October 10, 2016 by Linda Buskirk

It’s the time of year when, in many churches, lay people encourage us to participate generously in the annual giving campaign. As we listen to their “stewardship minutes,” our thoughts may wander from, “Where did I put that pledge card?” to, “Wow, what a beautiful faith story,” to, “I’m so glad I wasn’t asked to speak!”

On the surface, stewardship messages remind us to find, complete and return that pledge card. More deeply, they are invitations to prayerfully consider our own response to God’s abundance.
Episcopal priest and author Gerald W. Keucher words his invitation like this: “Put your money where you want your heart to be.” In his book, Remember the Future: Financial Leadership and Asset Management for Congregations (2006), Keucher challenges:

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Topics: Stewardship
October 7, 2016 by Grow Christians

A Grow Christians blog post by Nancy Hopkins-Green

The other day, I was sitting at a table with a group of parishioners when a mother asked, “How do we teach and model stewardship with our kids in a digital age?” Speaking specifically about her desire that her children establish the habit of tithing from an early age, she spoke of the challenge of what to do when the plate is passed on Sunday mornings, when she and her husband give to the church online.

I have very distinct memories of my own experience of being taught to give at an early age. My parents had their offering envelopes – and so did I. Instead of participating in common worship with the adults, we had a small worship service as part of the Sunday School class. Included in that service were the small brass offering plates. My box of offering envelopes were provided to help me learn giving. Each envelope was divided into two sections: one for the church, and one for mission and outreach.

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October 5, 2016 by Nancy Davidge

Why give? Why do people of faith give their time, talent, and treasure in service to God? This month, our Vestry Papers articles each offer a response to this question. Included are congregations rebounding after a painful split and the different approaches taken to help make them feel whole again. Also shared are details of a Latino/a congregation’s practice of year-round stewardship, as well as a process individuals or congregations might use to cultivate their own personal giving practice.

I hope the experiences and ideas of these congregations and individuals will spark a conversation in your congregation:

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Topics: Stewardship
September 30, 2016 by Joseph John

Walk back in time with me when you were new to the vestry, as I was. Like a deer-in-the-headlights, I was paralyzed by the information overload and I began asking myself the proverbial question: “What did I get myself involved in”?

I recognized if I was going to be a member of the vestry, involved in this important ministry, I needed some facts — pertinent facts. I was looking for answers to “where have we been over the past 10 or 15 years”, and “are we growing, are we stagnant, or are we withering?” The three-ring binder of do’s and don’ts for vestry members didn’t include this. I needed a one page or two page of “factoids” that immediately painted a picture of our church and how those facts could relate to current and previous rectors’ tenures, our congregational numbers, and, very importantly, stewardship and pledges over the years.

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September 27, 2016 by Nancy Davidge

...Or, going forth into the world to love and serve with joy.

The letter was from Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. Another solicitation from an organization my husband and I support. I added it to his pile of mail. Then forgot about it.

Later that day, in our shared office, Bill said, “Hey look at this! You’ll want to see what we got from Commonwealth Shakespeare,” then added, “I bet you’ll want to share this on your website.”Now curious, I looked at the sheet of paper in his hand. Readers of Vestry Papers – especially my article in our current issue – might smile, as I did, at what I saw.

Here’s a photo:

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Topics: Stewardship
September 26, 2016 by Linda Buskirk

“Stewardship” is a topic about which I’ve heard and prayed throughout my Christian journey. Having grown up in the church, at first I became aware that “stewardship happens in the fall” so we have enough money to operate next year. Mom and Dad received pledge envelopes, put money in them, and placed them in the offering plate on Sunday. It’s what you do when you’re a responsible member of a church. (I don’t remember them telling me that; it’s just what I came to assume).   

When I became a capital campaign consultant with the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF), I soon realized my understanding of stewardship as a ministry was limited around the concept of obligation.   

I began searching for how to better express the meaning and benefits of stewardship. I also prayed for my own response to God’s abundance to be more significant. One of my favorite authors on this subject is priest and fellow ECF consultant Gerald W. Keucher who encourages church leaders “to move from the language of obligation” in our stewardship ministries.

In his book, Remember the Future: Financial Leadership and Asset Management for Congregations (2006), Keucher discusses how the practice of proportional giving actually frees us from the idea of obligation:

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Topics: Stewardship
September 21, 2016 by Brendon Hunter

In the September Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources you can easily incorporate into your fall stewardship campaign, with the 5th a resource to help establish year-round stewardship in your congregation.

