By Pete Reuss
Some called Pat a chess master. Decades of study and practice led to great success.
One day Pat opened with a standard move. Instead of moving a pawn or knight, Pat’s opponent pulled out two dice and rolled an eight. Then, after moving a pawn eight squares, declared, “I’m on a white square. Ask me the third trivia question on the top of the card.”
Pat had no idea how to proceed. Had the rules completely changed?
Welcome to the church of 2020! The rules for congregational vitality used to be clear, but those rules no longer apply.
The Pastor Can Fix It
Congregations with new pastoral leadership can look to them as a savior. They will know the new rules, right? Yet when the leader comes with new ideas, they often clash against congregational culture, especially around issues of money. It’s a recipe for frustration, fear, and attitudes of scarcity for congregation and pastoral leaders alike.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Trusting that God holds the future, congregations can learn new ways to encourage generosity. Leaders can nimbly adapt to changing times, knowing that the rules to the game constantly change. Together they move with Jesus into a changing world.
Intentional focus on stewardship and leadership together provide a path into this exciting future.
Congregations can still inspire generosity, but the rules have changed. People want to give to congregations when they see that their giving makes a difference. This happens when congregations connect the work of ministry to people’s giving, tell stories of lives changed by God’s ministry, specifically ask people to give, and thank them for their gifts. It isn’t just about institutional survival; it’s about lives being impacted and transformed by the Good News. Changing stewardship perspectives is cultural change in many places, and culture change takes intentional leadership.
While the pastoral leader is not the savior (the church already has one), they do play a critical role. Their capacity to boldly lead congregations through change, understand power dynamics, step into conflict with grace, and invite generosity allows them to effectively implement meaningful change in Christ’s church. They can guide the church to a place of hope and abundance.
The Stewardship Leader
This is more than simply identifying the “10 things a pastor needs to do to be successful.” While some technical solutions can serve (especially pertaining to stewardship), living in a world with new rules requires leaders with capacity to lead through the uncertainty that comes when the old rules go out the window. This is especially the case for those just beginning ministry after ordination. Identifying paths for pastoral leaders to receive the support they need in these confusing times is vital.
Future Hope: Bold Leaders, Generous Congregations is a process created for this purpose, tailored toward newly ordained leaders in their first calls of ministry. It brings tried and true leadership and stewardship training together in a way that will significantly impact first call congregations (and all the ministries the leader will serve throughout their pastorate).
First, Stewardship for All Seasons from GSB (Gronlund Sayther Brunkow), brings best practices from the non-profit fundraising world into the church, grounding them deeply in the story of God’s mission in the congregation. Congregations participating in Stewardship for All Seasons look to increase giving by 15% in the first year and 7% in the second. Yes, it’s possible!
Second, Shape of Leadership from LeaderWise, helps ministers develop their leadership through more deeply understanding their passion, purpose, and gifts; experimenting with innovative practices; deepening self-awareness; developing a support system of colleagues; and learning to navigate power, change, conflict, and the daily challenges of leadership.
Stewardship for All Seasons and Shape of Leadership work together as Future Hope: Bold Leaders, Generous Congregations to prepare new leaders to impact the church. A new cohort begins in February 2021. More information can be found here.
About the Author
Pastor Pete Reuss works with congregations and leaders across the country as a consultant with GSB (Gronlund Sayther Brunkow) and a facilitator for Shape of Leadership. Through the death of his mother when he was 8-years-old and the death of his wife in 2015, Peter remains convinced that nothing, not even death, can stand in God’s way.