I can't wait to read my stewardship books!
I know this might come as a shock, but I did not grow up fantasizing that I’d be a fundraiser. Instead, I grew up imagining that I’d be an Academy Award-winning actress (third-grade dreams die hard).
Life sure has some funny twists and turns.
Once it became clear that – with my English degree in hand – I was not going to be Hollywood-bound, I had to come up with Plan B. After working in higher education for a number of years, about 28 years ago I fell into the world of fundraising and stewardship.
And, I love it.
I love the joy I see when individuals give. I love figuring out what motivates people to donate to a cause. I love witnessing the difference lots of small gifts collectively make and the transformative power of one or two large donations.
Figuring out how to raise money, whether through the church or non-profits, did not come magically to me. Like acquiring a basic knowledge of Greek or Hebrew (kudos to those of you who did), learning about fundraising – and its spiritual sister, stewardship – took study.
Over the years, I have reviewed dozens of books on the subject. Depending on the week, my list might change as to which ones are the “best.” Today, these are the five stewardship books that are on the top of my list.
1. The Spirituality of Fundraising, Henri Nouwen: I have loved Nouwen’s work for years. This slim gem of a book crystalizes why fundraising (and stewardship) is a spiritual pursuit. “If our security is totally in God, then we are free to ask for money. Only when we are free from money can we ask freely for others to give it. This is the conversion to which fundraising as ministry calls us.” | See my prior interview/review here.
2. Ask, Thank, Tell, Charles R. Lane: This book is grounded theologically and loaded with practical good ideas. In addition to other issues, Lane directly tackles the pastor’s role in stewardship (spoiler alert: your role is critical). “As long as we imagine that faith and finances don’t mix, then some of God’s people will wrongly imagine that what they do with their money has nothing to do with Jesus…[I]t is precisely for this reason that the pastor must talk about money and be involved in the stewardship ministry of the congregation.”
3. Rich Church/Poor Church, J. Cliff Christopher: While Christopher’s Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate has been the go-to stewardship book for years, I find Rich Church/Poor Church to be far more interesting. Complete with discussion questions, RC/PC gets people to grapple with what kind of church they are – are they one with a vision for the future or one that is hanging on for dear life? “In the Poor Church…the discussion is about what the ‘church’ needs…The motivation is to act for the preservation of the church. The question is, for what?” | See my prior interview/review here.
4. Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance, Lovett H. Weems and Ann A. Michel: This makes the list because it is broader in scope. “Generosity” = stewardship, “stewardship” = finance, and “abundance” = trustees. If you want a more comprehensive look at the world of stewardship, this is it. “When we teach and embody a Christian understanding of money and possessions, we are given an antidote to a culture that extols acquisitiveness, excessive consumerism, and self-interest. It is one of the ways that God is at work in the world to bring the world into alignment with God’s purposes.” | See my prior interview/review here.
5. We Aren’t Broke, Mark Elsdon. If I haven’t said it before, I will now – this was one of my favorite books written last year. While you won’t find any “how to do stewardship in your congregation” ideas, you will be challenged to think about how you might repurpose and be better stewards of some of your most valuable physical assets (aka, your buildings). “Of all the people and institutions that could be leading the charge to rethink the use of capital, the church should be on the front line…[F]aith communities have led in the application of capital for good in the past. It is time to reclaim this legacy.” | See my prior interview/review here.
Bonus Book: OK, so I fibbed and I’m including one more –
A Better Offering, Donald A. Smith. It’s not that this book particularly breaks any new ground but it does encourage you to do what, ironically, many churches fail to do well: tell your story. “I think it’s safe to say that every church has a host of modern-day stories of how God is working among the people…so doesn’t it make sense to tell at least one of those stories every week?” | See my prior interview/review here.
There you have it – your reading list of the five best books (plus one) to get you grounded in your stewardship ministry. Knowledge of any topic doesn’t come via osmosis. It takes some study. Maybe you have your own favorite stewardship book. Let me know what it is and why you’ve found it particularly helpful. Oh, and by the way, if you happen to know of a way to get me into the Academy Awards, I’m all ears.