In the September 2015 issue of the Moravian Magazine, we highlighted the Northern Province’s Healthy Congregations Task Force. In this issue, we continue to share examples and ideas of how putting the “Seven Characteristics of Healthy Congregations” to work have enhanced the mission and ministry of local churches, while providing illustrations of each of the characteristics.
This month, Task Force members discuss “Stewardship,” “Purpose” and “Leadership.”
One of the Seven Characteristics of a Healthy Congregation is Stewardship:
A healthy congregation understands the reality that God has provided all it needs to fulfill, with excellence, the ministries to which it is called. The people of God respond generously to God’s abundance with joy and thanksgiving.
This description points to the foundational understanding that we engage in healthy stewardship when we believe that God has provided abundantly for all our needs.
What does healthy stewardship look like in practice in our congregations and communities?
- One congregation provides 55 local kindergartners and their families a can of soup per week as part of an ecumenical effort in the community. When this congregation counted their donated cans, they discovered they had enough for TWO cans for each kindergartner. That’s healthy stewardship.
- A congregation that struggled to pay all their common ministries in the past has now paid them two years in a row. That’s healthy stewardship.
- Another congregation has planted, tended and harvested a garden for three years, with all of the produce going to a local food shelf. That’s healthy stewardship.
- One little girl in a Moravian congregation colored and cut out a pocket for her bedroom door and wrote on it, “My Offering.” That’s healthy stewardship.
- A group of Sunday School children ages 2-12 packed and prayed over 100 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. They participated in everything from shopping for items to send to assembling the actual boxes. One of the children asked if they could do this all year long so kids could get birthday presents, too. That’s healthy stewardship.
None of these congregations or individuals did these things because they worried whether or not they had “enough” money. Instead, they focused on their abundance; faithfully and generously responded out of gratitude for God’s blessings in their lives; then shared God’s gifts with others.
That’s what healthy stewardship is about: responding generously to God’s abundance by sharing that abundance with others with a spirit of joy and thanksgiving.
God provides us with all we need to answer his call. Praise God! n
The Rev. Jenny Moran is pastor of Christ’s Community Moravian Church in Maple Grove, Minn.
Imagine that an intelligent creature from outer space visits and tours North America to learn about some of the places where people gather. She visits a football stadium and asks, “Why do people come here? What do they do? Why do they do that?”
She visits a school and asks the same questions. She visits a concert hall, a Lioness Club meeting, and finally, a church. “Why do people come here? What do they do? Why do they do that?”
Purpose…every institution exists for a reason. The holy institution of the church is no exception. There are certainly many things that make our churches different from any other place where people gather. Yet, like a football stadium, a school, a concert hall, or social and civic clubs, every congregation exists for a specific purpose. When that purpose is identified (discerned in the church setting), it can then be communicated well and activity can be aligned to purpose.
One of the Seven Characteristics of Healthier Congregations is “purpose.” A healthy congregation has a clear understanding of its identity, purpose and vision as a Moravian congregation. Members have a shared ownership of how “who we are” and “what we do” gives life and direction to every facet of ministry in and around the congregation.
Author Craig Groeschel writes about vision and purpose in the church. In his book, It, Groeschel compares a church without a vision and purpose to a car with misaligned tires. He writes, “even though you try to keep the car in the middle of the road, it pulls to one side. It’s a constant struggle to keep traveling in the intended direction. Over time, it can cause major problems. The tires wear out…. People in a visionless church are like that. Without vision alignment, the people are busy doing something. They are driving along, doing church, but without any direction they are easily pulled off center. They’re moving with no destination in mind. Without compelling vision, people, just like tires, quickly wear themselves out.”
Our congregations become healthier as we discern our purpose and vision. What might be the specific purpose God has for your congregation? How might you begin to bring people together to talk about it? n
Linda Wisser is director of Growth and Development for Emmaus Moravian Church in Emmaus, Pa.
In my office, I have my “top shelf” books (and they are literally on the top shelf). These are my “go-to” books. These are the books that are filled with highlighter highlights, notes scribbled in margins, paper clips to hold the important stuff together. These are the books I have used and found useful, not just once or twice, but books I come back to repeatedly. Like old friends, they never disappoint.
For all of the go-to books, for all of the wisdom compiled, for all of the pithy quotes to fuel a conversation, none of them have captured the true essence of leadership. They each have hints and glimpses and insights of what leadership is, how leadership works and what kind of leadership works better in given situations, but none of them have the totality of what leadership is.
Leadership, as a concept, is more than we can describe or define. Yet we all know good leadership when we see it. Without words, without definitions, we intuitively know good leadership. We respond to that leadership by following.
Leadership always need followers. Followers always need leadership. They cannot be separated. Ed Stetzer has said famously, “If you want to know if you’re a leader, look behind you; if you’re alone, you’re just out for a walk.”
Congregations continue to hunger and thirst for leadership. Misguidedly we desire “leaders” instead of “leadership.” So much of this concept is tied to the personalities, passions, strengths and weaknesses of the ones who exercise leadership. We have made leadership about the person or the people who attempt to lead.
Leadership is an exercise. It requires practice. Leadership requires making a fair share of leadership mistakes and learning from them. I do not believe that there are natural-born leaders. There are some who exercise their ability to lead better than others. There are some who have more experience in leadership than others. There are some who have trained hard and well for the tasks needed to lead. But there are no natural-born leaders.
I do, however, believe that God calls some to exercise their gifts of leadership. I think of Moses—a wandering shepherd boy with a pocketful of excuses becomes the one to lead God’s children out of slavery. I think of Christian David—a wandering, out of work carpenter called to lead the hidden seed of the Unitas Fratrum to good soil. I think of my grandmother, Mae—a Pennsylvania Dutch widow called to lead the Kings’ Daughters International. Moses, Christian David and Mae—all of them could have said, “No, thank you. I decline your polite invitation to lead your people.” But they didn’t. They saw in themselves what God saw all along.
So much of our congregational health lies in identifying those who are willing to exercise leadership. I can think of nothing more difficult for the modern church to discern. But God continues to call people—especially the wandering. God continues to equip servants with the gifts of leadership—even the wondering. Perhaps, if we believe that God is still doing God’s part in this equation, then that makes our part just a little bit easier. n
Kerry Krauss is pastor of Sister Bay Moravian Church in Sister Bay, Wis.
Series illustrations by Andrew David Cox. ©2015 Andrew David Cox.