Exclusive! An Interview with Stewardship Expert, Rev. Bill Mullette-Bauer
In less than a week Rev. Bill and Jean Mullette-Bauer are embarking on what will surely be the trip of a lifetime. Jean and Bill, the recently retired Director of Stewardship and Finance for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, will be walking (yes, walking) the 497-mile Camino de Santiago. Not satisfied with taking it easy, they will be hiking the French route through the Pyrenees and finishing up at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Northeastern Spain. There will be no five-star hotels for the duo; outfitted with only two small backpacks, Jean and Bill will be staying in hostels during their 42-day adventure.
In between practice hikes in the hills of Portland, Bill took time to talk with me about his life post-retirement, the spiritual discipline of giving, and how he’d like to be remembered.
Cesie: Thanks for taking time out of your training to talk to me. Why did you decide to walk the Camino?
Bill: Insanity (laughs). Six and half years ago, someone told me about it. Then I watched the 2010 movie, “The Way” with Martin Sheen and decided that I wanted to do it – partly as a “reset” for the next phase in my post-retirement life. Of course, Jean’s reaction was “Are you out of your mind?” Eventually, she warmed up to the idea.
So, apart from getting ready for your pilgrimage, how has retirement been?
Bill: Well, it’s getting better every day. I am still doing special projects for Bishop Hagiya for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and I am doing a number of planned giving workshops for the Yellowstone Conference’s United Methodist Foundation. I am beginning to really enjoy real retirement - the days that I am not working. But it’s a process.
Is there anything you miss about work?
Bill: I miss the opportunity to help individuals and churches. The thing that fed me most was going to a church and interacting with local congregations. The local church is really where the action is – it’s not at the Conference office – it’s on the ground in the local church.
If churches could do one thing to increase their giving, what would that be?
Bill: That’s a hard one. Let me go at it this way – the one technical change I would suggest for every church: tell your story. And, I would especially encourage you to tell your story at the time the offering is taken – which can be incredibly effective. The congregation wants to know and learn where their money is going.
The long-term strategy to increase giving is…make disciples. There needs to be more talk and teaching about the spiritual discipline of giving. We don’t know how to do it and we are uncomfortable talking about money.
As a good seminary student, I knew that Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I think Jesus’ point was that your heart will follow your treasure, so if you invest in something with your money and possessions, your commitment will follow.
But the way I acted was to try to get people inspired about Jesus and the ministry of the church, hoping that their financial commitment would follow. When I just hoped it didn’t seem to happen very well. I think I was behaving as though Jesus had said, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.”
I was missing a couple of things: one is that giving doesn’t happen automatically, and two, giving grows one’s heart.
Generosity begets generosity. If what Jesus says is true, then the formation of disciples includes not only prayer, Bible study, but giving as well.
What role does the pastor play?
Bill: The pastor plays a key role in helping people grow in prayer and leadership. It’s the same role he or she should play in teaching the spiritual discipline of giving. Talk about stewardship in the New Members/Inquirers class. When I was in the local church, at the end of the class series I would hand out pledge cards to prospective new members and have the cards returned on the Sunday they joined the church. Preach about the spiritual discipline of giving. How else will your congregation learn?
And, by the way, if the pastor is not personally giving or tithing, that person has zero credibility asking others to give. If you think no one knows you aren’t giving, you’re crazy.
What are churches missing in their theological understanding of stewardship and money?
Bill: It goes back to giving as a spiritual discipline. In the marriage ceremony we ask couples to say, “I give you this ring as a sign of my vow. All that I have, all that I am, I seek to honor you.” That second sentence, that’s a good definition of stewardship.
What books might you recommend to clergy and laity about stewardship?
Bill: Henri Nouwen’s A Spirituality of Fundraising is a gem. (note: see my review of it here). For clergy, I would highly recommend Ministry and Money: A Practical Guide for Pastors by Janet and Phillip Jamieson (note: see my brief review here).
What do you hope people will remember you for?
Bill: First and foremost, I hope they will remember me as a person of integrity. I hope they will remember me as a person who tried to make ministry work, who cared about their ministry, their questions, and their situation. And, I hope I am remembered as someone who tried to find a way instead of closing a door.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. She wonders, "Do you think they would let me ride a Segway on the Camino?" Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.