The stewardship chairwoman was frustrated in her efforts to build a team.
“The problem is,” she said dejectedly, “nobody wants to be on the Stewardship Committee.” She spat out the dreaded “S” word, like a bug she’d accidentally inhaled.
In her congregation, the very name, Stewardship Committee, is enough to send service-inclined members running for the parking lot.
It’s not uncommon, especially in churches where “stewardship” has been reduced to just another way to say, “Hand over your money.” And not even a polite, respectful invitations to give, but demands that appeal to duty and responsibility. You know, using such motivating phrases as, “Everybody has to give their fair share,” “The church will go bankrupt if we don’t give,” or, “We’ll be OK if every just gives only $5 more per week.”
In other words, “stewardship” is a synonym for “fund-raising to make the budget.” If this sounds familiar, fear not. There’s hope!
Two tips that build on one another:
First, reboot: Commit to redirecting the Stewardship Committee’s work to focus not on fundraising, but on actual stewardship – teaching people a faithful and biblical understanding of the wondrous gifts that God has poured into our cups, simply running over with blessings. We worship a God who gives abundantly. We live in God’s abundance.
The worldview is at odds with our culture’s incessant mantra of “scarcity” — that we never have enough, more is always better, and true happiness is always just another purchase away. When God’s people embrace a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, they change, often becoming happier and more generous.
The committee would help God’s people to put their money in its proper priority – as less important and less valuable than at least three other treasures that God has given them – their time, their health, and their relationships.
The shift could be accomplished with a comprehensive year-round effort that involves creative planning, education, preaching, and publicity. (Check out the year-round strategy suggested by the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. Or, here is a pretty comprehensive year-round stewardship guide from the Presbyterian Church Foundation.)
Refocusing the work of the Stewardship Committee takes time, effort and diligence, but it pays off. So start by making a commitment, understanding that it’s a long road.
Next, rename. Beware that this will work ONLY if you take the first step, but consider changing the name of the committee. If stewardship is a confusing, worn-out, stigmatized, toxic word, choose something that’s not only fresh but also more in line with your mission, a name that will evoke new visions for your work. Here are some suggestions:
The Abundance Committee: You’re focusing on God’s abundance, right? So why not put that front and center. Turning minds and hearts away from scarcity thinking, helping them see their lives under the umbrella of God’s Providence, that’s what will grow hearts. And, eventually, budgets.
The Generosity Committee: Here you’re focusing on raising up the character trait of generosity, which focuses on the development of the giver. If you think of the most generous person you know, it’s likely that the person has a lot of other desirable characteristics, such as kindness, longsuffering, gentleness, caring. In other words, the traits that accompany the best of discipleship.
The Abundance and Generosity Committee: Here you put the two concepts together, offering a dual focus that can change hearts, minds and your church culture.
A word of warning: Changing the name of the committee without changing its focus has risks. If you don’t change the focus, then the “Abundance & Generosity Committee” will simply be the old “Stewardship Committee,” but with a new name. The danger is that, over time, “abundance” and “generosity” will lose their power and become the same kind of overused, worn-out, hackneyed term that “stewardship” has become.
May God bless your work!
(c) Copyright 2020, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.
Photo: “Protest Sign22” by a.mina is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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