It’s easy and free to connect with more great resources for your congregation. Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this Vital Practices Digest in your inbox each month.

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Topics: Stewardship
September 7, 2016 by Nancy Davidge

Labor Day is past; a new program year begins, often followed by the annual giving campaign. We invite you to set aside time to think about the ‘why’ of a person’s decision to give, perhaps starting with your own giving story and reflecting on how to speak to the ‘why’ this annual campaign season.

The experiences and ideas of these congregations and individuals may spark conversation in your congregation:

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Topics: Stewardship
August 17, 2016 by Brendon Hunter

In the August Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources to help jumpstart your fall annual giving efforts, with the 5th a resource to help in developing year-round stewardship in your congregation.

It’s easy and free to connect with more great resources for your congregation. Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this Vital Practices Digest in your inbox each month.

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Topics: Stewardship
August 11, 2016 by Erin Weber-Johnson

I`ve been thinking a lot about authority lately. With an upcoming presidential election and a new presiding bishop, I am growing aware of my own response to those in power. I wondered, how does the concept of Authority impact how we engage in fundraising.

For fun, I googled “songs about authority”. Not surprisingly, most results detailed songs about resisting authority including Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They are a “Chang-in”, and perhaps most fitting for this blog, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect:”

"I`m about to give you all my money
All I`m asking in return honey
Give me my propers when you get home"

Franklin describes a desire for mutual respect when asked to give her resources.

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Topics: Stewardship
March 14, 2016 by Linda Buskirk

When I was a little girl, I suppose I knew that my Grandma Wright did not have much money. She lived in a tiny, two room apartment carved into the back of an old house. On overnight visits, I slept on a cot next to her bed. Together we would watch Bonanza or play dominoes. In the morning, she would fry cornmeal mush and let me drown it in maple syrup.

I can see her now, adjusting a simple cotton dress with buttons up the front, tightening the laces on her sturdy black leather shoes with chunky heels, and placing a net over her waves of silver hair. Pocketbook on her arm, we would walk to South Arlington Methodist Church for quilting and midweek prayer. Grandma arrived early to get the big aluminum coffee pot percolating as the other women arrived.

When I think about the widow whom Jesus watched place two copper pennies – all she had – into the offering plate, I think of Grandma Wright. She lavished me with love and fun, reflecting her trust in and gratitude for God’s provision. Her life revolved around her faith; all she did and all she possessed was caught up in that orbit.

Recent studies show that on average today, Christians in America give less than three percent of their income to the church. This aligns with statistics revealing that many churches see average annual pledges, when they are made, hovering around $1,500 to $3,000 – far away from a tithe for most household incomes.

Jesus talked about money quite a bit, but churches have a tough time with it. Americans want to keep their money-business private. People find ways to avoid examining how they could possibly “sacrifice” more to the church, so they will skip a coffee hour presentation on stewardship as they rush off to grab a $6.00 Hazelnut Macchiato down the street.

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Topics: Stewardship
February 18, 2016 by Erin Weber-Johnson

My friend and I finished a meal at a local pub. We looked up and our friendly waiter gave us two pieces of paper and asked if we would be willing to contribute to a local nonprofit. By contributing $5.00, we had the opportunity to write our name on the paper and have it displayed by the bar at the pub.

My friend immediately agreed and began filling out the sheet. This sparked my curiosity and I asked “What was it about the invitation that made you agree to give $5.00 to this organization that you have no previous ties to?”

My friend’s response “because I was invited to personally by our waiter. He’s been so nice to us and I felt a connection.” 

When thinking about what motivates a person to give, there are a number of factors including: context, generation, and previous experience. 

Yet, there is something particularly powerful when being personally invited to give as a way of belonging to something bigger.

Henri Nouwen writes in A Spirituality of Fundraising: 

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Topics: Stewardship
February 1, 2016 by Linda Buskirk

Does this sound like a typical church check list?

Conduct annual stewardship campaign Approve next year’s budget Celebrate Christmas Conduct Annual Meeting; explain what happened with stewardship and the budget Breathe a sigh of relief that you don’t have to deal with stewardship again until this fall

Dear congregational leaders, it’s not that you don’t deserve some relief, but perhaps it’s time to consider stewardship as a year ‘round ministry. God’s abundance is not a once-a-year occurrence, and our response to it shouldn’t be either.

