Starting the New Year and leaving the dock for a long sail have a lot in common.
You reflect on the past, you have excitement and anticipation for the voyage/ year ahead, and you hope for an even better year or journey than the last. Another common thread is that both require planning to be safe, productive and enjoyable. How are your plans coming for the new year of generosity and stewardship? Are you framing generosity and stewardship as a whole life, year- round activity? Hopefully you have not relegated the subject to budget time in the parish.
My favorite definition of stewardship was formed in 1996 by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. That definition says that stewardship is: “the free and joyous activity of the child of God, and God’s family the church, in managing all of life and life’s resources for God’s purposes”. Whenever I do workshops in congregations, people are struck by those opening words. Stewardship…. Free? Stewardship…. Joyous? The words: time, talent, treasure and guilt are the ones most people think of. Some older members remember the days of the “scandal sheet” where everyone’s giving was listed in the bulletin at the end of the year. I think these sentiments creep in because far too often we have made stewardship and generosity a discussion only when the church needs money.
Your members can be equipped as disciples if you approach generosity as something you want FOR your people instead of FROM them. There are many tools that can be used to disciple God’s people 12 months of the year in this spiritual act. We share many of these tools in our workshops that we do in churches. Let’s have a dialog about this definition and how to make it a reality in your congregation.
Thom Rainer on the offertory …
“I have been visiting and consulting with churches and church leaders for over 25 years. Do you know what that means? Mostly, it means that I’m old. But it also means I have seen a lot of what takes place in congregations in a variety of settings.
Because of the number of times I have been in different churches, I can come pretty close to determining how healthy the financial stewardship of a congregation is just by listening and watching the time of offertory in a worship service. In most churches, that time has little meaning. Some people come to the front with offering plates, and someone prays. About half the time the prayer includes a request to “bless the gift and the giver.” It’s mostly tradition and ritual.
But in churches with very healthy giving relative to their demographics, something different takes place in the offertory. It is meaningful. It is engaging. And it makes a difference.
Here are five ways I have seen it done well in a number of churches.
- The offertory time is led by a key leader. Many times that person is the pastor. On other occasions it is a staff member or layperson who speaks well and who is well respected in the congregation.
- There is clear communication that the offertory time is a time of worship. It is not a parentheses in or postscript to the worship service. It is a vital part of the worship service. The leader always communicates that reality each service.
- The offertory is tied to the vision or mission of the church. Of course, that presumes the vision or mission is well known by the members. And it is often repeated for newer members or guests, or it is communicated to reinforce what the members already know. The leader speaks clearly to demonstrate how the financial gifts carry out the vision.
- There is a practical example given of how the financial gifts are used in the church. There may only be one such example or, perhaps, a few examples. The congregants hear every week how God is specifically using these gifts in the ministries of the church.
- The leader is not reticent to emphasize the importance of each member’s gifts. It is thus readily apparent to the congregants that financial stewardship is part of the process of growing as a disciple. It is not just what the church does with the money; the act of giving is an act of obedience of the believer.”
Book your spring generosity retreat
Part of the what we do is to offer leadership retreats to congregational leaders on the shores of Lake Michigan. Learn more and book your generosity retreat today.