Stewardship about growing faith

11/6/2007

By LaRue Owen
Guest Columnist

For many churches, just mentioning the word “stewardship” can evoke a wide range of uncomfortable feelings – from guilt and fear to boredom and frustration. The sad fact is that many of us have grown weary of “stewardship” because it has become indistinguishable from secular fundraising. While fundraising is important, it is not the sole or even primary focus of Christian stewardship.

Charles Lane in his book Ask,Thank,Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry In Your Congregation, says the goal of stewardship ministry is not to raise enough money to pay the bills, but rather “to help God’s people  grow in their relationship with Jesus through the use of the time, talents and finances God has entrusted to them.”

Stewardship is not just in the fall of the year, it is all year long. It is every minute of every day. Stewardship is acknowledging God’s ownership of all we have. Stewardship is being responsive and responsible with God’s gifts.

Hear the good news: As individuals and as churches, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to proclaim stewardship in ways our secular, consumer culture cannot.

While our culture defines stewardship as merely fundraising, Christian tradition and scripture offer an infinitely more life-giving alternative. As members of Christ’s body we are all called to the vocation of Christian stewardship – that active partnership with God and others in caring for all God creates and generously entrusts to us. As an ongoing expression of gratitude to God for the extravagant gifts of grace, this vocation of stewardship permeates every aspect of our lives – not just our financial offerings.

Annual giving campaigns
Although stewardship is much more than fundraising, at this time of the year our churches are focused on their annual giving campaigns to generate an operating budget for the coming year. Most annual giving campaigns fall within one of the eight common program methods:

  • Personally written letters
  • Phone-a-thon
  • Congregational dinner
  • Small group meetings
  • Loyalty/Commitment Sunday
  • Circulation method
  • General mail appeal
  • Personal visitation

Cokesbury has a number of excellent “packaged” campaigns. For information, see www.gbod.org/stewardship and click on “Local Church Resources,” then “Annual Campaigns.”

To better equip our clergy and laypersons in the area of stewardship, the Mississippi United Methodist Foundation is hosting a comprehensive Stewardship academy. The Academy will be three separate, two-day events, held six months apart on March 28-29, 2008, Sept. 12-13, 2008, and March 6-7, 2009. All of the sessions will be held at Crossgates United Methodist Church in Brandon.

The Rev. Dr. Wayne Barrett, president of the West Michigan United Methodist Foundation, will be our leader for the academy. Barrett has conducted stewardship academies in eight annual conferences with very positive results.

The Stewardship Academy is designed for pastors and key laypersons, especially chairs of Finance, Stewardship, Trustees and Administrative Board/Council. The $150 fee covers all three sessions, and attendance is expected at all three, since each session covers different material.

For more information, contact your pastor, district superintendent or the Mississippi United Methodist

Foundation, P. O. Box 2415, Ridgeland, MS 39158-2415; phone 601-948-8845; E-mail: LaRue@ms-umf.org.


Owen is director of development for the Mississippi United Methodist Foundation.