September 27, 2017
The Language of Stewardship
The words we choose to discuss annual giving with our congregation can resonate obligation or gratitude. Or both. Kate Ferris wrote about this in her 2007 Vestry Papers article, Good Stewardship Addresses Hopes and Fears. She described a successful annual giving campaign at St. George’s in Clifton Park, New York, that “provided both practical and spiritual messages about pledging:”
We made an effort to balance the type of messages people received. Some people understand that unless they pledge, the church cannot meet its financial obligations. Others respond to the biblical teachings about giving first fruits or giving back to God.
St. George’s Clifton Park was intentional about the language used in its communications, and that is most important. What we say in stewardship ministry can hit people like a cold hard plea for cash, or help them develop a deeper understanding of discipleship. Here are some examples:
- We’ve been running a deficit budget for years, and we need to get it balanced.
- Tithing may never be possible for you because it’s so difficult.
- Your pledge is a way of being responsible.
- The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9: 6-7
- Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. - Malachi 3:10
- But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6: 20-21
Take an inventory of your annual campaign’s words, and see whether you find messages about obligation or reminders about gratitude for God’s abundance that strengthen discipleship.