Why Stewardship?

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Why Stewardship?

Good Question!

Imagine you are at your Parish Pastoral Council meeting and you are rather passionately encouraging the leadership and the Pastor to get involved in promoting better stewardship in the parish. They ask you why…the parish meets its financial commitments every month and there are a sufficient number of ‘volunteers’ (many volunteering in more than one ministry or service), why do we need more stewardship? You respond by describing the amazing transformation that you have witnessed in another faith community, and believe that the same conversion can take place here with a greater commitment to stewardship! The Pastor and others are quite comfortable; they say “The parish is doing just fine.  We already do stewardship”, on to the next agenda item. “Why don’t they get it?” you wonder… “Stewardship is more than meeting budgets and getting volunteers.”

Or maybe your congregation has a pressing financial need, and the leadership might view ‘stewardship’ as a quick fix to their problem, only to discover that stewardship requires a patient, persistent, and long term vision to be fruitful. The best solution to an urgent financial need is a well coordinated capital campaign. Why would stewardship help in a capital campaign?

You would be surprised by the impact of infusing the spirituality of stewardship into a capital campaign. A few years ago, I co-chaired a $500,000 parish campaign. Half way through the campaign, I convinced the leadership that some stewardship teaching and language would be helpful. In the second half of the campaign we focused on cultivating a greater understanding of stewardship and giving back to God in gratitude for what God has given us…gifts in the second half of the campaign increased by 160%.

Is stewardship just an ecclesiastical term for fundraising then? Stewardship and fundraising are not the same thing. Fundraising is about giving to a need…stewardship is about the people in the pews needing to give, because they recognize how much God has given to them. Stewardship has the power to transform the hearts and minds of the people who sit in church Sunday after Sunday, that’s why we should work to advance the sprituality of stewardship. As people grow in their understanding of stewardship, they come to see all of life through a different lens. They look upon every possession, talent or ability, each opportunity, their monthly income, and every relationship as a gift from God. They grow in gratitude to God for their gifts, and that gratitude inspires in them, the desire to share their gifts generously. Moreover, gratitude deepens their relationship with God.

To be sure, a well executed stewardship education and formation plan does have a dramatic impact on the vitality of a church community, I have witnessed it personally in over 15 years of leading church stewardship initiatives. We only need to look at the incredible journey and example of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita Kansas, http://www.stfranciswichita.com/ as witness to the power of making stewardship a way of life. St. Francis of Assisi Parish began their stewardship journey in 1968, and the fruits have been beyond their wildest expectations. However, stewardship is personal as well as communal. When church leaders look beyond the needs of the church, as they did in Wichita, and focus their stewardship education efforts on the need for the individual person to grow in his or her discipleship, then they discover the power and the beauty of this spirituality.  Encouraging people to embrace stewardship in their day-to-day walk as a disciple of Jesus helps them to grow in holiness. Only in this way are we then being faithful to the stewardship we find in the Gospel.  Growing in holiness, this is my ‘white hot’ why! I love what stewardship has done for me as I strive to be the best disciple I can be, and that is why I am so passionate about sharing this way of life with others. All of this should remind us that stewardship is not a program, it is a response to our call to be disciples.

Stewardship is not a new program, but is Continuous and Permanent. Stewardship is a way of life, not a program. We regularly experience spiritual programs and movements that come, flourish, diminish, and disappear, only to be replaced by others. These programs and movements do great good, and we will always have them, but there is a problematic instability in going from program to program, a kind of a boom and bust pattern. Stewardship, however, is so deeply rooted in the foundational themes of the Gospel that it involves a permanent and continuous reorientation of our approach to discipleship, and so provides a stable base for the life of faith in our communities. Stewardship calls for nothing less than both individual and communal conversion, rooted in faith and fruitful in action. Stewardship is not a new program, or some magic solution to the challenges we face. It means a change of heart for each of us, a spirit of gratitude that permeates the whole of our life as disciples. That is its greatest benefit.

