Four simple shifts to strengthen stewardship

One of the joys of working for the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America (MMFA) is being invited into the lives of Moravian congregations around the country. Oftentimes we receive the invitation because a church is looking for new ideas to jump-start, strengthen, or even shake up its stewardship ministry.

Most of us like routine, enjoy the familiar, and sometimes resist change. In church life, this can translate into getting stuck in the same gear, doing the same thing year after year. MMFA is excited to share these simple shifts to help your church breathe new life into stewardship.

Add a fourth “ T ”

We often hear of “time, talent and treasure,” but what about testimony? What does your church do to help people connect with each other and share their stories? How do you create space to talk about difficult things? People are seeking relationships and want to know their church family better; how we care for one another is a vital part of stewardship. How can you incorporate testimony into the life of your congregation?

One idea is through a  “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” event. People sign up to be either hosts or attendees; the hosts don’t know who is coming to their home and the attendees don’t know who else will be joining them for the meal. This is a wonderful way to facilitate small group conversations with different church members and to allow people to share their stories.

Throw out the church budget

This isn’t as crazy as it sounds! Think about the conversations you have around your church’s finances; unfortunately, where budgets are concerned, the goal is oftentimes to trim as much as possible. Instead, consider a new way of looking at what the church spends by renaming the budget the “ministry finance plan.” The goal of a ministry finance plan is to make it as fat as possible!

Secondly, consider the story your church’s budget tells. I may claim to be committed to a healthy lifestyle, but if you check my purse and find receipts from fast food restaurants and for junk food, then how I spend my money doesn’t match my mission. Calculate the way your church’s line items are being used to support the church’s mission and see if there is a disconnect. Use the ministry funding plan to show members how their generosity has helped the church fulfill its mission and how much more it could do in the year ahead. The plan is a valuable tool in shaping your congregation into the church God is calling you to be.

Ask new questions

At the 2018 Northern Province Synod, Susan Nienaber, congregational consultant, pastor, and District Superintendent in the Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church, spoke to delegates about the importance of knowing our “why.” She shared a video from comedian Michael Jr. in which he says, “When you know your ‘why’, your ‘what’ has more impact, because you’re walking in or towards your purpose.” Does your church know its why? Sure, you have a rummage sale each spring, but why? You have worship every Sunday; why should people come? You’d like to grow stewardship; why should members give more of their skills, time or money?

One of the questions MMFA asks when we converse with churches on stewardship is, “What excites you about your church’s vision and direction?” Oftentimes people struggle to respond, or even say they aren’t sure if their church has a vision or direction. Before focusing on renewed stewardship efforts, make sure your church knows its mission (its “why”) and has identified priorities to support that mission.

Engage imagination

Living as a follower of Christ and steward of all God has given us is an exciting, joyful and sacred journey. Our conversations about stewardship in our churches should also be exciting, joyful and sacred! As we invite people to grow in their stewardship, how can we help them experience the richness of what could happen as a result?

At the 2018 “Pathways to Generosity” conference, the Rev. Dr. Katie Hays spoke of the “future of God’s imagining” in which we live in a world God loves. I don’t know about you, but when I think about myself as a steward, and imagine how I can use God’s gifts with which I’m entrusted to bring the world closer to what He longs for it to be, I am excited, I feel great joy, and I recognize the sacredness of stewardship. It isn’t about my church wanting something from me, but rather God wanting something for me.

Begin having “what if” conversations at your church and see where they take you. Perhaps it’s as simple as identifying areas that need more support and inviting people to imagine what might happen if those areas received that support…“What if our church facility was 100 percent accessible and everyone could move about without fear of encountering an obstacle?” Or perhaps the conversations help your community of faith discern how God is calling you to new ministries…“What if we could provide a safe space for our neighbors who need to escape violence at home?” Regardless, these conversations are a chance to strengthen stewardship as you build excitement and joy around what God wants for your church.

Our stewardship makes a difference in our congregations and in the world, as well in our individual lives. Through sharing our stories with others, looking at church finances in a new way, exploring our “why”, and imagining how we can use God’s gifts to be a part of the world God longs for, we are moving closer to who God created us to be.

MMFA is delighted to offer our stewardship services at no cost. To learn more, please visit www.mmfa.info and click on the “stewardship development” link, or contact Laura Watson, Director of Stewardship and Development Services at 888-722-7923 or [email protected]. We look forward to moving ministries forward together with you. 

Laura Watson is director of Stewardship & Development Services for Moravian Ministries Foundation in America. Images courtesy of MMFA and DesignPics.