September 26, 2016

Stewardship Beyond Obligation

“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:

Tithing is precisely not a tax, though our teaching of tithing as an institutional norm or requirement feeds the view that it is a tax, and that’s the reason I do not use that kind of language in speaking of proportional giving. Proportional giving off the top is both an expression of our longing for faith and a response of faith and thanksgiving for God’s good gifts."  (page 147)

This short blog post cannot give justice to Keucher’s lessons about transformation and Biblical truths about our priorities and what God desires. I highly recommend the book.   

How does your church help people grow in their understanding that all we have comes from God and belongs to God? Such a journey is transformational and joyful. It deserves a ministry that teaches all year, not just during an annual campaign.   

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