Thomas Cardinal Collins

2004 Pastoral Letter – Stewardship: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

http://caedm.ca/Portals/0/documents/stewardship/2015_06_30_CollinsLetter.pdf

 As stewardship leaders, we must be steadfast in our commitment to not permit stewardship to slide down that slippery slope to becoming a church ‘program’ designed merely to get more volunteers or money in the offering. How then do we consistently raise stewardship to its rightful place in the life of the authentic Christian Disciple? This is an important question and I’d be grateful to hear about your experience in dealing with it. I will share some of my experience in coming posts.

Always grateful and hopeful in our good and gracious God,

Joseph Daniel

Dare to Take the Risk

Prior to seeking God’s Kingdom, my way of life was one of bondage. I was in prison, and I didn’t even know it.  I was imprisoned by my own thoughts and actions. I had slipped into a lifestyle of bad attitudes and bad behaviour that at the time seemed completely normal. Discipleship and stewardship have changed the way I think, and thus the way I live and enjoy life. They have set me free, and my life just keeps getting better! Sometimes you have to break out of prison to even know you were in prison.

I initially felt that making discipleship and stewardship a way of life was risky. I wondered, what would others think? Would I lose friends because of my new way of seeing life? I took the risk, I had nothing to lose because I had tried everything else, and my way was not working. I was curious and excited because with risk there is usually reward.

When we have the courage to change the way we think, it changes the way we behave, and it changes the results [rewards] we get.

People will naturally wonder what impact a new, or greater commitment to discipleship and stewardship will have in their lives. They will ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?”.  I don’t see this as a selfish question because even Peter asked the question. ‘Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”’ (Matthew 19:27). Look up Jesus’ response to Peter’s question. It was much more than Peter could have anticipated or hoped for I’m sure.

“Stewardship is the right thing to do…

its rewards can’t be kept out!”

Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber

Ireland 2010 526

It makes perfect sense for us to invest our time, energy and financial resources in what we believe will benefit us and our families the most. So, as leaders in stewardship if we aren’t prepared to answer the question “What’s in it for me?” then we shouldn’t expect vast line-ups of people waiting to sign up for this way of life. Show them the benefits, and many more will respond, joyfully!

Stewardship is a way of life that is very freeing, which is just one of the lifestyle’s many rewards. My wife Lynn and I have discovered that the rewards come, and continue to come, predominantly as a result of the day to day choices we make in living this way. There also have been some unexpected rewards that have come out of nowhere; which I can only explain as God’s grace. Go ahead, take the risk, the benefits are also out of this world!

Radically Different & Remarkably Rewarding

The often used model for inviting the people of God to make a greater commitment to stewardship usually focuses on Time, Talent & Treasure. This model is tried, tested and true…sorry I couldn’t resist the alliteration. However true, the “Three T’s” formula is also a little tired. I believe it is tired because this approach places a demand on people the moment they hear it – the church wants me to volunteer and give more money. The Three T’s model does not fully describe how embracing stewardship deepens our relationship with God. Is there a better way to invite folks into a deeper understanding of stewardship and, as a result, a greater commitment to the lifestyle? There lies the truth of the matter – Christian stewardship is a lifestyle not a church program. It is way of living that benefits the individual person, as well as their church community. The full potential of stewardship can only be realized when people see that living out their baptismal call in the spirit of stewardship is to walk the road of joy.

The faithful will continue to resist embracing the values of Christian Stewardship as long as they see it as the Church simply placing a demand on them. Their minds will remain closed, and their hearts lukewarm, unless we change the language of stewardship that is typically used in churches today. My hope & prayer is that this blog will change the way people see and think about stewardship, and as a result, profoundly alter how they live. Changed thinking will lead them to discover a remarkably rewarding way of life. People discover that living the stewardship way is both radically different and remarkably rewarding.

I’d love to hear from you!