You’ve probably heard that Jesus talked about money a lot; a quick Google search yields all kinds of numbers, such as money being mentioned more than 800 times and in 11 of 39 parables. Fact-checking these is a task for another day, but one thing is certain: stewardship, and not just financial stewardship, is at the heart of the gospel. Jesus taught about generosity, love, gratitude, how we should treat one another, how we should care for what’s in the world, and how to be in right relationship with God. As followers of Christ, we don’t get to turn our backs on stewardship. So what does this mean if you’re a pastor, stewardship leader, or someone who cares deeply for your community of faith? Here are four areas to consider as you think about stewardship in 2021:
1. We are stewards
“Steward” is both a noun and a verb: it’s who we are, who God created us to be, and what we do as a result of that God-given identity. How does your church form faithful and generous stewards? Asking for money or gifts of time and talent isn’t enough; growing stewards takes ongoing education. Make a list of the ways your community of faith helps people learn what it means to be God’s stewards; what do you find?
2. We are disciples
“Stewardship” is more than what we give to church: it’s what we do with all God has entrusted to us all the time. It’s discipleship, how we care for ourselves, other people, stuff, and creation. When churches use language such as stewardship “campaign,” “appeal,” “program,” or “drive,” we may mistakenly reinforce the message that we can opt in or out of stewardship, that we can choose to give or not to give, or that our stewardship is just about our church or money.
At a program I attended led by the Lake Institute on Faith and Philanthropy, they encouraged leaders to begin to shift people’s mindsets about stewardship by talking about the church’s stewardship ministry. “A stewardship ministry is the faithful service of God’s people rendered unto God and others on God’s behalf to bring God glory, build up His church, and reach out to His world.” How does your church’s stewardship ministry glorify God and impact people, both the stewards and those who are blessed by their generosity?
3. We are leaders
Leadership is critical. We know this, of course, and yet how many times have you heard someone serving on a board or committee begrudgingly say, “I’m here because no one else volunteered,” or “Sarah asked me and I couldn’t say no”? When it comes to your stewardship team, those involved should be there because they understand the privilege, responsibility, and joy of being God’s stewards, and they are excited about helping others to do the same. But before you think about who is on your stewardship team, make sure the work is clear; it should include:
- a focus on year-round education as a part of steward formation
- overseeing how the church invites gifts of time, talent, treasure, and testimony
- making sure the church gives thanks for, communicates, and celebrates acts of stewardship
- connecting stewardship with how the church accomplishes its mission, achieves its vision, and is a part of God’s vital work in the world
Once the work of the team is well-defined, then consider who has the gifts to successfully lead a vibrant and sustainable stewardship ministry. This doesn’t just mean people who have experience in finance, as is sometimes the conclusion churches mistakenly make. Creative, visionary, and faithful people who are good communicators are valuable for stewardship work. It is also important to involve your pastor; MMFA has found that churches who have clergy who believe stewardship is an essential spiritual discipline and who take an active role in the stewardship ministry are more successful at growing faithful and generous stewards.
4. We can develop
Finally, as churches we plan, know our mission and values, and budget wisely. Do we encourage these same behaviors in the individuals and families who are part of our community of faith? One way to do so is through offering faith-based financial management courses, such as Freed Up Financial Living or Six Weeks on Money. If your church is interested in learning more about these two courses and possibly facilitating a class, please reach out to us; your Moravian Ministries Foundation would be happy to talk to you about making them a reality in your ministry context.
Paul wrote: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6,7)
We have been given new life in Christ and have received ALL we need to live a life worthy of Him. As 2021 continues, we encourage you to take a close look at stewardship in your community of faith, as well as yourself as God’s steward. Where are the opportunities for new life? How are you committed to becoming Christ-centered rather than self-centered? How has God equipped you to do all God calls you to do? How do you abound in thanksgiving?
And how can MMFA help? Please contact Laura Watson, Director of Stewardship, to get started (firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-725-2589).