Stewardship Month? Pete Linforth@pixaba
Did you feel the chill in the air? How about watching the trees turning a beautiful golden hue? Well, that obviously means - it’s time for the Christmas aisle in Costco! Are you freaking kidding me? Forget the Kardashians, this is definitely what’s wrong with society. Christmas stuff up before Halloween. Unbelievable. Glad to have that off my chest. Now, on to things that really matter.
At one point I was my church’s Stewardship Chair. I decided I wanted to know what stewardship program the mega church in my city utilized. Dutifully, I called and asked, “Can I talk to the person who does your stewardship program?”
Not because the person didn’t know, it just wasn’t a thing this church did. Stewardship program? Stewardship campaign? The month of October or November focusing on giving? Nope. Not at this ginormous church teeming with people and a dizzying array of ministries benefiting its congregants, the city, and the world.
Stewardship “month” wasn’t a part of their culture.
What was part of their culture was talking about the impact of giving each and every Saturday night or Sunday morning. Generosity (and talking about it) was in their DNA.
Now, I know that this is not the culture of most mainline churches. I get it. We like to have our nifty and easy (?) programs in place that can be completed in a month’s time, wrapped up with a bow so that we know how much money (kind of) to count on for the next year’s budget. I get it. I do.
To that end, I'll direct you to Rev. David Nieda's (Northwest United Methodist Foundation) excellent summary of seven stewardship programs. He's divided them up into "Small Group/Christian Disciple Annual Stewardship Campaign" and "Commitment Sunday Annual Stewardship Campaigns." This is a terrific resource.
In the same breath, I want you to also read an article that came out this morning from Ministry Matters: “Facing the Truth about Poor Giving and Its Devastating Consequences” by Gary Ealy from Horizons Stewardship. As Ealy says, “When confronted with poor giving and lackluster stewardship, church leaders often try to justify their situation rather than face the truth.” He faces some of the excuses head on. It also dovetails nicely with last week’s blog post Clergy: You Need to Talk about Money.
Yes, our mainline culture embraces “Stewardship Month.” And, I get it. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we had “Stewardship Year”?
A year where sermons focus on gratitude and the joy that comes from giving.
A year where stories of impact are told.
A year where giving is celebrated and recognized.
What if we put stewardship “programs” out of business because they were no longer needed simply because we were talking about stewardship all year long?
Culture is hard to change – let me try to stop Costco from putting Christmas items out in September – but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least think about how to do business differently. Do your stewardship thing this fall, and then consider how you might do stewardship with your congregation year-round next year. It just might be an exciting, rewarding, and transformational adventure for all of you.
P.S. Don’t forget! Please send me a copy of your narrative budget at firstname.lastname@example.org.