By David Nieda, NWUMF Associate Director
With fall rapidly approaching, we sit on the cusp of another busy ministry season. Last week we published a review of seven popular stewardship campaigns. They fell into two broad categories: the small group study campaigns, and the commitment Sunday campaigns. Choosing the right campaign for your context is important. But the financial culture that your congregation develops year-round is even more important. As you begin your work towards a successful campaign, here are a few learnings that I’ve gleaned over the years as pastor and superintendent that have shown to be relevant to stewardship in our local churches:
Stewardship as Discipleship
Giving and generosity should be considered an outcome of Christian discipleship rather than simply to fulfill a pledge drive to meet next year’s budget. What are some ways you can explore the concepts of offering, pledging, tithing, and sacrificial giving as a component of discipleship?
Wholistic Focus on Generosity
A year-around wholistic approach to generosity is essential to increasing the sense of stewardship in the congregation through:
understanding Christian generosity to be more than just writing a check. Giving of time, skill and effort, reaching out to build new relationships, and conserving and preserving our environment are all forms of Christian generosity.
sermon themes on the Christian discipline of generosity throughout the year, not just during the stewardship campaign.
testimonies of generosity (time, talent, resources) shared by laity.
focus on and references to Christian generosity infused in the regular activities of the church like meetings, education, mission work, etc. (through devotions, sermon illustrations, teaching moments…)
Both an around-the-year stewardship/generosity strategy as well as a well-planned annual giving campaign are needed to match the rising financial needs of the church.
Be Clear about your Mission
While our churches have many folks who give out of institutional loyalty, we cannot depend on this loyalty to be the main motivator to give. People give to causes they believe in and are passionate about, so be clear about the mission of the church and the vision for the particular funding campaign.
Have the Money Talk
Money is an essential part of our lives, and also our spiritual lives. There is a taboo on this subject in our churches, but don’t be afraid to talk about money and our attitudes about it. There is both blessing and challenge that money brings into our lives, and we need to celebrate those blessings and be vigilant about the challenges.
Lead by Example
I hesitate to mention this one because it feels like meddling, but people learn and are inspired by the example of their leaders. It is no different in the area of stewardship. One church in our GNW area has their board members (including the pastor) commit to a tithe as part of their leadership, which is now a known expectation amongst the membership. What might be an appropriate way for you and the leaders at your church to lead by example and communicate that leadership in the area of stewardship?
Here are a few additional resources to enrich and inform your 2019 stewardship season:
This article from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership outlining some learnings based on research contained in the book, Passing the Plate.
United Methodist Discipleship Ministries has a page dedicated to stewardship resources.
In his book Born on Third Base, longtime inequality expert and activist Chuck Collins offers a fresh take. Born into the one percent, Collins gave away his inheritance at 26 and spent the next three decades mobilizing against inequality. He uses his perspective from both sides of the divide to deliver a new narrative.
In Sabbath as Resistance, Walter Brueggemann calls out our 24/7 society of consumption, a society in which we live to achieve, accomplish, perform, and possess. We want more, own more, use more, eat more, and drink more. Brueggemann shows readers how keeping the Sabbath allows us to break this restless cycle and focus on what is truly important.
God and Money is a book by two young Harvard MBAs on the fast track to wealth and success, in which they tell their story of God’s transforming power and how it changed their lives and their relationship to money.
What About Our Money is the 2018 and 2019 repeat study for United Methodist Women Mission U events. Susan Taylor explores the biblical foundation of abundance (sufficiency), which stands in opposition to the scarcity narrative our culture tells us from the time we are very young.