Rev. Terry Oliver, ABCNW Stewardship Consultant and Pastor of New Community Church in Union, WA
June is a great time of the year to plan ahead for stewardship education in the coming 6-9 months of the congregation’s life. Remembering that we don’t want to talk about finances simply to meet the budget needs of a church or program, but want to strengthen the relationship between people and their Lord, it is important that we talk about money openly and graciously. I believe that having an annual education and response time is an effective cornerstone around which a church which is growing disciples of Jesus Christ can teach, challenge, and mentor its people. Money is meant to be a catalyst of blessing from God, and when we plan to share the Biblical attitudes and practices around generosity, our households will be blessed! In turn, the mission of Christ’s work through our congregations will be blessed as well!
An annual stewardship response emphasis is an intentional time in the congregation’s life, usually 3-4 weeks, when people will be asked to consider the blessings God has entrusted them with and how they will respond to those blessings out of gratitude. Your congregation’s mission statement is a centerpiece for this emphasis, and not the budgetary needs. Biblical promises and principles as practiced by people in your faith community become the encouragement for newer disciples to become stimulated to growth in the grace of giving. Breaking the taboos around talking about money can be accomplished by a number of familiar tools: sermons, classes, drama, personal witnesses in worship services, small group studies, online devotions, mailings and celebration events. It is vitally important that all of these be approached in a positive, upbeat mood consistent with 2 Corinthians 9:7 (God loves a “hilarious” giver!).
One program that I have seen used effectively in congregations is the “New Consecration Sunday Stewardship Program” developed by Herb Miller. It is by no means the only one, as some in our Region have taken materials such as “Encouraging the Tithe” and tweaked them to fit the focus and values of their current context. Both programs focus on the needs of the disciples to grow rather than the needs of the church. Three weeks of inspiration, teaching, and encouragement, utilizing all the communication tools mentioned here, are concluded with a commitment worship service and celebration banquet. No awkward home visitations are expected, but there are real handles given for faith to be stimulated among congregational members!
As the Region’s Stewardship Consultant, I would be happy to visit with pastors and congregations that would like to learn more about these or other resources to promote healthy patterns of Biblical stewardship. I am also available to work with your church in implementing an emphasis for the coming fall or winter months. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of service.
I have been impressed with the many good practices I have already observed in visiting with pastors and churches around the Region when discussing their stewardship education. However, I am convinced that most of our congregations could grow and move from “good” to “great” by recovering the lost art of an annual stewardship emphasis….done in a new way!
God is Faithful!