Stewardship Time Thoughts

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… ;-)

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10 Responses to Stewardship Time Thoughts

  1. *Christopher says:

    derek,

    I commend you for getting it so clear:

    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.

    I just wrote about my parish; it’s the first in years I feel really good about giving money too, not to mention my time and self, and it’s because of the reasons you listed.

  2. LutherPunk says:

    Derek –

    You are cordially invited to come give the stewardship sermon this Sunday in my stead!

  3. Derek the Ænglican says:

    No problem, lp, let me give you my consultancy fee scale and we’ll discuss travel reimbusement! ;-D

  4. Anastasia says:

    i don’t know….isn’t tithing a little bit about obedience? as in, jesus didn’t ask you to worry about where the money is going, just give.

    I’m saying this because I really dislike the attitude in our parish that people won’t give unless they can control how the money is spent. to me, that’s exactly like the argument that I don’t want to give money to homeless person X becuase I believe he will buy alcohol with it.

    Last time I checked jesus said give to everyone who begs from you.

    The point is to cultivate a spirit of generosity and you get there by practicing obedience.

  5. LutherPunk says:

    Fee…geez…it’s always about money huh?!?!? Oh wait, nevermind.

    Consecration Sunday is in two weeks (Reformation Sunday of all days). We are having a retired Bishop preach. I haven’t seen his honorarium amount yet…

    In all honesty, both this and the Zeph’s posts have given me some food for thought. All of the texts point to how we should love God, so I am taking the angle that one of the ways we live out our faith is in our giving.

  6. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Anastasia–I agree with you but… I think people of our generation have issues with giving in general and giving to institutions in particular.

    My thought is that this is a way to get people in the habit of giving. This is no substitute for talking about obedience but I think the church has done a piss-poor job of talking about possessions all around the board. We need to present people with a coherent theology of possessions that deals with what we have/what we save/what we give, what the institution haves and gives, what Christian stewardship is, what Christian philanthropy is, etc.

    I’ve beendoing some thinking on this–but not writing on it yet.

  7. Anastasia says:

    well, i don’t necessarily disagree with anything you say (in comments or in the post). this is just something that bugs me at my particular parish. actually, probably bugs me about church these days in general. too much desert fathers for me.

  8. Derek the Ænglican says:

    M goes through whole periods where she seriously considers getting rid of everything in the house. The whole treasure-heart thing really is true because I only get concerned when she says that and mentions books in the same breath. Not that there’s much else in our house but anyway…

  9. LutherPunk says:

    D – one of the biggest struggles I have is with the boy. HE is a good kid, but has grandparents who buy him anything and everything. And we aren’t talking a $10 toy. We are talking plasma tv’s. At one point, he had 5 video game systems (PS 2, X Box, Game Cube, Gameboy Advance, and Gameboy DS). We have slowly gotten rid of a lot of that. It is hard to communicate to a child that these things only provide a temporal sense of pleasure. Not that I am much better. I have to remind myself of that everytime I go to buy CD’s. We have several hundred, plus all the vinyl, and I have to ask myself what sort of example I am setting when it takes a whole room just to hold the CD’s, DVD’s etc.

    We keep talking about simplifying to, and I think we will eventually, but like with the rest of our lives, this is a matter of coversion of the heart. It takes time and ascetic practice. But the fact that I am not dropping up to $200 a month on music is a start, as is the fact that I am not in clubs watching bands five nights a week. It is more like once a month in a good month.

    All things in good time…

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