Nails on the Chalkboard: Words Matter

Nails on the Chalkboard: Words Matter

Image courtesy of
S. Drummond @flickr.com CC BY-SA 2.0

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post “2 (Free) Things Your Stewardship Drive Must Do.” Here’s the recap for potential success: 1. Look behind (remind people about the awesome things you did last year) and 2. Look forward (let people know what you plan to do in the coming year). I stand by these. I hope you’ll take them to heart and implement them.
But in the article I also talked about the “stewardship campaign” and (rightly) Karen Bolin from Portland, OR called me out.  I knew I was in trouble when I saw her subject line: “Poor Choice of Words, Please Reconsider.” Here’s what she wrote (she’s given me permission to reprint her email):

Just when I think progress is being made in the area of "Stewardship" as a PRACTICE of a DISCIPLE, here you are using the words Stewardship and Campaign together. I'm disappointed. We must stop thinking of Stewardship as a CAMPAIGN! It is a way of life. It is not a once a year focus where the church asks for your pledge or your money.

 Stewardship can be about the Earth, Relationships, Time, The Word, and of course money and assets. I have this same complaint with the national UMC [United Methodist Church] people. We reap what we sow. So if we tell people it is a Stewardship Campaign, and they don't give, what do we do for the rest of the year to teach that giving is a joyful thing? The church does not need your money. You give because you can.
You give because that is what Jesus wants us to do. Give from our heart. Trust that you will have enough. I suggest different phrases like Fall Finance Campaign, or Stewardship Focus, or Annual Pledge Campaign, etc. Hope you will consider your words more carefully in the future. The words Stewardship Campaign are like nails on a chalkboard to me.  [Emphasis added]
Ouch, nails on a chalkboard. So here was my response:
“Thanks for the feedback, Karen - I can tell it got you fired up. Nails on a chalkboard are never a good thing.
I completely agree with your assessment. And I know that words matter. I also struggle with using terminology that people understand — so, for example, even though I dislike the word ‘apportionments’ and strongly prefer ‘shared giving’ or ‘missional giving’ - I fall back into what is easiest. And that’s what happened here when I used ‘stewardship campaign’ - I like the alternative phrases that you suggest and will work to use those in the future.”
So folks, as you gear up for your Fall Stewardship Focus, keep in mind that the words you use matter. Be mindful of the unintended message(s) you might be sending out. In particular, and as I have said here on many an occasion, your “Annual Pledge Campaign” cannot be a one and done affair. Stewardship needs to be a year-round focus, something that is practiced in all areas of our lives. It’s what being a disciple is all about. And as the newly sainted Mother Teresa said, It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
Thanks for the reminder, Karen.
Bonus: Remember my interview with Rev. Mike Slaughter about his new book The Christian Wallet? Here’s the promised Stewardship Study Guide produced by Westminster John Knox Press. And here’s a link to the book’s introduction that will also take you to the Study Guide. Let me know what you think.
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 $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She’s going to try gloves on the chalkboard to see how that sounds. She was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
If someone has forwarded this to you and you would like to subscribe to "Inspiring Generosity," click here.  Miss an issue?  Click here.

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.