You know that you’ve been in pandemic lock-down waaaay too long when you think that cleaning out your old files is an inspired thing to do over the holiday weekend. But hey! It’s either that or leave it for the kids when I go to that great bye-and-bye. So - for them - I reduced and recycled. I’m sure I’ll hear my children singing my praises when I’m flying on the clouds. At least I’d better hear them.
In all that paper, one thing I came across was an old workshop I did many moons ago, “The Stewardship Summit.” It was a day-long intensive dive and was divided into two parts – adaptive stewardship and technical stewardship. The adaptive part of the day focused on why stewardship was important – the theological reasons and the missional purposes of the church and of individual congregations. The technical half of the day focused on how to implement a good stewardship program – especially the necessity of “thanking, telling, and asking.”
I’m happy to let you know that Lovett Weems and Ann Michel’s just-published Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance: A Transformational Guide to Church Finance focuses on these very same things – and so much more. It should rise to the top of your summer reading list because it’s loaded with both great theological underpinnings and easily implemented tips.
Just like its title indicates, Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance is organized around these three concepts.
The Generosity section starts by defining why it’s important for people of faith to be generous. I found my pink highlighter going into overdrive: “The truth is we don’t deserve anything. God’s gifts are unmerited and intended for all.”
And another, “God made generosity gratifying to us because God wants us to be generous.”
Weems and Michel reflect upon and respond to important questions like: “Are Christians required to tithe?” “Should Christians tithe?” And, “If so, how much?”
Stewardship is how individuals and congregations should care for the sacred financial gifts given to them by God. Topics covered in this section include the practical: how to build (and fund) an operating budget, a capital budget, and an endowment fund.
Finally, through Abundance, Weems and Michel finish by challenging the reader to re-think how their congregation’s physical assets are being used. How might God be calling your congregation to have its facilities in use more frequently – perhaps for a bolder ministry? Is building usage a source of income? What are the various ways that you can (or you may choose not to) charge for space usage?
As David McCallister-Wilson, President of Wesley Theological Foundation has observed (and is quoted in the book), “If the American church were a company its assets-to-income ratio would make it a prime take-over target. ‘We’ve got a lot of capital assets in the form of land that could produce a lot more revenue than it is now…If we take our mission as seriously as 7-Eleven takes its bottom line, we need to see our property as a means to a greater end.’”
While Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance is valuable for any church leader, certain committees or groups will find particular sections especially useful:
- “Generosity” will be helpful to the Stewardship Committee.
- “Stewardship” will be beneficial to the Finance Committee.
- “Abundance” will be useful to Trustees.
As with all printed material these days, the one downside of this book is its cost. The $26 price tag (nearly $33 at Cokesbury) will surely prevent some people from being able to access it.
But still, I encourage you to save up your pennies and make reading this book a priority. It’s sure to become one of the “go to” stewardship resources. I have no doubt that by reading it, you will be inspired to see your church’s finances in a new way – a way that will encourage more generosity, more stewardship, and more abundance.