to church. As I grew older, my perception of stewardship changed as I began to understand tithing, capital campaigns, planned giving, and the ins and outs of church world.

photo by Blake Collins

The thing that never changed was that stewardship was always about money. We talked about giving money, what the money should go toward, or how much money you should give. It was a lot of talk about money for an older elementary aged kid to fully grasp—I didn’t have much money. What could the church do with my money? I wanted to make a difference, but I didn’t know how much difference I could make.

As a youth going to youth conferences, stewardship began to show up differently. Stewardship was being defined as the gifts you offer to your church and the community. For once, it wasn’t all about money! What gifts did I have to offer to the church? How could I best be of service? That reframing of how I thought about stewardship helped me to be able to more strongly connect with what we were talking about during stewardship season.

There came a point, however, that I slipped back into thinking about stewardship in terms of money. Maybe it was when I started working in churches that were desperately feeling the pressure to increase giving or face budget cuts, or felt that they were constantly asking for money to fix a roof, or hire a new position, or update the website. I can’t pinpoint it, but in the last few years, money has been the name of the game.

At least that was true until I began my year with the Young Adult Volunteer program. As a part of the YAV program, the YAV is required to fundraise a minimum of $3,000. This helps to fund the local site where you will be serving, and offers the added benefit of illustrating for the YAV the wideness of their own community. Donors were offered the options of making a one time gift or pledging monthly, and the YAV was informed of each donor so that they were aware of the people who cared enough to give a monetary gift toward their year of service. YAVs would not be able to serve in the program without these generous gifts.

YAVs are expected to commit to “simple living,” or living with intentionality around how they spend the very limited stipend they are given. This season of life in which I’m engaging in simple living has brought me back to my past understanding of stewardship. As a YAV, I’m not able to give as much as I might like to the congregations or organizations that I feel so connected to and supported by. Stewardship has meant living into my role as a YAV in the most authentic way possible, giving whatever gifts I can in order to do good for the wider community in which I am living. This has meant offering myself as a resource whenever possible, showing up for the pieces of mission work that aren’t the fun parts, and trying out things that seem incredibly difficult, not because I’m so great, but because my church and my community deserve the best that I can offer in gratitude for the incredible generosity and support I have been shown.


Sarah-Dianne Jones is a Birmingham, Alabama native who graduated from Maryville College in 2016. She is currently serving as a Young Adult Volunteer in Washington, DC, where she works with NEXT Church and New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Creating a Culture of Generosity

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Deborah Rexrode is curating a blog series called “A New Perspective on Stewardship.” We’ll hear from some stewardship experts across the country on a wide range of what stewardship means for them. What are ways stewardship can be a spiritual practice? How might we come to a new understanding of the role of stewardship in ministry? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Clayton Smith

How can we best identify several proven stewardship models for ministry that can inspire, innovate, ignite, and improve generosity in your church or faith-based ministry? Every year many pastors ponder this question. It prompted me to do some research and writing. Over my ministry of 40 years, I have used several stewardship and generosity development approaches. Many stewardship models today are outdated and lead to a decline in giving. They are not relevant or they may be poorly executed. But too many look for the latest popular stewardship campaign model or fad and just plug it in. Each model needs to be adapted to fit your congregation so spiritual growth and long term generosity will result.

The challenge is to encourage stewardship leaders who want to learn and grow in the joy of giving, and not to generate feelings of guilt or inadequacy. The opportunity is based on raising the levels of expectation for the pastor, staff, leaders, members, and visitors that fits your congregation. Donor development is a slow but fruitful process.

Most local churches function with the typical financial stewardship models that support the annual giving, strategic mission and emergency giving, planned giving, memorial giving, and capital/building giving. In my book, Propel: Good Stewardship, Greater Generosity, I describe six models and how they can help you better develop a culture of generosity. I describe strategic needs to improve your existing stewardship and generosity models as well.

Key Questions

  1. How can leaders inspire vision to raise giving expectations?
  2. How can leaders innovate new ministry models that fit your congregation’s needs?
  3. How can we ignite leadership change?
  4. How can we improve stewardship and generosity giving levels?

It is both a privilege and challenge to serve in Christian leadership today. There are areas of ministry that bring joy and those we try to avoid because they are outside our comfort zone. Dean Don Wardlaw of McCormick School of Theology once asked me, “Clayton, what is your greatest challenge in ministry?” I responded that it was a struggle for me to talk about giving money! I know I am in good company: two-thirds of the pastors I have surveyed agree that it is a real challenge for them to talk about money. And yet, stewardship preaching and leadership is one of the top needs of leaders of the church today.

Setting annual goals for your stewardship and generosity ministry is very important to help create focus and energy. Strategic planning can best be developed for three years in mind. Whether it is a one-year plan or a three-year plan, goals need to be specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related. These goals will need the annual support of the finance team and church council.  Stewardship ministry must be a major priority!

These goals will be a result of a brainstorming session but will need to be refined with those who are going to be executing these goals before final decisions and approvals are made. Ownership is important for best results. Every year it is helpful to evaluate the previous year and then modify your strategic goals for the new year, if necessary.

