“There are three conversions necessary,” Martin Luther wrote of Christian discipleship: “The conversion of the heart, the mind and the purse.” Luther was experienced enough in the affairs of the world to add, “Of these three, it may well be that we moderns find the conversion of the purse the most difficult.” Five centuries later, Luther’s words still ring true. Although “stewardship” involves the proper use of all the gifts that God has given us — time, health, intelligence, special abilities, friends, family, church and so on — most of us have a hard time understanding how and why God wants us to share our financial gifts with others. Stewardship education in the church helps our people to see all their gifts, and especially their money, as tools God gave us to minister to the world around us with the love of Christ. Broadly speaking, when people are generous with their money, it often indicates their hearts and minds are also in the right place. Isn’t that what Jesus meant when he taught, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34)?
Here are some great websites for general stewardship education:
The Stewardship of Life Institute: Headquartered at Gettysburg Seminary, this ELCA-affiliated nonprofit is devoted to inspiring, educating and equipping Christians to see stewardship as a key element of their walk as Christians. Lots of resources and links for personal and congregational use.
Center for Stewardship leaders: This is Luther Seminary’s stewardship website, full of articles, sermons, study guides and other resources to help underscore stewardship in your congregation.
ELCA Stewardship: Our denomination’s Stewardship website has a trove of resources for your congregation to use for education, inspiration and practical purposes.
The Episcopal Network for Stewardship: This organization gathers together leaders and agencies from the Anglican Communion to help teach and encourage stewardship. Lots of good resources.
Here are some free or low-cost stewardship programs to look at:
Embrace Generosity: Great for fall 2016! This program suggests a five-week emphasis that tracks with the texts of Lectionary Year C beginning Sept. 25, 2016 (but you can also run it anytime using its non-Lectionary suggestions). It culminates with a commitment Sunday, where you invite members to pledge. You will find just about everything you need — timetables, sermon notes, discussion guides, sample letters, sample pledge cards, sample thank-you notes. It suggests buying and equipping every household with a stewardship devotion, but you can adapt a program without it.
Because of God’s Great Mercy: You may remember Chick Lane as the speaker at our 2013 Bishop’s Convocation. An ELCA pastor, author and stewardship expert, Lane has become a trusted source for congregations looking to advance their giving. Here is a new, relatively low-cost program from Chick Lane that will give you what you need for a stewardship program this fall. The bad news is that people rarely give (or give more) unless they are asked. The good news is that people often respond affirmatively when they ARE asked. This program provides everything a congregation needs to make a direct, respectful request, along with a simple way for people to calculate an increase of 1/2 of 1% of household income. The cost is $20, and it gives you a download of instructions and a full set of documents in both PDF and Word.
‘Meet the Stewards’ Stewardship Emphasis:”Meet the Stewards” will introduce your congregation to the Steward family, each of whom exemplifies a different area of stewardship. Sabbatha pays attention to Sunday worship and rest. Christian Ed is a learner. Holly (who goes by “Volly”) volunteers. Buck is a giver. This free 22-page resource from the Moravian Church explains how you can lift up one of these characters per Sunday as a way to teach lifelong stewardship.
Make it Simple: This is the ELCA’s major stewardship campaign offering from just a couple years ago. You’ll find everything you need to launch an education and annual response campaign in your congregation.The online version is a mess, but our synod office has copies of the DVD set for free. Email Rob Blezard if you want one.
“Stewards of God’s Love“: This new year-round stewardship resource is available to purchase or as a free PDF download. Our synod office has some copies available for free. Email Rob Blezard if you want one.
How to Improve Financial Stewardship: This resource outlines the six most popular financial response models used by ELCA congregations. An easy-to-follow guide for new stewardship leaders.
Step-by-Step: Fostering Financial Stewardship in Your Congregation: From the ELCA, a 50-page guide that lists 17 steps your congregation can take to increase giving.
A Guide to Year-Round Stewardship Planning: 46-page guide from the Presbyterian Church. Includes samples of many of the elements you need, such as pledge cards, bible studies and letters.
Local Church Planned Giving Manual: This is your quintessential resource! Produced by our brothers and sisters in United Church of Christ, this free, online guide for congregations is designed to aid pastors and lay leaders in developing a congregational Planned Giving ministry. It includes sections devoted to establishing and promoting a Planned Giving program, congregational endowments, wills emphasis, how life-income gifts work, and more. How can you set up a Planned Giving program in your context?
Faith Aflame: The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod offers excellent resources on this site to equip its congregations to teach and preach about stewardship, as well as hold an annual campaign.
