Jump into Stewardship Season

Photo credit: Simpson UMC

It’s August! With people returning from vacation, Sunday schools starting up, choirs beginning rehearsal, and committee groups reconvening, our churches will soon be buzzing with activity. Amidst this there is, of course, the 2019 annual giving campaign that must be planned.

Before diving into the seven specific programs outlined below, let me share a word about annual stewardship campaigns.  Most of them include 4 weeks of material for a program, but please consider your context. How long will it take to get ready? What will need to be prepared ahead of time? What about…

  • Small groups?

  • Guest speaker?

  • Pledge letter or pledge cards?

  • Community meal?

  • Promotion via website, social media, newsletter, emails, and worship bulletins?

All these require some planning ahead of time, preferably with a team and a chairperson.  If you don’t have one, begin recruiting a chairperson right now. Meet as early as possible with your team to get the planning going.

Below is a list of popular stewardship programs that are mostly available at Cokesbury.  They are divided into two categories, the Small Group/Christian Disciple model and the Commitment Sunday model.  The decision of which model to use and how to use them depends on the context of your mission. The key here is contextualizing any curriculum for maximum impact and results.  

Small Group/Christian Disciple Annual Stewardship Campaign

The Generosity Challenge DVD is a new curriculum put out by the Horizons Stewardship Group led by J. Cliff Christopher (author of Not Your Parents Offering Plate).  This is a 4-week small group study with a weekly reading assignment and 7 days of challenges in the form of prayer, journal writing, and self-assessment.  Designed for those who are already in pews, the focus is on generosity as a life-giving challenge of our faith.

Enough is a 4-week stewardship program by Adam Hamilton (senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection) that includes sermon outlines, small group guides, and promotional material.  Based on his book of the same name, the program wrestles with the Christian call for simplicity and generosity in a world where feeding the insatiable desire for more is perceived to bring joy.

Extravagant Generosity, based on the book Five Fruitful Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Bishop Robert Schnase, takes the theme of generosity in Christian discipleship.  The curriculum seeks to connect our spirituality and finances together and develop an individual’s sense of “financial discipleship.”  It is a 4-week program that includes all aspects of the stewardship campaign from sermon ideas, small group guides, DVD, and marketing materials. 

The book shiny gods by retired United Methodist pastor Mike Slaughter helps participants identify their own shiny distractions and offers ways to help us release them and allow God the room to occupy that space.  One area of focus uses the Wesleyan maxim “earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” The book itself (which is deeply discounted), a 4-week leader guide, and a supplemental DVD are all available at Cokesbury.

Commitment Sunday Annual Stewardship Campaigns

New Consecration Sunday is a 10-week campaign by Herb Miller that culminates with a Consecration Sunday celebration in which pledge commitments are brought forth during worship followed by a catered congregational meal.  This program involves soliciting the help of a guest leader who is outside the congregation. This guest works with local church leadership and also offers the sermon on Consecration Sunday.  The theme of this program is the need of the Christian to give rather than the need of the church to receive.

Grow 1 Stewardship Program is also by Herb Miller and designed for smaller congregations and churches that have not held a stewardship campaign in recent memory.  This online resource is similar to the New Consecration Sunday in that it focuses on the theology of the Christian needing to give rather than the need of the church to receive.  It also includes a “step up” challenge that encourages folks to step up to the next level of giving as a response to their spiritual development. 

Celebrate Generosity is a free resource by Eugene Brimm which is available on the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America website. It’s similar to the New Consecration Sunday.  It also challenges people to step up their giving by contributing an additional dollar per week ($50 becomes $51 the next week to $52, and so on).  There are other stewardship resources available on the ELCA website, as well.  

By David Nieda, NWUMF Associate Director

This article is the first of a two-part series on annual stewardship campaigns. Look for the second installment next week!