That nasty ‘S’ word!

“What’s another word for stewardship,” a pastor friend wanted to know.

The need arose because whenever he mentioned “stewardship” in his congregation, everybody would avert their eyes, hold onto their wallets and quickly find something else to do.

”Stewardship,” he complained, “simply has too much baggage.”

That’s true in many congregations, but it’s possibly because pastors and leaders talk about stewardship only in the context of fundraising, pledging or making the budget.

The solution is not to find other words, fresher words — words that have no baggage, but rather to use stewardship more widely, in non-financial contexts as well. That way people will learn what their pastor learned in seminary: That stewardship affects every decision we make.

The Stewardship of Life Institute is dedicated to helping people understand stewardship as a key element of their walk as followers of Christ. Here’s why:

First some basics: A steward is someone who is entrusted to the care and use of property or things that belong to someone else. Stewardship is the responsible care and use of that property.

Christian stewardship starts with the twofold proposition that 1) all we have and all that we are belongs to God, and 2) that God expects us to care for and use those gifts responsibly and for the good of others.

And obviously, God gives us much more than just money. Make a list of the blessings God has given to you. It starts with life itself! You breathe, think and are because God has given you life. Included on the list are faith, salvation, love, health, intelligence, wisdom, eyesight, hearing, smell, touch, family, friends, church, freedom, security, joy, comfort, peace and relationships. How about that?

List your special talents, things like music, mechanics, cooking, plumbing, laundering, raising children, landscaping, singing, sewing, dancing, teaching, preaching, accounting, writing, running, playing a sport, remembering, cracking jokes, caring for the sick, listening, punctuality, understanding. You get the idea.

Now list the things God gives us in our environment, including air, water, wind, weather, rain, clouds, sun, moon, stars, forests, trees, streams, rivers, animals, sky, morning, evening, deserts, mountains, trees, glaciers, oceans, rivers, lakes, prairie and beaches.

How about that list? We haven’t even gotten to money yet, and it’s already pretty long. Now start with your economic possessions: a job, house, car, furnishings, clothing, computer, TV, electronics, food, medical insurance, books, land, retirement plan and, finally, money in the bank.

All of these things are gifts of God to you, to me and all of humanity. We are entrusted with their responsible care and proper use. Stewardship is how we live as followers of God. Since every decision involves something that really belongs to God, every decision is a stewardship decision. Got it?

So, in your congregation, is “stewardship” becoming a just a synonym for “give money to the church”? The remedy is to broaden its use.

Make every sermon and every newsletter message a stewardship message. And after awhile, people will stop averting their gaze, holding onto their wallets and finding something else to do whenever you mention the “S” word.

Copyright (c) 2013, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.

Reprint rights granted for congregations for nonprofit, local use. Please reprint with the following copyright notice:
© Copyright 2013, the Rev. Rob Blezard. Reprinted by permission.
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