Adam Copeland has recently edited a book entitled, “Beyond the Offering Plate: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship.” In this book, he has brought together writings from various scholars and theologians on the topic of Stewardship. These authors help us to expand our understanding of what Stewardship really means and broaden that definition beyond the usual interpretation of time, talents, and treasures.
MaryAnn McKibben Dana, who is a writer, pastor, and speaker living in Northern Virginia, shares the following thoughts in her chapter on “Stewardship of Time.” Many a church leader has argued that our checkbooks are actually theological documents. What we give our money to communicates something about who we are and what we believe. Do we give generously from our financial resources? But our time can be as much of a treasure as our finances. Maybe we should talk about our calendars as theological documents as well.
1) What do we give our time to? Do we intentionally make time for spiritual practices, or do we simply hope they will happen? Are we setting aside time for exercise, time with family and friends, and time to rest? Even the way we frame the activity makes a difference. Do we understand Sunday school and church as time with God – an investment in our discipleship – or just another activity among many?
2) Are we minding our margins? Do we pack our calendars full, or do we provide adequate space in our schedule for the holy interruptions that inevitably occur? Are we overscheduling our children, cramming their lives full of enrichment, or are we allowing them to engage in unstructured play? Time for boredom and daydreaming are keys to a child’s development; they don’t get the chance to develop these skills when we over-program their time.
3) Are we attentive to the seasons? The liturgical year is a priceless resource to a culture addicted to excitement and novelty. In a world dominated by 24/7 media and the scandal du jour, we dare to preach the importance of quiet waiting and patient expectation, of letting a moment ripen. As the society around us binges on Christmas, we sing Mary’s defiant song of liberation for the poor. When the news dishes out one distressing story after another, we proclaim Christ’s resurrection, not just on a single day but for the long vibrant season of Eastertide. MaryAnne concludes the chapter with some questions for reflection that are worth considering.
– Examine your personal calendar as if it were a theological document. Where do you spend most of your time? What do you prioritize? Does your calendar align with your faith convictions and values?
– Examine your congregation’s calendar as a theological document. What shows up on the church calendar? What does this suggest about your priorities and commitments? Who is involved and invited? How might you consider what’s taking place beyond the church walls?
– What are your experiences, if any with Sabbath? How might your life shift to embrace stewardship of time more fully?
– Consider implementing or experimenting with the following practices that help cultivate deep presence and stillness: meditation, yoga, technology-free areas or times, lectio divina, contemplative music, labyrinth walking, or spending time in nature.
Associate for Stewardship
*Excerpts taken from “Beyond the Offering Plate: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship”
edited by Adam J. Copeland