Stewardship is Love

A couple of years ago, Farley Lord, Associate Minister of Stewardship, and Christian Peele, Executive Minister of Institutional Advancement, at Riverside Church in New York City expressed a sentiment that is often overlooked about the core of Stewardship. Simply said, “Stewardship is Love!” Stewardship is a spiritual practice!

“To practice Christian Stewardship and be moved by it is to consider how we shepherd our whole lives – through word and habit, and with God and each other – to be expressions of gospel love in the world. Christ’s gospel calls for an alternative way of being in the world that places love at the center — not money, power, validation, possessions, popularity or even security.

Exploring Christian stewardship involves inviting members of the community into an ongoing spiritual practice of self-giving. The spiritual practice of stewardship forms the way we see the world and ourselves within it as people of faith. It hones every virtue on Paul’s list of spiritual fruits: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — in addition to generosity and gratitude. It calls us to steward every part of who we are for love’s sake.

Like all spiritual practices, including prayer or regular worship attendance, stewardship is more than a one-time event or a seasonal program or campaign. It is an ongoing commitment with endless opportunity for growth and increased attunement to God’s call. The thermometer for measuring meaningful stewardship is much more than the meeting of an annual financial goal. It is instead the degree to which a church body looks more and more like the beloved community.”

What might it look like to create experiences that help our congregations engage a holistic practice of stewardship?

Year-round opportunities 

We have an opportunity to incorporate a myriad of ways for church members to think about using every resource of their lives for love. In addition to the traditional Stewardship practice of commitment cards, giving envelopes and recurring online gifts, we can introduce our congregations to the diverse tenets of stewardship. We are called to talk about giving, but we should also emphasize hospitality, forgiveness, generosity, risk-taking and selflessness as part of the vocabulary of stewardship.

Giving and serving

A central pillar to a holistic practice of stewardship is the inseparable pairing of giving and serving. Holding these practices together helps us emphasize a life of self-giving as key to discipleship. Giving and service walk together. Stewardship involves faithful giving of our financial resources alongside opportunities for service within the congregation and beyond the congregation into the community. We are called to be engaged in volunteer activities that fulfill this sense of discipleship.

Community and culture building

Stewardship is as much an individual spiritual practice as it is shared in community. Strengthening the bonds of love within our congregations is our calling as pastors and leaders. We do this by sharing the impact of our gifts in programs and ministries and embracing the importance of stewardship as a way of life. As a community of faith, we explore the themes of gratitude and generosity and the practice of Stewardship. We are called to ground our stewardship in a sense of abundance over scarcity.

Stewardship is intentional ministry

The work of stewardship is deeply pastoral and an expression of ministry just like pastoral care or preaching. As ministers of stewardship, we delve deeply into study, theological prodding, and engagement with Scripture. Our faith formation and education classes can help our congregations broaden their understanding of Stewardship and help us to see ourselves as stewards of this important part of ministry and gratefully feel responsibility to meet this work of ministry with excellence.

Growing edges

Stewardship ministry is at times challenging and demands much of us in terms of study, time, preparation, vulnerability, creativity, and willingness to challenge our congregations toward a less than conventional approach. It is so easy for us to focus on the financial aspects of Stewardship, especially if we are struggling to fulfill our mission and ministry because of diminished resources.

The beauty of holding this work in community is that it is evolving as we speak. We work on, wrestle with, and pray about how we can lead faithful and fruitful stewardship in our congregations. Our commitment to the ministry of Stewardship is a reminder that developing stewards who take love seriously really matters for the health of our congregations.

Imagine if every day was Stewardship Sunday in the fullest, deepest, holiest way possible. How might that enliven how we live, love, and pursue the practice of stewardship?

Blessings,

Deborah Rexrode, PhD
POJ Associate for Stewardship

*Excerpts taken from an article, “The Core of Stewardship is Love” in The Presbyterian Outlook in February 2019.

Grief, Gratitude, and Giving

Changing the calendar to a new year looked somewhat different this time. It did not feel the same as it has in the past where the excitement of a new year brings resolutions and goals for what we hope to accomplish. It is hard to think about planning for what we might do this year when we are limited in our ability to be together as we have been in the past. Some days it is hard to think about what we can do at this moment let alone think about next month or the month after.

Wholehearted Stewardship

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful in a few things,
I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
(Matthew 25:21)

In the Parable of the Talents, we are reminded that we are called to steward that which God has entrusted into our care. We are called to receive what we have been given, nurture and grow it, share with those in need, and return to God what belongs to God having been faithful stewards of many things.

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…

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.