Two weeks ago we blessed and graduated students who have invested themselves in the work of preparing for the ministry of the Gospel Jesus Christ. They have learned much and they have taught us much. Today’s open letter is addressed to the students who will begin their seminary journey this Fall and it offers sage advice for all of us.
Glenn Taibl, Co-Director
Center for Stewardship Leaders
An Open Letter to Students Entering Seminary
So you’ve decided to answer God’s call to enter seminary, or you’re on the way to discerning it. At this point, you might find yourself in any one of the following positions: you might already be wondering about how to be a faithful stewardship leader (which might be why you are reading this newsletter), you might not have stewardship on your radar at all, or you might want to avoid everything that has to do with money.
That last one–that was me.
I never expected to become committed to stewardship leadership. But then again, I never expected to be set free from the weight of my own relationship with money. I never expected to discover how central stewardship is to the life of faith. I never expected to be empowered to lead congregations to be passionate, generous stewards.
But you can expect these things.
I am writing this letter to you to testify that you can expect and trust the Triune God to do all this for you and so much more during your time here at Luther Seminary.
Prior to coming to Luther, I was resistant to learning about financial management in congregations because I associated stewardship with being a C.E.O., and a C.E.O. was exactly the opposite of what I felt called to be. I held strong convictions that the church is not a business, so I didn’t want to learn to lead it like one. I wanted to learn how to preach the good news in Word and Sacrament so that people are nurtured in their relationship with the Triune God and sent out to care for the world that God loves so deeply.
Imagine my surprise then, when I discovered that that is exactly what stewardship is all about! In the course, Money and the Mission of the Church, I learned that I had been completely wrong; stewardship is actually about our relationship with God and with one another–it is the management of all of life with Christ at the center. It was then that I realized that I cannot not be about stewardship as a leader in the church!
This course not only equipped us with the nuts and bolts of congregational budgets, investments, property management, capital campaigns, and cultivating lay leadership, it also rooted stewardship in Scripture and in the call to discipleship.
What is more, the Holy Spirit was at work in that classroom, freeing me from my fear about my own student loan debt and my incompetence at financial management so that I might have peace and joy, seeing my relationship with money as an extension of my relationship with Christ.
So, having experienced the power of the Triune God first-hand here at Luther, I’d like to encourage you to check out these opportunities for growth as a stewardship leader while you’re here:
- Money and the Mission of the Church and other courses on Stewardship
- Clergy Tax and ELCA Benefit Workshop
- Personal Financial Management Workshops
- Happy Hour Small Group Discussions with Experienced Pastors and Other Professionals about Stewardship
- Training Sessions to Prepare you to Teach Parishioners about Personal Financial Wellness
As you participate in these activities and throughout your coursework at Luther, be ready to be set free in your own relationship with money. Expect to gain skills and knowledge that will prepare you to manage personal finances and to lead congregations: the basics of investment, endowments, and budgets as well as the theological grounding for faithful practices.
And above all, expect to encounter the Holy Spirit here at Luther again and again, setting you free from fear and doubt in every aspect of your life, and raising you again to live in joy and freedom with the God who has called you to this ministry.
As you begin your journey, know that God is with you.
Emily Beckering is a recent graduate of Luther Seminary and assigned to the Southern Ohio Synod.
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