The following is a column by our rector, Father Lillie, that was run in the diocesan e-newsletter.
We are at that time of the year when our churches are doing stewardship campaigns. Here is a list of ten things to keep in mind as we do this important work.
10. Remember that stewardship is not a bad word. I aim to make stewardship synonymous with discipleship. Stewardship is not just about what we can afford to give to our churches; it is about how our whole life is an offering to God. Stewardship involves our total formation as followers of Jesus Christ.
9. The Stewardship campaign is not about balancing the budget. Parishes should do stewardship formation and their budget process apart from each other. Yes, the amount of pledge income will affect the budget, but in the end, we do not gather pledge income so that we might have balanced budgets. We do stewardship campaigns to help people learn the generosity and hospitality of Jesus Christ. If the budget gets balanced because of pledges, that is a nice peripheral bonus.
8. Let the results be the results. I know of a church that did an excellent stewardship campaign, and their pledge income for the next year actually declined! Turns out that two very large pledging units moved to a different town, and so the church lost that pledge income. The amount they lost could not equal the gains they made in new pledges and increased pledges. This is the reality of church life at times.
7. Remember to take a long-term approach. Stewardship growth is best measured over many years. Our society always wants quick fixes and constant big increases. Try to do the steady work of year-round stewardship, and chart your successes and challenges over a number of years. Remember that, "Rome was not built in a day."
6. Make stewardship a year round theme in your church. Try doing events during the spring and summer that celebrate people's talents and their gifts of time. Make stewardship about every way we give to God - not just money.
5. Don't panic if you are just starting your pledge drive this month. We are all human, and we can only do so much. Try something simple this year, and use this experience as the launching of continued stewardship activities this fall and winter. By the time September 2013 arrives you will be in a better place.
4. Challenge your Vestry or Bishop's Committee to develop a stewardship vision statement. Engage your lay leadership to do some stewardship study. Show the parish in visible ways how the lay leaders practice generosity with their gifts.
3. Ask your clergy leadership to share their stewardship story throughout the year as part of their regular preaching. Rather than having one stewardship sermon in the fall, encourage preaching that advocates stewardship throughout the entire year. Many stewardship teachers advocate that the clergy should actually tell their parishes how much money they give to the parish. Clergy are often among the highest givers in their congregations. Their witness and support can deeply move people. How many people after all are expected to give back ten percent of their income to their employer? This is truly something for all of us to think about!
2. Be mindful that Jesus always gives 100% times infinity. We are expected to give away at least ten percent. Thankfully we have a God of grace who understands that each of us must start somewhere.
1. Pray without ceasing. Always remember that God has everything under control, and that God is good. Our churches have everything that they need. We may not be able to see this at times, but the more we do stewardship formation, the more evident this truth will become.