Chris over at Lutheran Zephyr is thinking about stewardship time. I left a comment over there that I think really needs to be expanded on. I don’t have the brain cells to do it now but here’s the basics.
Good philanthropy is about creating a solid and stable investment. You should never have to feel like you are begging money from your donors or, worse yet, extracting gifts. The first gft you extract is the last one you’ll ever see from any given donor. Assuming that you do have a legitimate cause and are attending it to (heh–not always a given, unfortunately), the fund-raiser’s task is to demonstrate to constituents that a) the donor and the organization share key concerns and motivations and that therefore b) a donation to the organization is a good investment that will 1) advance the donor’s interests, 2) assist the organization, and 3) improve life for the organization’s service population. In good philanthropy, everybody wins. It’s good *stewardship*.
In all my time in churches, I’ve never heard any clergy approach stewardship this way. Instead it’s: you have it, we need it; you warm our pews, so fork it over. Now–let’s be clear. Clergy should not be thinking of themselves primarily like non-profit execs. I know some people and places that exalt “leadership” languages and resources to the point where they’re nigh indistinguishable and I think that’s a problem. Hwever, I think this is an area where the church can do some learning.
If congregations and their leadership–both lay and clergy–are doing church right then we are 1) proclaiming Christ incarnate, crucified and resurrected, 2) putting the congregation in touch with the power of the resurrection through good liturgy and good education, and 3) offering sound ministries that enable people to act in love towards their neighbors, especially those less fortunate. That’s just the start, of couse, but here’s my question. Aren’t these three things important to your congregants? Can your congregants see that your church is doing these things? If the answer to both of these is yes, then you’re in a good place for a dscussion of stewardship as investment. I suspect that the answer to both of these isn’t always yes. If so, shouldn’t we as leadership types start thinking long and hard? Can we in good faith ask people to invest? If not, why not–and get it fixed damn fast.
So there you have it–my “temple talk” for stewardship season… ;-)