Back to School Special: Interview with Church of the Resurrection's Clayton Smith


Back to School Special: 
Interview with Church of the Resurrection’s Clayton Smith

Dear Readers – I have landed what a less humble person might call an “exclusive” interview with Clayton Smith.  Here’s hoping his insights will give you a boost as we start this new back-to-school and post-summer church year.  Next week, it’s back to all about me and my vacation!

Lucky for me, Rev. Dr. Clayton Smith, Executive Pastor of Generosity at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, knows how to tell time.  Calling me for an interview that I set up, I confidently stated,  “I thought I was calling you at 3pm your time.”  To which he graciously replied, “It is 3pm my time.”  Oops.  I love making a great first impression.
Coming off his church’s recent and successful $63 million capital campaign drive, Smith knows a thing or two about generosity and talking about money.  But, it wasn’t always that way.  Despite serving and growing the largest United Methodist church in St. Louis, MO, Smith was still uncomfortable talking about money.  In order to overcome this uneasiness, he did what any smart person does – he studied.  And he did more than that.  Smith went back to school, writing his post-graduate thesis for his Doctor of Ministry degree on preaching about financial stewardship.

Ten years ago he found himself on the other end of a conversation with Rev. Adam Hamilton – who invited Smith to join the Executive Team at the Church of the Resurrection.  The critical change for both Hamilton and Smith and how they viewed the financial well being of their congregation came a few years ago when their question went from, “What does the church want from the congregation?” to “What does the church want for the congregation?”
Hamilton, no doubt with a little help from Smith, then embarked on a series of sermons recognizing the financial needs of the congregation and urging them to be excellent stewards of the monetary gifts God had given them.  From that series, the book “Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity” was born.  And surprisingly, attendance during the stewardship campaign increased.  Years later, Smith says attendance continues to spike during the annual sermon series on financial stewardship and personal finances.
Currently, Smith is most excited about his new book being released in March of 2015 (you’re just going to have to be patient), Propel: Good Stewardship Propels Great Generosity (Abingdon Press).  In twelve chapters, Propel will help clergy people examine their own relationship with money and assist them in developing a culture of generosity within their congregations.  Here’s a sneak peak of what you’ll find inside the book: A New Vision of Generosity, Dynamic Insights for Preaching and Teaching with Greater Confidence and Conviction, and Six Ministry Models for Creating a Generous Church Community.  It should be on your 2015 reading list.
When asked what advice he had for congregations to increase their stewardship success, Smith made three suggestions:

  • Make sure you have the right leadership in place.  The pastor needs to be involved and gather the right staff and laity in order to form a successful team.  Find people who are passionate about giving and who have a strong desire to increase generosity within your congregation.
  • Make sure the team understands the vision and purpose of the church.  Of course, this means that you must be clear on what your vision and mission is.  Once you’ve done that, at critical junctures ask the question, “How does what we are planning meet our vision and purpose?” 
  • Make sure to reflect and celebrate when you meet certain goals.  Life is too short; make sure you take time to enjoy your successes.

 In addition to reading and being inspired by some of his favorite authors (Bishop Robert Schnase and Hamilton to name two), Smith reads non-profit fundraising books.  He also belongs to a very interesting and unorthodox (for a clergy person anyway) organization: the local development professionals group.  Smith says he is one of only two or three clergy people who attend the meetings, but from these meetings he has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and practical advice – not to mention that his congregation has gained visibility with people who may have some skewed ideas about the church.
“You can’t out give God,” aptly wraps up Smith’s understanding of stewardship and its importance in a Christian’s faith journey.  He has spent a lifetime developing a theology of generosity as he has sought to find and share what it means to have contentment and purpose in life.  And to think, along with all that grounding and knowledge he knows how to tell time too.  Praise God.
Church of the Resurrection is holding its annual Leadership Institute, September 24-26 where four stewardship and generosity workshops will be offered. 

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 was thrilled that Clayton Smith gave her his time and helped her learn the time in Kansas. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.

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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
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.