Stewardship. It’s about money, isn’t it?

Not long ago I conducted short workshop on stewardship at our diocesan convention.  Preparing for it was something of a struggle, and in the end I tossed out all the ‘how to’ stuff to go in another direction altogether.  It seems that no matter how clever and well designed all the stewardship courses and materials are, they end up being just another set of sales and marketing gimmicks that collect dust on the bookshelf.  Then there are those who say they are tired of stewardship talk that is limited to fund raising and want to explore the broader sense of time, money and talent, which usually turns out to be a way of artfully avoiding the subject altogether. 

We started by me saying that the workshop would be concerned about raising the money needed to support the life of the congregation in the work God has given it to do, and it would not be about other things.  The second thing I said was that I had nothing to offer in terms of ‘how to’ and don’t believe that any off the shelf set of materials is worth much, so together we were going to have to invent this thing from the ground up.  Finally I offered a theological foundation based on that Sunday’s readings (Matt. 22.15-22, 1 Thess. 1.1-10, Isa 13.1-7).

Caesar, like Cyrus, can be an unwitting agent of God’s work because, in the end, God is God and Caesar isn’t.  But if we are to, in the name of God, render the coin to Caesar, with what currency do we render more directly to God?  Paul suggests that it is with works of faith, labors of love and steadfastness of hope.  To be sure, some of the works and labors can be accomplished with our own hearts, minds and hands, but much more can be leveraged through our gifts of money that enable a multitude of other hearts, minds and hands to multiply our efforts.  The community can do much more acting together than can be accomplished individually.  The freedom to do that with steadfastness of hope requires that we recognize that we are not the owners but the stewards of all that has been given into our hands, and that we must be accountable to God for that.  At least that’s the short version.

With that in mind I asked the group to talk about what needs to be done in their congregations to make all of that real.  Without much prodding the ideas gushed forth.

Stewardship has to be year around, we can no longer be satisfied with a brief hard-sell stewardship season leading up to the parish budget.  Stewardship has to be a way of life, integral to what it means to be a Christian.  Effective stewardship education is different for different age groups and situations in life.  It has to start in Sunday School with effective age appropriate teaching about what it means to be God’s steward.  It requires parental support, and in today’s world that probably means that we need to teach young parents about what effective parenting is all about.  Many families are really struggling, so it also means providing help with financial management and planning.  Middle age and older persons may benefit from a deeper theological examination of stewardship as well as unbiased estate planning help.  None of that can ever lose sight of the primary purpose of doing works of faith and labors of love in the name of Jesus Christ, because if that is lost all is lost.

The enthusiasm was high, the ideas overflowing, and I will be interested to see if any of it actually gets translated into action over the next year.  In any case, what they came up with was theirs.  They created it, they own it, and it wasn’t some prepackaged program that would probably work if anyone believed in it but no one does. 

1 thought on “Stewardship. It’s about money, isn’t it?”

  1. One of the things i wonder about my own post is, will anyone from the national church ever read it? I doubt it. There is just too much out there for anyone to keep up with all of it, much less church administrators busy with whatever it is that they do. That\’s no complain, just reality.CP

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