There is so much to learn and to celebrate, why confine the experience to just the same few weeks of the year? Stewardship is Christian formation, deepening spirituality and faith as people consider all of God’s blessings. Its lessons are for all people, regardless of age or financial capacity.

Consider the widow and her pennies. More importantly, consider how Jesus spotted her… He was watching what people were giving! He knows how difficult it is for us to keep our priorities straight, to trust Him in all things.

Lessons regarding our relationship with God certainly can start in childhood. I wonder how many churches still give Lenten coin collection materials to their children? It is simple but can be a profound exercise to teach young people that when they share, they will receive even more, perhaps in unexpected and delightful ways.

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Topics: Stewardship
January 15, 2016 by Holly Stoerker

Editor’s note: Do members of your church have an opportunity to offer public testimony of what their faith – and their church – mean to them? Many associate this with appeals for participation in annual, capital, or other campaigns. Today ECF Vital Practices shares testimony from a newer member of an Episcopal church – and while it was given during the congregation’s annual stewardship campaign, Holly’s message is also one of personal transformation. I invite you to consider ways for members to share their transformation stories throughout the year.

Please join me in prayer.

"Loving God,

"We who gather here at St. John’s are no longer strangers because we have been welcomed by this “Church of the Open Door” in your name. By your love we are bound together in our care for one another and this holy space.

"As we consider our life here at St. John’s, help us to give from the heart and to the best of our abilities, willingly and with hopefulness. We pray that our giving would not be hindered by fear or a spirit of scarcity.

"Fill us with your grace, that, as joyful stewards of this calling you have set before us, we may have the strength, the will, and the imagination to fulfill your vision for our Church; in Christ’s name we pray. Amen."

                                                         (Campaign prayer used by all speakers)

Good morning. I'm Holly Stoerker. It was two years ago that I first came through the Open Door at St John's. And today is my one-year anniversary of joining this parish as a member.

Shortly after I was asked to give this stewardship talk, I quite by accident stumbled upon an article written by a Harvard Business school professor. It was called “Four Questions Fundraisers Must Be Prepared to Answer.” I was delighted! “Now,” I thought, “I have some authoritative insights to share.”

According to this article, fundraisers should address 4 key questions when making their pitch:

Does the organization do important work?  Is the organization well managed? Will my gift make a difference?  Will the experience be satisfying to me?  If the answer to all of these questions is “yes,” Professor Stevenson claims, it will be difficult for the prospective donor to say no.

But.... then I read our Gospel lesson for today. Today we heard Jesus say, not once, but twice... “My kingdom is not from this world.” … “My kingdom is not from here.”

While Professor Stevenson may be right on the philanthropic mark when it comes to fundraising for charitable organizations, devoted to all sorts of worthy causes... frankly, it's not what speaks to either my heart or mind in a stewardship message at church. “God's kingdom is not from this world.”

So why do I give to the church, to this church, to St. John's?

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Topics: Stewardship
October 21, 2015 by Greg Syler

A friend recently told me about a congregation in St. Mary’s County, Maryland – the community I also serve – whose Sunday morning collection is incredibly large, incredible, she reported, given the size and location and make-up of the congregation. It’s not an Episcopal congregation, and I know only a little bit about that particular church, but I do know they are situated and serving one of the poorest communities in our county. But, apparently, what their members give of their treasure, not to mention their time and talent, is huge.

“What do you think about this?” she asked me, aware that we, too, were starting our annual fundraising campaign. “Do you think that they’re doing something we’re not?” There were probably many answers to those questions, some “yes,” some “no.” Frankly, I often have these same questions. What is keeping us back, I wonder? What’s holding back The Episcopal Church? Honestly, we’re not very good at talking about money, let alone biblical standards such as giving 10% of one’s income (which, by the way, is also our own church’s standard). But is it all just about money? Maybe those other congregations are doing more for their people? Maybe they’re providing job connections or more meaningful work or more frequent bible studies and prayer groups? We’re also not especially great at talking about discipleship, to be honest.

