So, weirdly, the most inspiring workshop I attended at our recent regional denominational annual (sheesh, lotsa modifiers!) meeting was about stewardship. First, I should back up and say that in general, the tone of the whole weekend seemed right on with my experience in the church where I'm serving. Most people seem to have finally copped to the reality that there is no mainline church anymore, and that we have to stop acting like we're the only thing going on a Sunday morning. With that in mind, there was a HUGE emphasis on faith formation in every gathering I was part of.
I went to a workshop that was called, vaguely, Bible Study, but which turned out to be a primer for preachers who want to help people develop Biblical literacy by having some scripture stories they can carry "in their backpack." It was very inspiring and helpful, I think, for our denomination in particular which has had such a suspicion of text and tradition.
But the stewardship one, led by our associate pastor Hollis Bredeweg, really was very inspiring. I'm including my notes here in case you want to start thinking about stewardship ideas - his main theme was that we need to be doing stewardship all year, and to include more people in the process. Read on to find out how:
First, most churches do stewardship wrong and it's not all that effective. So their response is to it wrong harder. (Have you noticed that to be a theme not just in stewardship campaigns but in your whole life, as I have in mine, btw?)
Jesus said - DO NOT BE ANXIOUS.
Hollis told a story about a woman in a former congregation who was a famous tither, who told the congregation during their pledge drive one year "God's not interested in my 10% - God wants to know what I'm doing the other 90, and where I got the whole bundle." Jesus said nothing about tithing, he asked for 100% - we are not asking folks for enough. Preach about consumerism more, and about a stewardship message that is about a whole life.
Hollis' approach is, rather than pledge cards, to encourage people to give to whatever they are most moved to give to and support those things close to their heart. They are much more likely to give more that way, and be grateful for the chance to do it. IF no one is giving to the things that the church "needs," the leadership must re-assess whether that is actually a need and either let it go, or do better education. If you really love pledge cards, send everyone a blank card and envelope on which to write down their hopes and dreams for the coming year for self, family and church. Seal the envelope, never open it - it is between God and the pledger. Make your budget by forcasting rather than counting pledges (this part is a little technical - email me if you want the whole thing. If you are even still reading by now...)
The context is a faithful life.
Every time you mention money, tell the story of what that money is doing IN HUMAN TERMS. (Ex: Thank you for ministering with me in the hospital room this week - your support meant that you were all there in spirit with me....)
Move from soliciation to expressions of gratitude - thank individuals for what they are already doing for and with the church. (I made a note to myself here to take better advantage of the offeratory time - right now I usually just say the same little old sentence about being given abundance and giving back as we are able - but that could be a very rich time. This week I will plan it better and write it down!)
Send a letter of thanks detailing what the money has done, and the numbers small on the bottom, rather than a quarterly statement that looks like a business invoice.
Segment the stewardship campaign to different kinds of people - it's ok for different people to give to different things they are really passionate about.
"Receive" the offering - do not "take" it!
Have the marketing people, the good storytellers, present the budget - not the number people. The budget is a code - break it down into human terms. Ex: airline commercial: they dont talk about how expensive it is to put an airplane together and fly it when they're advertising. Instead, they give you a VISION of where you can GO on the airplane.
Talk about money and what we do with it more. And be prepared for people to get mad since most people are so private about how they manage their money, and have so little idea about how to do it. "Most people would rather hear about the mechanics of sexual intercourse from the pulpit than about how to manage their personal finances."
One guy shared that at his church, they stopped taking pledges but talked about tithing for several months instead. The stewardship committee presented numbers on stewardship Sunday - "this is how much we think we need...." - and they are doing better than last year.
Another church has everyone involved in the budgeting - anyone who wants to can make a budget and present it (I love this idea!!) and they get play money and they "vote" by putting that money in boxes marked with different "line items." So, the budgeting is based on those votes.
Hollis ended by urging us to see that there is a deficit of vision and faithfulness when churches sit on money in savings, but cut staff and programs.
I'm feeling all jazzed about stewardship now. Wouldnt it be funny if THAT was a part of ministry I could actually get good at??