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 Deborah Rexrode
This month I had the privilege of curating a series of blog posts on stewardship. Those who have contributed have approached stewardship from many important perspectives. When I began my ministry as the Associate for Stewardship for the Presbytery of the James, I put together a list of what I consider to be the top ten things we need to know about stewardship. This is a great place to start the conversation with your stewardship leaders.
1 – Stewardship is a year-long ministry – Every Sunday is an opportunity to preach and teach about stewardship. Seize that opportunity whenever you can. Listen for God’s messages on stewardship in the scriptures. One good stewardship sermon in the fall during the annual stewardship campaign is not enough. Think about the people who might miss that Sunday or even avoid that sermon.
2 – Stewardship ministry should involve lots of people – The more people you include in this process, the more effective your stewardship ministry will be. People who serve as role models in the congregation are effective stewardship leaders. They demonstrate a high level of commitment not only in their giving but also in their gifts of time and talents. Invite them to serve in the area of stewardship.
3 – Stewardship is a topic worthy of ongoing study and discussion – There are lots of resources available for you to use in adult study groups and Sunday School classes of all ages. As stewardship leaders, it’s also important for you to spend time in study and prayer understanding stewardship in order to be effective leaders.
4 – Stewardship is more than financial giving – Often it is the case that we give most of our attention to the financial aspects of stewardship and therefore, give less attention to the other things that create a holistic vision of stewardship ministry – stewardship of time, talents, creation, relationships, worship, and even stewardship of our bodies. If we only focus on giving of our financial resources, we miss the opportunity to involve our congregations in the full understanding of stewardship ministries in our churches.
5 – Stewardship ministry should have a definite plan – Develop an annual stewardship ministry plan embraced by the session and all the leaders of the congregation. Involve the Christian education committee, the outreach committee, the missions team, and the worship leaders. Do you all that you can to raise the awareness of what stewardship means to us as disciples of Christ.
6 – Stewardship is a way to say thank you – Send thank you notes when people give to the church. Send thank you notes when people are engaged in ministry in the church. Send thank you notes when people make a pledge and a commitment to serve God through the ministries of the church. A sincerely-worded handwritten thank you note can do more to promote the mission and vision of a church than any well-done campaign.
7 – Stewardship continues even when we die – Develop a legacy giving plan. According to the experts, America is undergoing the largest transfer of wealth in history as the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers leave their accumulated assets behind upon their deaths. All we need to do is encourage and provide ways for people to remember their church in their estate plan. Statistics show that the church is the number one charity and yet people do not include the church in their will. Implement a planned giving program.
8 – Stewardship is about good sound financial management – The top three reasons why people give to non-profits are: belief in the mission, trust in the leadership, and demonstrated accountability and transparency. That is the same for the church. People don’t give because the pastor is an inspiring preacher. They don’t give because the church is experiencing a budget deficit. They give because they believe in the mission, they trust the leaders, and there is a record of accountability and transparency.
9 – Stewardship is about telling stories of transformation – One of the most powerful tools for growing generosity in the church is telling the story of how the church is transforming people’s lives through its ministry. Every church has an abundance of people who can provide a witness to the ways in which their lives have been positively impacted by the people, the programs, and the ministries of the church. Have you heard any good stories lately?
10 – Stewardship is a spiritual discipline –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. Stewardship goes beyond the church budget or building project and connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world.
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. I hope you have been blessed by our stewardship series this month.
Deborah Rexrode is 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. Deborah enjoys opportunities to spend time with pastors, sessions, and stewardship committees to help them enhance their stewardship ministries. She is available for workshops, retreats, and pulpit supply. Check out her website at www.pojstewardship.com.