“Stewardship” is a word we hear often in the church, especially beginning at this time of year and ending before Advent. What we in the Episcopal Church often mean when we say “stewardship” is the annual pledge drive conducted each fall, which is designed to secure financial commitments from members to fund the following year’s mission and ministry.
While I was raised in the Episcopal Church hearing this language, and while I still slip into using it myself with my ECF clients and in my own church, I’m here to ask that we please change our ways. In the secular nonprofit world, where I received my fund development education and first ten years of professional experience, the word “stewardship” does not connote asking for money; asking for money is “solicitation.”
Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to start planning to encourage your donors to make gift before the end of the year! We hope that you have been encouraging giving throughout the year. Even so, many donors discover, due to summer vacations and various other reasons that they have fallen behind on their pledges. The last few months of the year are a great time to send giving statements to your donors as gentle reminders of their previous commitments and to remind them about additional ways to give.
Sometimes a good idea comes in a pint of ice cream.
I live near Cincinnati where we put chili on our spaghetti and the hand-churned ice cream from Graeter’s reigns supreme. The regional company releases seasonal flavors and earlier this month began selling Elena’s Blueberry Pie. Except Blueberry only had one “e” on the front of the pint. Copy editors facepalm in unison.
I don’t know how many people reviewed the graphics for the pint container, but I suspect a bunch of people signed off. I can only imagine the stomach-dropping moment when the first person realized the company had printed—and already distributed—several thousand containers with a third-grade spelling error.
But here’s where the story takes an interesting turn. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars reprinting and replacing all the containers, the company announced that it would donate that same amount to a cancer research nonprofit The Cure Starts Now.
Pleasant and effective. That is the positive description of the ongoing Stewardship Ministry of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan.
I wrote about St. John’s personal approach to stewardship in 2018. It started with writing different letters to people of different generations (Why Do You Give to the Church?).
St. John’s Stewardship Chair John Harberts said the experience of communicating differently with different people made their whole task more personal. They took it a big step further, with Stewardship team members committing to stay in touch with a number of parishioners throughout the entire year. (For more details, click here).
From its beginnings, Christians have used metaphor to describe and teach about the Church. Most enduring is Paul’s metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ, with each Christian a member of that Body. An eye, an ear, a foot, all important and contributing to the life of the whole. Cyprian and Augustine in the early church, and Luther and Calvin in the Reformation, notably referred to the Church as a Mother (to go with God the Father) and as the Bride of Christ. In the 20th century, Robert Farrah Capon wrote of the church as a hat on the head of a mystical body, allowing the mystical body to be located.
Metaphors usually don’t hold up under intense scrutiny. But they can certainly help us to see, to describe, to understand. Given that, and also the many examples of metaphors in the life of the faithful, I propose that to engage in metaphor is a vital practice of the Christian life. Doing so can teach and inspire in circumstances where literal descriptions fail or fall flat.
It is in this vein that I offer the metaphor of the Church as corgi. I refer to the little dog with short legs and cheerful spirit, popular on the internet, in photos, and household decor.