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The Heart of Why People Give

A stewardship pledge is about more than just paying the pastor’s salary or the church’s electric bill. It’s about your spiritual health and survival.
by Center for Stewardship Leaders | January 7, 2020

It’s common for a congregation’s fall stewardship effort to include brief reflections from members about why they give to the congregation. Often, these talks end up being a generic “we like it here” testimony. In order to “make the case” (a fund-raising term) for including the congregation among the worthy causes that get any family’s support, it’s important to provide specific, story-based reasons to help listeners identify their own “why” and inspire them to move from consumers of services to supporters of mission.

Elaine Johnson provided a fine example of this in her recent congregational testimony at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. I am especially struck by her invitation to be long-term “investors” in the community—in many ways, this is also a way of talking about becoming a steward of the community and not just a participant.

If you heard a particularly good stewardship temple talk this year, send it our way at stewardship@luthersem.edu. We’ll publish a few throughout the year for inspiration.

Catherine Malotky
Center for Stewardship Leaders

The Heart of Why People Give

By Elaine Johnson

Let me begin by saying that I have been considering my stewardship pledge to Our Saviour’s annually since the mid 1980’s. For the first twenty years, I worked for a school district and was able to give a set monthly contribution because I received a regular salary. For the second twenty, I shifted to being a self-employed health-care provider to allow a more flexible schedule to accommodate my parenting goals.  This meant income but no set paycheck.

Many variables influence my income, included contracts with different insurance companies (each with different reimbursement rates), deductibles, and client pay agreements along with varying caseload numbers. These years have proven that income comes in steadily but is definitely been more abundant during the last six months of the calendar year than the first six. Bottom line, my message to all of you is give what you can when you can.  No problem.

All of this is encouragement, but here’s a very personal reason why I give. When children came into my life, I wanted to surround them with people they could turn to when they could not or did not want to turn to me. I wanted to surround them with a community of people who shared my values and loved them dearly. And, helped me to provide them with experiences that I alone could not provide. Undoubtedly, I alone could not have provided Liza and Denis with the opportunities to go to Wilderness Canoe Base multiple times, Holden Village, Luther Crest Bible Camp, mission trips to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and New York City, National Youth Gatherings in Detroit and Houston, or the Civil Rights Tour, along with confirmation sleepovers with pastors and coffee shop conversations.

I encourage you to look to this faith community in the same way you invest for your financial future in your 401K. Our Saviour’s is an investment in your family, your children, and your spirituality. This is more than paying the pastor’s salary or paying the electric bill, though that is very important. This is your spiritual health and survival. This is your extended family and we are your people.

Here’s how I know this is true. As you know, my daughter, Liza, is studying abroad this semester, and it’s been a great time for her to reflect on her life.  Last week she shared with me, “Mom, I really don’t miss you. I know we are good. But, Mom, I really miss Our Saviour’s. I miss worship. I miss participating in worship. I really miss the people of Our Saviour’s.” 

Yes, Liza misses you, the people of Our Saviour’s! This is what investing your money and your time in this place can reap. Her admission warmed my mother’s heart more than you could ever know. Thank you for this powerful gift to me and to my children. 

Our Saviour’s is a worthy cause for so many reasons, our justice work for sure, but also the vitality of the faith community we have together. Invest today and share what you can when you can and if you get a little extra along the way, think of Our Savior’s. You won’t be disappointed. Your return is guaranteed!

About the Author

Elaine Johnson shares her life with her college-aged daughter and son, her dear friend Peg, and three schipperkes; Foxy, Pepper, and Gidget.  Professionally, she has been a licensed psychologist and alcohol and drug counselor for over three decades and last, but not least, has the same amount of time in membership and humble gratitude to the staff and members of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

About the Center

Center for Stewardship Leaders

The Center for Stewardship Leaders seeks to shape a faithful, multidimensional culture of stewardship in congregations, households, and society. The center strives to consider the full spectrum of stewardship practice and theology, including financial stewardship, holistic stewardship, and leadership. See all posts from CSL.

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