Stewardship is a Way of Life
Christian stewardship is one of the pillars of the Episcopal Church, particularly for Latino/Hispanic congregations in the United States. It is known that the majority of those who attend our churches originate from the Roman Catholic tradition and that for many the concept of stewardship had been unknown to them. I am a case in point: in all of my years in seminary, and at Roman Catholic universities, I had never once heard the word “stewardship.” It was only when I joined the Episcopal Church in 1995 that I learned of this different approach to religious life.
What is the basic meaning of stewardship? Stewardship is a way of life. Stewardship is a matter of the heart; in other words, for those who have not had a personal encounter with Christ and initiated a process of renewal in their lives, it will be very difficult to understand this way of acknowledging the church.
Stewardship results from discipleship: It is our answer to Jesus’ call to “follow me.” When we join Jesus’ movement, our lives turn in another direction, and it is then that can we understand the famous three Ts: Time, Talent and Treasure.
I learned that our Time is very valuable and that we must learn to use it and distribute it as best we can. As children of God we have to dedicate time to God, to serve Him as needed, mainly in our church. God has bestowed us with gifts and Talents to serve Him in his work, and the church is the place where we can put our talents into practice. When we give from our Treasure we help the church grow and be self-sufficient. We are able to support projects that help the needy and beyond. Our contributions enable the Kingdom of God to be preached again and again.
I would like to share some of the specific activities that have improved the ways in which we manage our individual contributions within our congregation. These contributions have resulted in the multiplication of material and financial resources at the Santa Cruz Resurrection.
When we search the web for the specific activities of stewardship in Christian churches, there are few precise examples. I do not know if it is because churches are reluctant to share the events that have been successful in that aspect or because very little has been written about the subject. In our church we have several activities that have enabled us to grow and become autonomous. I will try to describe the most important ones.
Four Sundays in November are allocated to preaching about stewardship. The use of impact stories using video and live testimonies have been extremely helpful for that purpose. After the sermon, a parishioner of the church describes the way in which he or she has changed their way of supporting the congregation and the result of their contribution. What made him or her change? This has been fantastic. Additionally, during November we give all members of the church a small book that enables them to personally reflect on stewardship.
On the final Sunday of the month we have a free stewardship dinner for anyone who wishes to attend. During the dinner we aside set time for praise and a brief talk about the subject of stewardship. We then distribute pledge forms and envelopes for the coming year while sharing next year’s budget and taking questions from parishioners.
One Saturday of the year we have an “Annual Gala”, for which we sell tickets that include food, beverages, and a show. That activity generates $7,000- $8,000.
Family money box
I think this activity can be very helpful for small churches in the process of creating disciples committed to the church. At the end of the year we give each family a medium sized wooden box with a slot to deposit money into. We ask families to commit $1 a day when they pray for the wellbeing of their family. Many families offer more than a dollar a day. This activity enables us to collect $20,000 - $25,000 every year. Parishioners bring the box to the church the last week of the year and it is beautiful to see what a small daily offering can accomplish.
We have several annual events for charity, to collect funds for people who come to our door seeking help. Our karaoke, bingo, festivals, etc. have become quite famous! The purpose of these events is to obtain resources to contribute to a specific or urgent need within our congregation or for an outside group. The proceeds from these events represent our charity in action and we have achieved truly wonderful things.
Evangelist and discipleship campaigns
As a church we have at least two yearly evangelism and discipleshipcampaigns that we undertake through our células (small groups), which meet weekly in people’s homes. There’s also a weekly gathering at the church for people who’d like to participate yet are not part of another group. We’ve also started alpha groups. Thus our campaign encompasses everyone. These campaigns are not about stewardship per se, but the results of the campaigns are amazing, particularly in the way that they change the mentality and attitude around the notion of offering.
Finally, it is important to have a stewardship committee in the church that follows up with the entire congregation throughout the year, especially those who have pledged. This committee keeps track of birthdays and other family events, so they can show the church’s gratitude by sending cards, congratulations, flowers, etc. These acknowledgements are essential; particularly due to the propensity of some Hispanic parishioners not to traditionally focus enough attention to those details.
José Leonel Ortez was born in Honduras and was ordained as Roman Catholic Deacon in 1991. He was received as an Episcopal Deacon in 1998 and has been an Episcopal priest since 2000. He was a candidate for bishop of Honduras in 2001. He has three children and is the first rector of Santa Cruz Resurrection en Biscayne Park, Florida.
- Books recommended to members:
· A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, Zondervan, 2002
· I am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer
- Campaign of Campaign by Victor H. Conrado, ECF Vital Practices’ Vestry Papers
- The 2% Campaign by Carla E. Roland Guzmán, ECF Vital Practices’ Vestry Papers
- Conversaciones sobre la mayordomía webinar (Webinar Stewardship Conversations) by Sandra Montes and Juan Ángel Monge (available only in Spanish
- A Walk Through the Vestry Resource Guide webinar led by Nancy Davidge
- Lista de videos sobre la mayordomía (available only in Spanish)
- Santa Cruz Resurrection, Biscayne Park, Florida’s Facebook page
- Stewardship resources, ECF Vital Practices’
- Muestra de una declaración de la Junta Parroquial sobre la mayordomía (Example of a vestry statement about stewardship; available only in Spanish)
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