We asked several excellent stewardship leaders what counsel they would offer to seminary graduates who will soon be called upon to provide financial stewardship guidance in their new congregational settings. Our writers have served well in leadership roles and continue to be called upon in support of ministries in a variety of settings. Our writer today brings wisdom from many years in a Dallas, Texas setting.
Glenn Taibl, Co-Director
Center for Stewardship Leaders
There’s nothing like a ‘first’ call because everything is new, exciting — and sometimes daunting. For me, talking about ‘stewardship’ was in that last category. Gratefully, over the years I have been willing to learn and grow, and now experience great joy in giving, and helping others to do the same. This article is limited to the financial dimension of stewardship; as I’m trusting you know there are many other facets to living as faithful stewards than I can write here.
1. Know yourself
Before worrying about the challenge of leading anyone else to grow as faithful financial stewards, I’d encourage you to reflect upon your own attitudes about money and generosity.
Who and what shaped your own attitudes and decisions about money and giving? Begin with your own family and recognize the forces shaping them (and eventually you).
What words or phrases do you remember hearing? Who were your best examples of living generous lives? What are your own growing edges today? Whatever your fears/concerns are, be honest, claim them, pray about them, and seek to move beyond your comfort zone.
2. Know your congregation
Hold them in prayer, and spend time listening & learning about the people who called you. Long before you arrive, they will have already developed attitudes, habits, assumptions about money, and patterns of giving. You’ll get a clue about the congregation’s spirit of generosity by examining their current budget and the portion they give away.
3. We’re in this together
If a stewardship ministry team has not yet been formed, create one. Developing faithful stewards is never a pastor’s solo task. Members know more than you do about the congregation. You can help the planning team discover their own attitudes and assumptions about money (just as you did; see #1 above) and then with their wisdom and support, design a plan to help the congregation discover the key influencing factors in their own attitudes. After congregational awareness-raising is completed, you and the planning team can design a way to help the congregation grow as faithful stewards.
4. The driving source of generosity is always gratitude for God’s abundance.
Whining, begging, embarrassing, fear mongering and ‘guilting’ are ineffective motivators. Indeed, no one wants to be ‘should’ upon. People are willing to be generous when they:
1) become aware how God has marvelously blessed them,
2) are caught up in a spirit-filled vision for the future, and
3) trust their leaders will lead them toward that vision.
Why would anyone give to an organization that wasn’t clear & passionate about its own purpose? Building trust and clarifying a vision of God’s calling for your congregation takes time, but it’s crucial. Never forget to thank your people for how by God’s grace they are growing in generosity, even when the growth is slow.
5. There’s something about a great challenge…
Some years ago as we entered a major Capital Campaign the congregation engaged a professional fundraiser. It began well. He invited me to lunch. All was going well until he began explaining what he expected me to do. First, he said, I was to be the voice of the campaign to the congregation. (I had assumed that was his job and the reason for the big bucks). Second, he said, as pastor, it was my job to make the first major lead gift to the campaign. That pretty much ruined the rest of my lunch. My wife and I had two daughters in high school, headed for college on a pastor’s salary. And I was expected to make a lead gift? Get real. In hindsight, however, his challenge was the beginning of my growth in generosity.
We discovered we could give far beyond what we had imagined, and in God’s surprising ways we grew in confidence there really would be enough for college and everything else we actually needed. What a joy! My point? Don’t be afraid to be challenged or to challenge others to grow in generosity, and experience the joy that always comes with it. God is faithful.
May your journey as God’s steward be filled with challenge, great joy, and delightful surprises.
Pastor Jon Lee served at King of Glory Lutheran Church in Dallas, TX. He continues to do consulting work with congregations in creating healthy missional cultures. In response to Jon’s #1 you may be interested in downloading a copy of a money autobiography to be used with congregational leadership groups.
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