What if churches engaged in a practice of year-round stewardship education and promotion? A little emphasis year round, rather than a few weeks once a year can help people grow in faith as they relate to their resources—and help develop greater support for the ministry of the church in the world.
Here are some advantages to year-round stewardship:
- Church leadership gets in the habit of considering stewardship as an integral part of the ministry, rather than a once-a-year task (or burden!).
- You can talk about money at a time when you are not asking people to make a commitment.
- It takes the pressure off that “stewardship sermon,” because you know it won’t be the only one all year.
- The actual stewardship enlistment program will be easier. You won’t have to gear up for it as much.
- It’s more in line with the emphasis on giving throughout both Old and New Testament.
- You might actually raise more money for your ministry.
Won’t people get tired of hearing you talk about money all the time? Well, if you are providing some genuine help for them, both spiritual and practical, in thinking about their money, they may actually thank you for it.
Won’t it be hard to enlist yet more volunteers to work on this? It doesn’t have to be a lot more work, and a couple of interested people can make it happen.
Here’s a simple outline of a possible annual plan, which could fit into what you are already doing in preaching, worship leadership and adult education:
- Quarterly sermons on stewardship
- Monthly giving testimonies (given at the time the offering is taken)
- An annual adult education series on some aspect of stewardship (personal finance, stewardship of the environment, spiritual gifts), done at a time different from your annual campaign
- Your usual annual campaign
When I was a pastor, I actually found it easier to take a year-round approach to stewardship. I appreciated having ongoing support from the team, rather than feeling like I was going it alone – or recruiting a new committee for every fall campaign. It was a huge relief to work on it together through the year. It was far easier to preach about stewardship quarterly than to gear up once a year. I felt lighter about the process. And in addition, giving increased every year.
What might you do to experiment with talking about stewardship more often?
What do you notice about your reaction to people in your ministry?
When I was a pastor, I noticed my annoyance level varied. Sometimes the people in my church, or specific individuals, drove me nuts. At other times, I thought, “Aren’t they charming?” “Aren’t they sweet?” Or, “I love my people so much.”
Over the years I noticed that come the end of the program year in late spring, I tended to have the first reaction more often. I finally learned that I was just tired–or my anxiety level was up. The issue wasn’t so much that they were annoying, but I was annoyed, or frustrated or angry. Over time, I realized that if I just waited, the feeling would pass. I learned not to take my feelings and thoughts about others or about the congregation as a whole quite so seriously.
It’s a long process, and I still get caught. But I can see my thoughts more clearly and hold them more lightly than I used to.
Is someone getting on your nerves in your ministry? What is one different choice you might make as you relate to them?
In my last post, I wrote about six ways to practice defining yourself at church.
But listening is equally important. Here are six ways to practice:
- In any conversation, listen as much as you talk.
- Don’t argue. Listen.
- Don’t defend yourself. Listen.
- Don’t defend someone else. Listen.
- Be curious while you listen. What can you learn about this person?
- While you are listening, pay attention to your own response. Are you anxious, bored, interested, agreeing, disagreeing. What do you notice?
How do you practice listening in your own ministry?
- Here’s what I think:
- I want…
- I’d like to…
- I’ll be leaving the meeting at 9:00.
- I don’t answer my cell on Monday.
- I’d love it if we could…
What do you do when you need to say what you think or set a boundary?
In my recent (fabulous) interview with Ed Bacon, he talked about his hour of quiet time first thing every morning. I must admit my first thought was, “Oh, no! I’m not praying enough.” I spend about 5-10 minutes in quiet in the morning. I’ve spent more (though not an hour) at other points in my life and ministry
I do notice when I ask the clergy I coach about their spiritual life, they often say, “I should do more.” It’s easy to approach prayer with a sense of obligation. And while I’m convinced spiritual support is essential for ministry, obligation and duty rarely lead to a rich spiritual life.
I’ve found that my Lenten practice of daily fun enriched my spiritual life and my creative work, even though few of the activities were what we would normally call “spiritual.” (James Bond movies, anyone?)
Here are a few of my current thoughts on prayer and ministry:
- Starting with what gives you joy, rather than what you ought to do, may work better in the spiritual life.
- Accepting where you are in life personally and spiritually is a kind of prayer (for example, if you have small children or are dealing with illness, burnout, or the dark night of the soul.)
- Any prayer is better than no prayer. (And more isn’t necessarily better, although it might be.)
And a few questions for you:
- What is your best time of day for prayer?
- What kind of prayer do you find easiest?
- What kind of prayer best allows you to experience joy in God’s presence?
I’ve been cultivating the practice of celebration over the last couple of years, learning to focus on what is working rather than what is not working.
I think there’s a big difference between a focus on celebration and simple denial.
Of course there can be profound issues that need to be addressed in churches and in families.
But when we approach people from the perspective that there is something to appreciate, however small, we’ll be different in relationship to them. And the hard conversations will be, if not easy, then easier.
In this way we focus on strength, which I think is essential for bringing change.
- Think of a person who you find challenging right now, whether at church or in your own family. What are three things about them you can celebrate? It doesn’t matter how small.
- Think about your church. What are three things you can celebrate about your church?
What do you notice how your thinking and energy shifts?
Friday, after completing some work in Chicago, I was able to visit the Shedd Aquarium with my daughter, both of us for the first time.
I was struck by several things which might have something to do with church:
- The variety of creatures and colors was astonishing, as you can see from the above photo of the Wild Reef exhibit. We have an idea of what colors “go together.” Creation is much more diverse. This may say something to how we develop our communities. Ministry is not about all being the same.
- Habitats are at risk. Just as sea and river creatures face changing conditions, so do we who are a part of the church. But we might be more able to adapt than a sea cucumber. We’ve got big, creative brains.
- Water is important. It’s essential to life even for those of us who don’t live in it. For Christians, of course, the water of baptism is an essential part of our practice.
- Looking into some of the small exhibits made me dizzy. I had to look up and farther away to get my balance back. And the best perspective came in the pools with the dolphins and beluga whales. They were constructed so you look right out across the water and out the window onto Lake Michigan, all the way to the horizon. I’d love for church leaders to keep that unlimited perspective. It’s energizing.Photo copyright Fritz Geller-Grimm
Allyn Harris Dault, a former student of mine at Central Seminary, posted this video on Facebook (with an ironic thanks to me for helping him learn about the challenge of changing self in a system). I’ve watched it about 5 times.
Does this apply to church?