STEWARDSHIP IN A TIME OF CRISIS
THE PASTOR AS STEWARD-LEADER: MASKS AND MONEY
To claim that these are highly unusual times would be to understate the current reality. To consider that pastors are charged to serve as stewards of congregations when those congregations cannot congregate would be to understate the challenge of ministry in 2020.
So, what does a stewardship consultant/generosity coach have to offer for the living of these days? Perhaps it is a review of what is tried and true, a reclaiming of what has stood the test of time. Maybe it is a word of consolation, a word of challenge, a word of care.
First, the consolation: The church belongs to Jesus Christ. After all, it is his body. You know this; you preach this; you believe this. But, sometimes, you don’t act like it. I know: I’ve been in your robe and stole, and in your pulpit, so to speak. It can be hard to remember that you alone are not responsible for the church. In these hellish days, it is a blessing to remember the promise: The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to trust that truth. You too? Allow the consolation of Christ to seep in to your weary soul, and divine compassion to speak to your worried spirit. The church belongs to the Lord. He will not leave nor forsake the church–nor you.
Next, the challenge: You are called by Christ to lead. You are doing that when you wear a mask and encourage others to do so, when you hold fast to the wisdom of delaying in-person worship, when you stand in an empty sanctuary and lead worship to be shared virtually. You are doing that when you remind people that they are generous and gracious because they are created in the image of a generous and gracious God. You are doing that when you are generous and gracious yourself. The practice of faithful Christian stewardship is a reflection of discipleship. While it is not advisable to flaunt your giving to the church, it is important to lead as a steward. Encouraging others to share in the joy of giving is authentic only when it is practiced by the pastor. When you lift the offering plate during worship to bless the gifts that have been mailed in, dropped off or contributed online, be sure to refer to the checks, cash, credit card receipts, stock donations, and electronic funds transfers as “our tithes and offerings”. Lead by preaching about financial stewardship and praying for faithfulness in responding to the needs of the world. Tell the stories of how the church is making a difference through outreach and service. Tell the stories of faithful stewards who have inspired you. Tell your own stewardship story. Much like sporting a facemask, your personal commitment to tithing needs to be shared as a way to “provoke one another to good deeds”.
Finally, the care: As you grow in faithful stewardship, take care that you do not expect yourself–or allow others to expect you–to carry the church. Invite (provoke, even) your elders and lay leaders to join you in growing in stewardship. Reflect on God’s call upon the faithful to become better stewards of the earth and its climate, the earth’s beautiful array of peoples, the church and its gift of good news of radical hospitality and far-reaching justice, the relationships you have with family members and friends, and God’s bountiful provisions–including financial resources. Wearing a mask and giving money in support of the church’s mission and ministry both reflect your care of, and for, others, demonstrating your commitment to becoming a steward-leader in the spirit of the Christ who is with you on the journey.
The Reverend Doctor Janet Long is a retired minister (Disciples of Christ) and serves as a Generosity Coach with the Center for Faith and Giving.