I really don’t think that people in this particular congregation are paying more because they’re getting – pardon the pun – better services. In fact, I think that that kind of thinking is a fundamental part of the problem. I don’t think the leadership of this congregation spends a lot of time quantifying precisely what they do for people so that people, in turn, will commit greater amounts of money to their offering plates on Sundays. I think that that kind of economic thinking is what’s getting in the way, plain and simple. But countless dioceses and congregations in our Episcopal Church go about this thinking, year in and year out. Consider, if you will, the often-praised narrative budget strategy as Exhibit A.

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Topics: Stewardship
October 16, 2015 by Tim Schenck

When I was a kid my parents often dragged me and my brother to museums. It wasn’t just that they were trying to ram some culture down our throats; they were genuinely inspired by art and wanted to share that passion with their children. Much of which was lost on the two of us who whined and complained our way through centuries of magnificent works of art until we reached the great pinnacle of the museum experience: the gift shop.

But I remember being fascinated with one particular style of painting known as pointillism. That’s the medium in which small distinct dots are placed in patterns that make up images. When you stand up close all you see is a bunch of dots. But as you back up, the figures and background begin to emerge. At a certain distance you can no longer even tell that there are any dots at all. They blend together to form what looks like a typical painting.

Perhaps the most famous example of pointillism is the late-19th century Georges Seurat painting titled “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” It hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago, a place I went to (of my own accord!) a few times when I was attending seminary in Chicago. They have a great gift shop, by the way.

I was thinking about this recently as it relates to our lives. So often we focus on the dots while missing the big picture. We get annoyed with our children for spending too much time on the Xbox rather than giving thanks for the gift of their very existence. We get frustrated with the time it takes to attend to the needs of aging parents rather than being grateful for their continued presence in our lives. We focus on doing the dishes rather than enjoying the company of our guests.

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Topics: Stewardship
October 7, 2015 by Nancy Davidge


October 2015 Editor’s Letter: Rethinking Stewardship

What can we learn from the experiences of others? This issue of Vestry Papers features articles that share ways three congregations are overcoming challenges related to annual giving as well as offering an antidote for the anxiety that can arise during giving campaigns:


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Topics: Stewardship
September 21, 2015 by Sandra Montes
10 cosas que aprendí sobre la mayordomía al entrevistar varias personas alrededor de la Iglesia:

1. Educación. Para que las personas puedan entender y ser parte de la mayordomía tienen que primero entender lo que significa – desde lo más básico (el significado de la palabra) hasta lo más profundo (damos porque estamos agradecid@s). Hay personas que vienen de la tradición Católica Romana donde dan “limosnas” y donde no hay necesidad de dar para ayudar con el edificio y sus gastos y con el pago del/de la sacerdote. Hay personas que vienen de la tradición Evangélica donde a veces se pide demasiado y se presiona o hace sentir mal a las personas que no pueden dar. Así que hay que tener estudios Bíblicos, sermones, y cursos sobre la espiritualidad de darle a Dios.

2. Hay diferentes maneras de dar nuestro talento, tiempo, y tesoro. En varias parroquias la gente no tiene dinero para poder dar una ofrenda o diezmo por falta de trabajo o pobreza y dan de otras maneras. En una Iglesia, las personas van a limpiar por algunas horas y eso quiere decir que no se necesita pagar a otra persona o compañía para la limpieza. En otra iglesia hay un electricista - que ganaría $150/hora - que ha hecho bastante trabajo sin cobrar. Hay personas que dan cientos de dólares al donar su talento y tiempo y sus sacerdotes/as, como el Padre Pedro López lo toman como ofrendas o diezmos y hasta incluyen ese dinero que hubieran gastado en los pagos de esos servicios en el presupuesto.

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Topics: Stewardship
September 2, 2015 by Nancy Davidge

It’s September. The program year is kicking off, soon followed by annual campaigns, budgeting, and diocesan convocations or conventions. It’s a busy time and I’m about to suggest adding something else to this mix: Plan time this program year to rethink your congregation’s stewardship programs.

Our September articles and resources share how others are thinking about stewardship. Perhaps some of their experiences will spark a conversation at a vestry or other leadership meeting and provide a catalyst for looking at your own situation in a different way.

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Topics: Stewardship
August 19, 2015 by Brendon Hunter

Building a Legacy for Future Ministry

In the August Vital Practices Digest, we offer five resources related to planned giving. As always, our fifth resource suggests a way to strengthen your practice of year-round stewardship.

It’s easy and free to connect with these resources for your congregation. Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices and receive Vestry Papers and this Vital Practices Digest in your inbox each month.

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