The Right Stuff – Changing Your Stewardship Culture
(It really is about the right people in the right place.)
When it comes to leadership in your congregation, it is about the people. It is about getting the right people in the place where their gifts match the resources required to enable the church to live its vision and accomplish its ongoing mission. This is especially true in the area of stewardship. Most of our congregations function with a single team of people who are responsible for all conversations, leadership, implementation, and oversight about everything financial. This is a mistake.
The complexities of this area of church life are best served by three teams instead of one. Those teams are: Finance, Stewardship, and Planned Gifts (or Legacy Gifts). There are qualities and gifts that everyone involved in the financial matters of the church must possess. The broad gifts and characteristics that need to be present in anyone involved in money matters include: leaders in the practice of generosity; commitment to congregation’s vision/mission; a willingness to engage in new ways of thinking and openness to new ideas; ability to train others to do this work; and, recognized by others as trustworthy and persons of integrity.
Along the lines of this division of the work, there are gifts specific to the unique and subtle aspects stewardship, finance, and legacy that need to be present to achieve success.
You need a team that just deals with the numbers – a Finance Team. They handle the day to day work, watching the income and expenses, generating reports, monitoring spending in relation to budget, and an ability to fairly interpret/communicate the real financial position of the church. The group also should oversee issues related to fiscal policy – matters of internal controls, transparency, how gifts are received (including electronic giving) and acknowledged, how audits are performed, how expenses are prioritized, etc., in consultation with the board or other governing body. The people who make up this team should be (along with the characteristics mention above): good with numbers; successful managers; committed to the church; willing to take appropriate risk; viewed as persons with integrity/trust (repeated for here emphasis). Having some members of this team who have a background in a successful business is helpful as a form of “gift sorting”. These should not be people who are overly fearful, negative, or alarmist in nature.
Along with the Finance Team, you need a Stewardship Team. This team is responsible for the implementation of stewardship education; creating encounters that connect experience and practice for the church with the multifaceted aspects of stewardship; leadership of the annual campaign; giving testimony to their own practices and recruiting others to do the same; interpret the connection between money and mission/ministry; and, encourage the practice of generosity by both individuals and the corporate entity of the congregation. Members of this team must possess a passion for generosity and be practitioners of it; have good communication skills; be creative; spiritual; capable of follow-through; and, fully embrace the congregation’s vision.
The final team is a Planned Gifts or Legacy Team. As you might expect, this team has as their primary focus, the education about, the solicitation of, and the celebration for, end-of-life gifts. Beyond just estate planning however, this team should deal with all aspects of stewardship at the end of life. This includes making certain there are conversations about final healthcare directives, funeral/memorial preferences, and organ donation, among other end of life issues. Our “final benediction” is one more opportunity to proclaim our faith, practice generosity, and bear witness to what we have valued in life as a “teaching moment” for those left behind. This team makes certain that proper policies are in place that encourage legacy giving and that gifts that have been given are correctly stewarded by the church to fulfill each donor’s intent. People called to this team should be: faithful stewards; have an estate plan in place (that includes the church); understand investing; be comfortable talking about money; understand and be passionate about the value of legacy giving; and, be above reproach as trusted members of the congregation.
Success in resourcing mission and ministry requires clarity of vision and purpose. It must be supported by sound fiscal policy, teaching stewardship as a spiritual discipline, engaging people in honest conversations about money and values, and never separating money from mission. It goes without saying that the minister and the leaders of the faith community are the leaders in the practice of generosity, or none of the above will make any difference. The right people – the right place of service equals the right stuff to change the stewardship culture in your congregation.