Today’s article reflects on my transition to Luther Seminary, and some wisdom discovered in old files. In the coming weeks the newsletter will feature other voices and new series, but in the short-term, I’ll author a few in the hopes that we might become better acquainted–electronically, at least.
Adam J. Copeland, Director
Center for Stewardship Leaders
Readiness to Learn
Adam J. Copeland
As I write this, I’ve enjoyed a whopping two weeks serving as the new Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders. I’m making slow and steady progress on the transition to Luther Seminary–my books are out of boxes, my computer can connect to the Internet, and I no longer need to use Google Maps to get to work each day! I’ve greatly enjoyed speaking to the many good folk at Luther and beyond who have supported the Center for Stewardship Leaders over the years. Additionally, there’s plenty of old files for me to read (and a few old pictures that elicit a chuckle or two).
One of the documents I found in the Center’s files concerns a phrase I hadn’t encountered before: “Readiness to Learn.” In the context of the Center for Stewardship Leaders dedicated, in large part, to training and supporting church professionals and congregational leaders to become well-prepared and effective stewardship leaders, the framework makes perfect sense. Readiness to Learn emphasizes stewardship education in the student’s context. It assumes that the questions and concerns of first-year seminary students will be different from students engaging in internships, or senior students having returned from internship. Further, some stewardship questions– particularly the practical ones–gain a sense of urgency when students begin their first call in a congregation. I really appreciate this sort of approach, and look forward to continuing it in my leadership of the Center. The framework also suggests, I think, a helpful approach for congregational stewardship leaders.
Different cohorts or groups within any given congregation will likely sit at different places on your particular readiness to learn spectrum, especially when that learning has to do with stewardship. For example, the cohort curious about planned giving may be a bit different from that passionate about creation care. Certainly, stewardship questions of parents with young children may differ from empty nesters. Sure, members’ financial situation is part of this puzzle, but it’s only a part. A new member, especially a new Christian, will likely be in a different place for engagement than a lifelong church member.
With this reality in mind, I’ve come up with three short takeaways that might be helpful as you consider stewardship ministry and readiness to learn.
First, as you plan your stewardship work, consider not just your readiness to teach, but your congregation’s readiness to learn. As a professor, I can tell you I sometimes love teaching my favorite book on my favorite topic, but if my class is not ready to engage my interests, it’s not worth it. Connect with your congregation and seek out their readiness to learn about stewardship and teach that, even if it’s not what you wish they’d be ready for.
Second, support members at different points on the readiness to learn spectrum to help engage others. For example, pairing new members with more seasoned members may help each to learn from one another if approached in a supportive, grace-filled way. Likewise, younger members will have a lot to teach older members about the realities of student loan debt and childcare costs today.
Third, be willing to fail. And then, try again. As you listen to members, and experiment with different ways to connect to their readiness to learn, you may try approaches that, well, fail. And that’s great! You’ve learned something about what God is doing–or not doing, actually–in your context. Listen some more and try again.
Ultimately, people are hungry for ways to manage their resources with Christ at the center of their lives. Supporting such connection sometimes takes a bit of experimentation to perfect. Therefore, be ready to learn!
Adam Copeland is the Director fo the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary.
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