Stewardship ministries are quickly popping up across the country. Recently, I was at an event dedicated to the craft of stewardship with over 100 staff coordinators and volunteers. It was an exciting experience to see so many pioneers in the room. Stewardship ministries have several challenges to gaining lift. First, there are very few models. Second, resources can be hard to find. Finally, few have a fully formed and clear vision for ministry goals. This lack of clarity, I think, is the most limiting factor for the long term development of the ministry.
Years ago, I was hired to be a full time Development Pastor. Basically, the church needed to relocate and raise millions of dollars of capital for the project. After interviewing several capital campaign companies and reviewing their prices, the church leadership made the decision to invest the consulting dollars in a staff position and develop a stewardship ministry with a long term trajectory. After being in the stewardship ministry for nearly 20 years I have had the privilege of watching this focus develop for churches across the country. The banking recession of 2008 and rise of ministries like Ramsey Solutions, certainly highlighted the need in a very painful way.
So, I believe every church needs a stewardship and generosity champion, but first we have to answer the question “why?”
Visions To Avoid:
- A Vision For Fundraising-It is not uncommon for a financial pressure to give rise to the need for this ministry. While increased church revenue may be the result of a stewardship ministry, this should not be the foundational driver.
- A Vision For A Class-Often times stewardship ministry is equated with a class on personal money management. A class is not a ministry. Nor is offering a class a reason for the pastor to no longer take the lead on the conversation. Checking the box of having a class and thinking it is a ministry is very short sighted.
- A Vision For More People To Be In The Class Next Semester-If your stewardship ministry is limited to a class, then the work will soon encounter a frustration. The question quickly revolves around how to get everyone to go through the class. That can be accomplished in one semester with a church-wide emphasis. Then, what is next?
- A Vision Limited To Stewardship-There are several words similar to stewardship that pastors often use to describe this ministry. However, each word is very distinct and the lack of clarity causes confusion. Stewardship, generosity, finances, and fundraising are often used in interchangeable ways, which is unfortunate. Stewardship is managing what you have, generosity is giving away what you have, finances can describe practices of accounting, and fundraising describes something other nonprofits do to resource their budget. Churches do not have to fundraise, but they do need to disciple.
Visions To Chase:
- Discipleship Vision-This type of vision could be launched with a statement like this. “Our stewardship ministry seeks to lead people on a clear growth path thriving in the joy of generosity.” Stewardship might be a good goal to start a ministry, but ultimately the fruit of stewardship is freedom and joy-filled giving. This vision also speaks beyond the basic content of a personal money management class. Over and over again, I hear stewardship directors struggle with what to do next after you have consistently launched a stewardship training class. This discipleship vision has a long journey ahead for every stage of life and fulfillment.
- Kingdom Vision-This type of vision could be launched with a statement like this. “Our stewardship ministry seeks to lead our church to experience a continual overflow of resources toward the vision, always ready and eager for the next big assignment.” This vision has a focus on the church living with several implied values. To accomplish this vision, the church would need to have strong leadership from the senior pastor and the entire staff team would have to be on board. Church-wide vision must be clear with a firm focus on the future. Expenses and all resources would need to be strategically invested so that there was a maximum return with very little waste. Significant positive revenue would be the norm, building up cash reserves to unleash a potential future of big steps taken by the church in financial freedom. Once the pathway resources travel is established it would be fueled by behaviors like giving, caring, serving, praying, sharing, and releasing resources toward the kingdom vision our church had embraced.
These two visions are distinct, but equally helpful to the mission of the local church. Don’t let how I named them throw you off. One is just more focused on the individual while the other is more collective of the church body, leadership, and management. The Kingdom Vision definitely takes a team. The Discipleship Vision can empower a ministry. Both take time and focused resources. So before you launch into a stewardship ministry give some thought to vision first. Answering the question “why do we need one” should precede “what are we going to do?”