An Experiment: Practicing Year Round Stewardship

Like many Episcopal parishes, my congregation has never been completely satisfied with our stewardship program. Despite frequent, intentional experimentation with a variety of approaches since our founding in 1995, we have continued to feel a “disconnect” between the way we describe stewardship and the way we facilitate decisions about giving. We talk about stewardship as a lifelong, year-round process of thoughtful and prayerful individual and congregational discernment, based on our responsibility to God and our responsibility to each other (our neighbor in the context of the congregation). Yet in practice our programmatic efforts to provide stewardship education and facilitate stewardship discernment and decisions have been limited almost entirely to a single, intensive campaign conducted in the fall of each year. Despite earnest desires and repeated plans, a truly year-round steward program never seemed to materialize. Finally, after asking “Why?” enough times, we came to see the “elephant in the room.” The problem was the campaign-based stewardship model itself: as long as the annual giving campaign lived, a truly year-round stewardship program would not be born. So we decided it was time to stop doing what wasn’t working. Taking a decision that was simultaneously exciting and scary, our vestry, with the support of our finance committee, voted to kill our annual giving campaign. What we are now developing is a straightforward and transparent year-round system of ministry planning, budget development, member incorporation, stewardship education, and opportunities for giving discernment/decision organized around four quarterly town hall style meetings, or as we have come to call it “town hall quarterly.” Read a detailed description of our process here. Resources and Templates for St. Nicholas’s Episcopal Church’s Town Hall Quarterly Ministry Planning process