It is recommended that you limit your strategic goals to three or four per year. Too few goals will not generate the leadership dynamic you need, and too many will be frustrating to all involved. These goals can also become part of the pastor’s or staff professional annual goal setting process.

Specific goals can be identified from those areas of your ministry that need improvement. Measurable ways of quantifying the progress or results are essential for evaluation. Assignable simply means who will be responsible for the project. Realistic expectations are important and yet the expectations should encourage risk. Failure should not be punished.  Time-related results keep moving us forward toward completion or at least a sense of accomplishment.

Here are some sample goals from our church’s Stewardship and Generosity Ministry:

  • To teach and interpret the biblical stewardship principles which enable every member to become disciples of Jesus Christ who are theologically informed, spiritually transformed, and daily living their faith.
  • To celebrate that “God gives to all mortals life and breath and all things,” so that in him we live and move and have our being.” God is the giver of all good gifts! (Acts 17:25, 28)
  • To teach Christian stewardship as the faithful practice of systematic giving of our tithes and offerings. Every member is invited to give a percentage of their income with the tithe (10%) as a goal. We seek to find creative ways to become a tithing congregation.

Want to create a culture of generosity in your local church? Begin with one goal at a time!


Clayton Smith has served as an Executive Pastor of Generosity at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection since September 2005. This church has four campuses in the Kansas City area with a membership of 20,000. Clayton gives executive level leadership to ministry areas of stewardship, development, and generosity. He gives oversight and support to Resurrection’s giving campaigns for the annual operating budget, capital building funds, special strategic and mission gifts, memorial giving, and planned gifts for their foundation. Clayton enjoys teaching and consulting with local churches and leaders on stewardship programs and financial campaigns. He speaks at conferences across our country to give leadership in stewardship and generosity ministry.  He leads and teaches faith- based programs that assist people in personal financial stewardship and generosity.

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Stewardship 101

by Deborah Rexrode

Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to God’s service, you could not give God anything that was not in a sense God’s own already.
– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

For us as Christians, all that we have and all that we are belongs to God. So then what does stewardship look like in our lives today? How do we define stewardship?

Too often stewardship means the Annual Stewardship Campaign. It means filling out a pledge card to make a commitment to the annual budget of the church where we are a member. In some cases, the definition has been broadened to include a commitment of our time and talents so that we don’t put all our focus on money.

As we begin a month of reflections on stewardship, it seems the best place to begin is to ask, “What do the scriptures tell us about stewardship?” I share these biblical principles of stewardship for you to begin to broaden your definition of stewardship:

Ownership – Let’s begin with the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…” God created everything! In Psalm 24 we read, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” God is not only the creator but also the owner of everything. The biblical teaching is not that God created everything and then handed ownership off to us or someone else. God still owns all that is.

Responsibility – Once we acknowledge that what we have is God’s, the question becomes: “What would God have me do with all of this?” As God’s stewards, we are responsible to care for all that God has graciously entrusted to us. “Who then is the faithful and wise steward…?” (Luke 12:42) A steward is a person who cares for something that belongs to someone else. The steward is not the owner, but instead manages that which belongs to another. All that surrounds us in this life belongs to God, and we have been given the privilege to manage and care for some of it as we travel through life.

Accountability – One day each one of us will be called to give an account of how we have managed what God has given us. In 1 Peter we read, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” (1 Peter 4:10) As God’s people, we are called to live and give generously, especially to help those in need. We are called to give first to God and God’s work, to give regularly, and yes, to give cheerfully. The Bible tells us that what we do with our money and possessions impacts our faith. We are called to be accountable for what God has entrusted into our care.

Reward – Stewardship is the way we use the abundance that God has entrusted to our care to love God and our neighbor. Stewardship is more than money, offering plates, and pledges. As the master said to the servants to whom he gave five talents and two talents, “Well done, good and faithful servants! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matthew 25:21) They used what they had been asked to manage and multiplied it for the good of the master and his kingdom.

Stewardship goes beyond the church budget or building project and connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world. Stewardship is a way of life. It is one of the primary ways that we live out our identity in Christ. We are called to be faithful stewards in all that God is calling us to do. It is being open to the opportunities and challenges that God places in our lives and serving with faith and joy.

Stewardship is a spiritual practice that allows us to live out the belief that all we have and all that we are belongs to God. Stewardship is our gifts of time, relationship, worship, thanksgiving, prayer, service, and material possessions. It is a way of living that includes giving.


Deborah Rexrode serves as the Associate for Stewardship with the Presbytery of the James. She is an ordained Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and brings to the presbytery a background of research, study, and application of the theological understanding of stewardship and the importance of ongoing stewardship education in our congregations. She provides consultation to pastors, sessions, and stewardship committees with stewardship campaigns, capital campaigns, and planned giving. Deborah has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in the Sociology of Religion from the University of Virginia. Her research and doctoral dissertation focused on stewardship and the role of clergy in providing strong financial leadership in their congregations.

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