A cure for ‘Stewardship Procrastination’

Photo: Watch Repairer, Creative Commons

Eager to rejuvenate stewardship in her struggling congregation, in the last several years the pastor had consulted with her bishop’s office, read the recommended books, attended the workshops and classes, and even brought her stewardship team to a recent two-day conference.

Bumping into her, I asked, “So what did you think?”

“Great!” she said with a smile. “We’ve decided to really work on stewardship next year.”

Wait, what? NEXT year? Seriously?

Stewardship procrastination. It’s a malaise in epidemic proportions in the Mainline denomination I serve, and I’m guessing Lutherans aren’t the only ones who fall into it.

Why? Many congregations are cursed with a toxic money culture that actually discourages honest, grown-up talk about financial stewardship. So the church avoids stewardship the way Superman avoids Kryptonite.

Thus, next year always seems a better time to begin working on stewardship. A quote from our spiritual founder, Martin Luther, comes to mind: “How soon not now becomes never.”

If your congregation is paralyzed by stewardship procrastination, by all means continue to plan, study, read books, attend workshops and consult with leaders. But most importantly, DO SOMETHING. Start small. Take a baby step. But get the ball rolling.

Following the twin rules of, 1) talking about money as often as you can without asking for it, and, 2) talking about stewardship as often as you can without talking about money, here are some ideas:

Pray. Invite people to pray about their gifts and their relationship with God. I like the wonderful prayer that stewardship expert and author Scott McKenzie suggests in his excellent book Generosity Rising (2016, Abingdon Press): “Lord, what do you want to do through me?”  

Get into Scripture. It’s said that Jesus talked more about money than just about any other topic besides the Realm of God. Dig into his words, plus teachings in the Epistles and Hebrew Bible. Get the Christian education leaders on board to plan Bible studies, temple talks and forums. Nudge the pastor to preach about money (without asking for it) whenever the lessons talk about it.

Publicize. Put a stewardship article in every newsletter. (Here’s an archive of free articles.)

Celebrate gifts. Invite congregants to take a spiritual gift inventory and then follow up with a potluck where your church celebrates those gifts and challenges leaders to find places where those gifts can be put to use.

Thank
. Make it a ministry priority to thank people for their gifts of time, talent and treasure. Publicly thank your many volunteers, thank committee folks, and, yes, thank (publicly as appropriate) those who give financially. Send letters of thanks with every giving statement.

Offer giving pathways. Today fewer and fewer people carry cash. Keep the offering plate but initiate other pathways: online giving, direct deposit, money transfer, giving by text, giving kiosk, etc.

Focus on abundance. Instead of always carping about what you congregation lacks, talk about what it does have and how it’s being used to do the work of Christ.

Need more? Check out “51 Ideas for A Year Round Stewardship Program” from the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Washington.

The important idea is not that you do all of them, but rather that you start somewhere. Pick one you can begin this week, and grow from there. Once you break “stewardship procrastination” things will get easier.

(c) Copyright 2020, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.

Reprint rights granted for congregations for nonprofit, local use. Please reprint with the following copyright notice:
© Copyright 2020, the Rev. Rob Blezard. Reprinted by permission.
Other uses, please inquire: rob@thestewardshipguy.com 

Photo credit: “DSCN5598” by watch repairer is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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