When I started in ministry 30 years ago I knew next to nothing about stewardship. I was anxious, puzzled, and didn’t feel up to the task. So not up to the task that I remember that first year I called my judicatory representative in a panic saying, “What do I do?!” For someone who always wants to look competent and in control, that said a lot.
And if I could go back in time, here’s what I would tell my money-avoidant self:.
- Financial stewardship is ministry. Helping people in their relationship with their resources is one of the most important things we do in ministry. It helps them mature spiritually, become more generous and find greater freedom. What could be more important?
- Talking about money once a year is not enough. I didn’t know that an annual campaign could never provide what the church–and its people–need. I, and a lot of other leaders, loved pushing aside the money conversation until one focused moment in time and then rushing through it when the time arrived. It took me years to shift this mindset and learn the lesson. It became easier when I talked it more often. It normalized money for me and for the congregation
- Stewardship can be fun. Believe it or not, working with a motivated year-round stewardship team, full of creative people, became one of the most satisfying and enjoyable parts of my ministry. Most of us take money very seriously, in church and at home. I still have to work to lighten up. But in fact, when we get are more light-hearted about money matters, it easier to be creative, and we make it easier for people to decide to give.
- Money can be a blessing. I grew up with a dualistic attitude toward money. My dad was in business, and I can remember my mother being a little apologetic about it. (Her own father was a pastor.) In some church circles, we are ashamed to talk about money. We think there’s something tainted about it. Yet when we have resources, we can do ministry that isn’t possible without it. Not only can money offer blessings, we bless people when we give them an invitation to share their money to do God’s work on the world.
- I don’t need to be apologetic or afraid. I got better and clearer in leading stewardship. I got braver. I had help, with mentors both in person and in writing. I’m still learning. But I’m not afraid to ask people to give money to what I believe in anymore.
(Click here to read last week’s article on 5 things about ministry I wish I knew 30 years ago.)
And if you’re looking or more tangible tools to have your own financial breakthrough – check out my e-book Money and Your Ministry: Balance the Books While Keeping Your Balance. (Click here for the paper or Kindle versions.)