A Word of Encouragement
While there is much we don’t know about 2021, and the impact of the COVID virus and the economic impact it will continue to have globally, there are some things we do know. Let’s remind ourselves of these things as we prepare.
God will go with us into the unknown.
From God’s promise to Abram to “go to a land I will show you” to Jesus’ words that “I will be with you to the end of the age”, we know that whatever the landscape of the church looks like in the near or distant future, God will be there. This is good time to remember that the words fear not appear over 150 time in the bible. Even in the wilderness God provided and can be trusted to do so again and again.
The body of Christ will not die.
The Judeo-Christian tradition is based in communion with God and each other, beginning with Genesis where God declares that it is “not good to be alone”, to Revelation where it is prophesied that the nations will walk together in the New Jerusalem. Our faith is a communal one and can only be best expressed in terms larger than the individual.
The true mission of the church will remain relevant.
When Abram receives the invitation to be a blessed by God, it is not only for him and his family, but for all the nations. Jesus echoes this love in John 3:16 in the acknowledgement that God loves the whole world, and it is to the ends of the earth that the disciples are sent to teach all that they had learned from him. The hope of the gospel is that God loves us and seeks to be reconciled to all of creation. Our mission to tell “what we know” about the endless mercy of God and to express that in loving acts of compassion and kindness (Matthew 25:31-46) will not end until Christ returns and “things are in earth as they are in heaven”.
The work of gathering resources for mission will continue.
Until such time as Isaiah’s vision of “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters’ and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!” (IS 55:1) is fulfilled, the community of faith will need money to make mission and ministry happen. As these materials seek to remind us, stewardship is more than money; but faithful resource management is no less a part of being in step with the values of the realm. Moving money to mission so that the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given drink, the naked are clothed, the sick are made well, and justice rolls down like a living stream is necessary and holy work.
The View from 30,000 feet
This material is designed to provide you with the opportunity to think theologically with your congregation about the spiritual discipline of stewardship, that not only takes in account money/resource management, but also the broader biblical themes that fall within this practice. Each quarter provides a time of exploration of these ideas and gives your congregation a change to make a commitment to the tangible practice of the highlighted theme. As you finish each quarter, a commitment card is provided for your parishioners to complete and for the church to dedicate these intentions. If you follow this practice for each quarter, the financial commitment at the end of the third quarter will need less preparation than if you only offer the third quarter “pledge card”. We offer calendar ideas for both methods.
Who should be involved?
Created To Be a Steward is designed to be carried out by a small group of people, making it perfect for churches who worship under 100 in average worship attendance (back when we could do that in person!). Larger congregations can expand the design to include different working groups for each quarter, allowing you to utilize people who have passion in these particular areas of self-care, earth-care, resource management, and faith sharing. The variations are limited only by your imagination. We strongly recommend that the third quarter be led by members whom you know practice generosity. Take into account the “widow’s mite” when asking for leaders here – it is not the amount as much as it is the dedication to faithfulness and commitment to your church’s mission. A team of 3-5 people can manage this program without feeling over worked, especially in a smaller community of faith. This section (Campaign Guidance) of emphasis includes preparation, invitation, and follow-up. We create a list of responsibilities and identify the leaders for these phases.
What are the Components?
There are four simple components each quarter:
- Education (through the quarter)
- Preparation (3 weeks)
- Invitation (1 week)
- Follow-up (2 weeks)
- Celebration (1 week)
What Materials Do We Need?
This resource will be updated on a regular basis to provide you with educational content for the preacher and the small group leader for each quarter’s theme. Some worship resources will also be included, at the discretion of each contributor. Commitment cards for each theme for use at the end of each quarter are provided in a separate folder. Sample letters, suggested responsibilities and a timeline for each quarter are also included. You might consider ordering Community of Prayer from Chalice Press for the third quarter. It includes 29 days of devotions meant to prepare the reader for making a financial commitment and reprises all of the themes in Created To Be a Steward materials. You can contact Bruce Barkhauer (firstname.lastname@example.org) to inquire about having the daily devotionals custom video recorded for your congregation’s use on social media (they average 2 ½ minutes in length and there is a fee for this service.)
We strongly recommend developing a narrative style budget when you utilize the Stewardship of material resources information (scheduled for the third quarter). You can find more information how to create a narrative style budget at the Center for Faith and Giving. This material will have the greatest impact if you use a combination of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), traditional USPS mail, and email as a way to reach your audience. Creativity matters so tell your story in compelling ways. Newsletters, bulletins (if you are back in on-site worship), and other more “traditional” forms of communication should be used alongside of the more novel channels. Targeting (segmenting) your communication to get the right kind of message to the right audience should be considered if you have that capacity.
What is the timeline?
If you are using this as a year-round resource, doing a commitment at the end of each 12-week segment, you should expect a 7 week pattern each quarter. Three weeks of emphasis geared at preparing the congregation for a commitment; One week for the actual invitation; two weeks for follow-up; and one week for celebration. This means that you are “overlapping” themes in each quarter, taking time to share information about the nature of the commitments made in response to the previous quarter’s theme and particular challenge.
If you are only using the stewardship of material resources (money!), you should plan at least 9 weeks to complete the cycle. Five weeks of preparation and communication; one week for invitation; two weeks for follow up; one week for celebration.