Embracing Stewardship: Another Chick Lane resource! “Why is stewardship so stinking difficult?” That’s a question you hear many congregational leaders ask, and it’s also a chapter in the new printed book. “Embracing Stewardship” handily addresses that age-old question by offering both a solid theoretical/ theological grounding and practical, down-to-earth approaches for making stewardship an everyday part of a congregation’s life together. It’s got lots of good information to help your congregation formulate a thoughtful stewardship strategy. At $15, it’s an accessible, affordable resource.
Here are some resources on tithing
Carpe Tithing: Invigorate Your Faith Life: “The tithe as a spiritual discipline is vastly underappreciated by modern Christians. I believe that if we boldly reintroduce the challenge to tithe, personally embrace the conviction of its worth, and then do it, we will provide abundant resources for God’s work in the world as well as invigorate our experience of life in Christ. “ So writes the Rev. Margaret G. Payne, retired bishop of the New England Synod, in The Lutheran Journal of Ethics. She makes some very good points. Click above to read more!
Try-a-Tithe Sunday: If you’re introducing the concept of tithing to your congregation, invite them to take the plunge just for a week — or for one week a month. This handy guide will explain not only how to plan a “Try-a-Tithe Sunday,” but the biblical foundation of tithing. From ELCA Stewardship Resources.
Tithing Flows from Prayer: Ten years ago First United Methodist church in Enderlin, North Dakota, began a process of spiritual renewal that began with prayer but also included a challenge for members to participate in an experiment involving tithing. The result was a renewed spirit and better finances. Read about how they did it — and how it might help your congregation! From UMC Communications.
FAQ on Tithing: What’s the deal about tithing? Is it a biblical mandate, a generous response or an outdated measure for giving? This FAQ from the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis provides answers.
Here are some resources dealing with stewardship of creation:
Lutherans Restoring Creation: Here’s how they describe themselves: “LRC is a grassroots movement promoting care for creation in the ELCA.” You’ll find lots of ideas for sermons, discussion, worship, education and more.
Creation Justice Ministries: This is the cutting-edge program of the National Council of Churches that used to be called its Eco-Justice Program. By whatever name, the program has a trove of ideas and free resources.
Blessed Earth: This organization has a catchy slogan, “Serving God, Saving the planet.”
Creation Care Resources: Every Creature Singing: Educate your church on how our decisions impact the one and only planet that God gave us to live on — and how we can care for creation! “Every Creature Singing” gives you a detailed 13-session lesson plan, as well as a teacher’s guide. Each lesson has Scripture, readings, and discussion questions that focus on your neighborhood, and other resources. Click the title above to get to the resource, from the Mennonite Creation Care Network.
God’s Call to Earthkeeping: Help people understand environmental stewardship through classes, temple talks, seminars and other educational activities. And this is the perfect resource: “Awakening to God’s Call to Earthkeeping” is a free 50-page resource includes four complete lessons – each with a leader guide and participant materials. Lessons include Rediscovering Our Place in Creation, God’s Presence Fills All Creation, and The Biblical Foundations for Earthkeeping. Bonus sections include a theology of creation care, a congregational survey and a template congregational covenant for creation care. It’s from the ELCA, and it’s free for PDF download.
Pope Francis’ Environmental Call to Action: “The earth cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” Pope Francis writes in his landmark encyclical on the environment. Pollution and climate change degrade the lives of millions of people today, and billions in the future, says the Pope, who adds this plea: “I urgently appeal for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” The weighty encyclical is extremely thoughtful and worthy of a careful read by every Christian leader. Why not study the encyclical with peers or an adult class?
An abundance of additional stewardship resources are available on the web!
Brainstorming: Deep explorations
The Breadth and Depth of Stewardship: The breadth and depth of stewardship theology leads us to appeal to one another to discover lives of meaning and purpose, stewardship lives. This happens as we engage in worship of God and as we honor God’s plan; as we gather to encourage and support one another in a living organism, the Body of Christ; as we make a difference in the world through service to people and care of creation; and as we teach behaviors that free us from bondage to money. This is how ELCA Pastor Michael Meier begins a powerful exploration of the theology of stewardship.
Free Ebook: Stewardship Under the Cross: Most of our congregations struggle with finance and stewardship. Leaders can take heart from one LCMS pastor’s journey and reflections on stewardship. The Rev. H.R. Curtis offers it as a free ebook. He writes: “What you’ll get in this book is the experience and advice of one pastor struggling to remain faithful to God’s Word while leading his parish through a rough financial patch. There are plenty of stewardship programs out there – some good, some bad, and some ugly. While I do lay out the program we used at my parish, this is not a book about a program; it is a book about how to think about and teach stewardship as a Lutheran; a book about Law & Gospel, vocation, and liturgy.”
