Stay Focused on God

“They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”
(Isaiah 40:31)

In a recent blog, Olanda Carr, Senior Ministry Relations Officer for the Presbyterian Foundation, writes that over the past few weeks, he has been drawn to this passage of scripture…perhaps because all we have been doing for weeks and months is waiting – waiting for the next ‘phase” in a phased, reopening process; waiting for favorite businesses to reopen; waiting for worship services to resume. And, while some of the waiting has abated, it seems fair to say that we all have some additional waiting to do before things are close to normal.

The referenced scripture refers to those who were held captive in Babylon. Their only prospect for hope and deliverance was to be found in God. This scripture is often referenced by those who are in unusual and unfamiliar circumstances of danger, uncertainty, or want – to those who look to God for merciful deliverance and intervention. And, while we are certainly not captives during this time, there may have been times this year where we have perhaps felt that way! Our Americanized lens of expected comfort and convenience has shaped our view to resemble these circumstances – we are uncertain; times are unusual and unfamiliar.

The question then becomes, “How do we conduct a stewardship emphasis this fall in the midst of all of this waiting?” Perhaps we should start with the basics. Olanda writes, “The fall Stewardship season this year will be different, but we should not let that stop us. In fact, there are many things about this Stewardship season that will remain the same.” Here are some things to consider:

1. Stewardship should remain focused on God. 

As the Babylonians came to realize, God is always the answer. While the pandemic has certainly changed a lot of things in our day-to-day lives, it has not changed this reality. Thankfully, God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Our stewardship campaign, communications, and other activities should always be grounded in our relationship to God, utilizing elements of prayer and scripture.

2. Stewardship should remain focused on the mission and vision of the congregation.

Catchy themes are great, but themes that unite scripture, mission, and vision are even better!

3. Stewardship should remain focused on ministry.

Contrary to popular practice, our members give of their time, talents, and treasures to support ministry efforts of the church. Communications focused on expenses and upkeep of the church can sometimes discourage generosity. Even during a pandemic, we must continue to focus on the ministry.

While many of the ministry activities normally operated from the church have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, “what ministries have we continued to do?” The answers to this question should be highlighted in all Stewardship communications.

4. Stewardship should remain focused on telling the story.

It is incumbent upon each of us to be able to articulate our theology of Stewardship. Pandemic or not, we all have a story to share. Our theology of stewardship is linked to the answers to a few questions, such as:

  • Who taught you about the importance of giving to the church?
  • Why do you give to the church?
  • What has the pandemic revealed to you concerning your relationship to God?
  • Similarly, what has the pandemic revealed to you about your relationship with your church?

Consider recording the responses to these questions and sharing them on the church website or social media. Now more than ever, technology is an effective way for us to share with one another. Use the gift of technology to share our stories in innovative and creative ways.

Yes, the pandemic has changed much of the world we once knew. Instead of waiting for our world to come back, focus on the world that is here today.

  • In this world, we still serve a mighty God who can do amazing things.
  • In this world, we still have the promise of hope.
  • In this world, we still have the light that no pandemic can ever extinguish – the light of Jesus Christ.

Let this season of Stewardship be a time to refocus, renew, and reimagine!

Deborah Rexrode
POJ Associate for Stewardship

(Excerpts from Olanda Carr, Senior Ministry Relations Officer, serving the East Region for the Presbyterian Foundation)

Grateful: Finding Hope in Every Day

Grateful: Finding Hope in Every Day

 “For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Diana Butler Bass’s most recent book is entitled, “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks.” We know that gratitude is good, but many of us find it hard to sustain a meaningful life of gratefulness. Most of us report feeling gratitude on a regular basis, but those private feelings seem disconnected from larger concerns of our public lives.

Planning a Fall Stewardship Program

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”  Isaiah 40:31a

This fall presents a lot of challenges as to how we do ministry during a pandemic. It also causes us to wonder how our fall Stewardship efforts will be received. The reason is that while we say we are in this together, we are not all experiencing the pandemic the same. Some churches are struggling more than ever financially, while others find that giving has increased and finances are fine.

The Stewardship of White Privilege

One of my favorite definitions of stewardship, generally attributed to Clarence Stoughton, is “stewardship is everything we do after we say, ‘I believe.’” Stewardship is love in action—it puts feet to our faith.

What does that really look like? It’s easy for those of us who are white to join the crowd in professing “Black Lives Matter,” make a donation, and return to business as usual without doing the learning, listening, and soul searching required to join the movement for lasting systemic change.

Stewardship in a Liminal Time

Recently I have heard the word “liminal” used many times to describe this season we are experiencing in the life of our churches. The word liminal comes from the Latin word limens, which means “limit or threshold.” Author and theologian Richard Rohr defines liminal time in this way:

“It is when you have left, or are about to leave, the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.”

Faithful Stewards

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
I Peter 4:10

So much has happened in the past month, and our calendars and lists of activities have completely changed. We have replaced daily and weekly meetings at the church to Zoom meetings and conference calls. Worship has gone from weekly gatherings to video or recorded events. Sessions are meeting virtually. Everything looks a bit different than it usually does this time of year.

Conversion from Scarcity to Abundance

Spending time in study together is a profound way for the leadership of a congregation to bond and become stronger as spiritual leaders. As a member of the session of my own church, we have begun a study of “Neighborhood Church: Transforming Your Congregation into a Powerhouse for Mission” by Krin Van Tatenhove and Rob Mueller. The first chapter in this book begins with an understanding of how congregations can learn to embrace fundamental changes in perspective that will lead us away from a focus on ourselves to a focus on those where God has planted us.

Stewarding Congregational Wellness

Some stewardship committees focus most of their attention on the fall Stewardship emphasis. Frankly, that’s plenty of work. But our calling as stewardship leaders is not just to the fall “ask.” We are also called to help shape the identity of stewards among our peers and as a community. We are entrusted with many assets, some of which are physical (like buildings and money) and some of which are relational (like our congregational community or our congregational mission). All of these are inflection points where we can invite others to think and act like stewards.

Christmas Gift Giving

People born between 1977 and 1985 are often referred to as millennials. However, nine years is hardly enough to qualify as a separate generation and so many who are born in that timeframe feel as though they don’t quite belong. They have one foot in Generation X and one in Generation Y. They are the bridge between an analog childhood and a digital adulthood, and we often remind them of that.