This is the book!
I just got back last night from a vacation in (wait for it…) Cleveland. Yep, that Cleveland. The visit was, in fact, to see relatives. As an only child who grew up with no immediate family around, I can tell you that it was fabulous to be surrounded by four brothers-in-law and three sisters-in-law. Five-degree weather? I’m just like Frozen’s Elsa, “The cold never bothered me anyway.” But let’s be clear. Next family reunion in January, I’m voting for Hawaii.
The big news on this trip, though…I read a book! And not just any book, it’s a book that you’ll all want to read too. Embracing Stewardship (2016) written by Charles (Chick) Lane and Grace Duddy Pomroy is an excellent primer in, as Lane and Pomroy say, “how to put stewardship at the heart of your congregation’s life.”
Lane was the author of the groundbreaking, Ask, Thank, Tell. This book, Embracing Stewardship, adds to his original work the voice of Pomroy. While Lane is a 67-year old clergy person, Pomroy is a 28-year old layperson. Her point of view significantly adds to the stewardship discussion and provides fresh, new insights.
Divided into two parts, Embracing Stewardship begins with the “why” question (as should you). Why is stewardship even necessary? Most readers will affirm Pomroy’s definition of stewardship, “Stewardship is about more than money, offering plates, and pledges. It is the way we love God and neighbor with our whole lives – not just our wallets…Stewardship is discipleship.” She goes on to say,
“Stewardship is not about paying bills. Stewardship is not another word for the fall, annual response program. Stewardship is not limited to offering plates, giving kiosks, and temple talks. Stewardship is the multiplicity of ways that the people of God live out God’s mission in the world using all of the abundance that God has entrusted to them.”
Utilizing “Design Thinking” the authors introduce a way to engage small groups and congregations in reflecting on stewardship. Developed at Stanford University (giving it some cred), Design Thinking focuses on discovery (understanding your people), interpretation (determining needs of your people), ideation (brainstorming and choosing ideas), experiment (trying out the ideas), and evolution (evaluating how it went). This process is a critical step in developing a concrete plan for engaging more people in the “why” of stewardship.
Part Two of Embracing Stewardship moves naturally to providing more technical ideas to implement change. Chapters like “Talk about money when you aren’t asking for any,” “Develop a plan for thanking” (my favorite), “Talk about stewardship all year,” and “Reach new audiences,” offers specific ideas that can be implemented, some more easily than others. But in each case, if you haven’t answered the “why stewardship” question, these ideas will come and go without any real change being implemented.
Lane and Pomroy encourage congregations to remember that – although you may be in need of financial resources – the process of stewardship education is not one to be rushed. As many of you know all too well, changing congregational culture can be a long process. Embracing Stewardship can help you and your congregation on the path toward financial health – with your values and faith firmly in check. It’s an excellent addition to your stewardship library.
P.S. February 10 – come hear the authors in person! Chick and Grace will be talking about Embracing Stewardship at Tigard UMC (Oregon) from 9-3. $50 includes lunch and a copy of their book (I bet they’ll even autograph it for you). Groups of three or more, $150. Register here.