Free e-book: ‘How much is enough?’ Some of the brightest minds of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have collaborated for this collection of essays exploring “How Much is Enough: A Deeper Look at Stewardship in an Age of Abundance.” Each author looks at one aspect of what it means to be a well-formed stewardship leader — the basic competencies needed. Free for download.
Free Ebook: A Theology for Christian Stewardship: T.A. Kantonen’s classic book “A Theology for Christian Stewardship” is still considered one of the best explorations of the topic and a go-to resource. Kantonen was a prominent theologian who taught at Hamma Divinity School (now Trinity Lutheran Seminary). Download a free PDF copy, posted on LC-MS’ FaithAflame website.
Jumpstarts: Ideas for ministry
Rich Church, Poor Church: Why do some churches have trouble making ends meet whereas other nearby churches of similar size and circumstance have all the resources they need? It could be that they are focusing their efforts to appeal to the real reasons why people give their time, talents and treasure. Stewardship author, speaker and consultant J. Clif Christopher explores in this essay from MinistryMatters.
51 Ideas for Year-Round Stewardship: This is the kind of resource you need to keep handy for every brainstorming session of your stewardship or finance committee — a wide assortment of ideas that can keep your congregation on top of things 365 days a year. Some of them will be simple reminders of things you probably are already doing, but others will stretch your ideas and imaginations. Compact. Simple. Accessible.
Spirituality of Generosity: Here from Lifeway Leadership are some thoughts that may help reframe generosity for yourself and folks in your congregation. “Generosity is not an event or an emphasis. There’s no secret sauce or hidden tricks. Generosity is the cultivation of a simple lifestyle and I am not referring to limiting spending, having a family budget, or curtailing an enjoyable life. No coupon clipping here. So how do you cultivate a spiritually generous life that is second nature?”
ELCA’s StewardNet Newsletter for Church Leaders: It’s one of the gem resources our denomination produces: The StewardNet newsletter contains stewardship and church-growth tips, inspiration, links to resources, a calendar of events, and more. You can use whatever material is there for your website, bulletins or publications. It’s published quarterly, and you can sign up to have it delivered right to your email inbox (just send a request to at firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Pastor’s Role in Stewardship Ministry: Along with frank discussions of sex and politics, honest conversation about money is a huge taboo in many congregations. According to this great article by Pastor Chick Lane — author of “Ask, Thank, Tell” (among other things) and noted stewardship speaker — the taboo harms not only the financial life of the congregation, but also faith life of the congregation that is prevented from exploring a major element of discipleship: generous giving. As the spiritual leader of the congregation, the pastor must shatter the “conspiracy of silence” by talking about money. The pastor must do this for the spiritual health of the people in the congregation.
Crafting a Stewardship Letter: Don’t undervalue the power of the letter that accompanies your annual stewardship campaign materials. It’s the invitation your congregation extends for folks to participate in its exciting ministries, a case statement for why their time, talent and treasure are worthy of investing. It should convey not only information, but a tone, an agenda, an attitude. This resource from the United Church of Canada explains some of the key elements of a good stewardship letter and provides some wonderful examples. To view some of the United Church’s other stewardship offerings go to www.stewardshiptoolkit.ca. Good Luck!
Stewardship Ideas for Congregations: Does your congregation have a stewardship strategy? Any guiding principles that would inspire God’s people to make a greater commitment to the financial wellbeing of the church? It’s astounding how many of our congregations don’t, and especially astounding for those that are facing financial difficulties. Wise leaders know that stewardship is more than financial giving. It is a sense of thanksgiving for all that God has given us, including care giving for the world around us! Here are eight ideas from BuildingChurchLeaders.com.
Four Myths about Online Giving: Despite the fact that less than 7% of transactions in the United States are conducted via cash and check, many thousands of churches continue to count on cash and check donations for 100% of their annual budget. Online giving options can help modernize a church’s revenue stream, but many congregations are hesitant. This article from ChurchMag explores – and explodes – four myths. There are also some helpful links to get your congregation going.
Teaching: Finance and Disipleship
The Wi$dom Path: Money, Spirit, Life: Financial literacy courses are great, but in addition to knowing how to manage their money more wisely, God’s people need ways to talk about money and how it intersects with our spiritual and ethical values. This comprehensive course from the Unitarian Universalist Association covers such topics as personal and cultural money stories, economic justice, classism, and the impact of our financial decision making on our ability to live lives of meaning and purpose. Free for download.
First Things First: Managing Money by Christian Principles: North Americans are among the world’s richest people, and yet many families have problems understanding even basic household finance. Many churches are teaching people to manage their money by Christian principles. This free 90-page resource from the Mennonite Foundation of Canada can help.