Stewardship in a New World
Meeting New Challenges for Stewardship
This article is available in Spanish here. Este artículo está disponible en español aquí.
A steward does not own but manages! We stewards manage what God had given us. So, what has God given us – time (24 hours a day), our talents and abilities, our money and goods bought with our money? When we die, it is all left behind! During my fifty-two years as a priest, I have never seen a hearse followed by a U-Haul truck.
Today I believe our churches need to practice year-round stewardship. We can no longer only offer a six-week campaign in the fall. We need to teach stewardship year-round. At the time of the offering, we should connect what is given by parishioners to the parish’s mission and ministry. And we need to thank them! The six most important words in encouraging good stewardship: “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!” In addition, we must work at building relationships between the leaders of a congregation and its members. I know of no parishioner who left their congregation because they felt thanked and appreciated. I have raised millions based on these two principles!
In the “new” post-pandemic world with live-streaming saved on YouTube, we can miss church on Sunday, watch the service with a glass of iced tea on Tuesday night – and still hear the stewardship message. We can miss being in church for three weeks on vacation and due to Electronic Fund Transfer keep our pledges up to date.
Creating generous givers
We need to create generous givers. A good question to ask is, “Who taught you to be generous?” We learn to be generous when we observe generosity being practiced in daily life.
When I preach about stewardship as a consultant in my Diocese of Maryland, my sermon title is “No Gift is too Large.” I ask what is the largest gift in the Gospels? After some hesitation, someone in the congregation will usually shout out “The Widow’s Mite” (Mark12:41-44) – the correct answer. Then I ask, “What’s the second largest gift?” After some silence, I respond, “Zacchaeus” (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus asks this short, despised tax collector, who climbed a Sycamore tree so he can see Jesus, if he can come for dinner tonight. Zacchaeus is so touched he says, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor: and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will repay back four times as much.” (RSV) All versions of the Bible call him a rich man, but Jesus transforms him into a generous man!
Practical tools to encourage generosity
The Sunday leaflet at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Baltimore states:
The people remain seated while an offering is received to support the Cathedral’s mission to worship God joyfully, care deeply and act boldly as followers of Christ. An offering may also be made online at www.incarnationbmore.org or you may text OFFERING to 410-267-3742 on your cell phone.
In each pew the Cathedral puts green laminated “recyclable” cards for people who use Electronic Fund Transfer to put in the offering plate.
Since resuming in-person worship, many parishioners put in the green cards. These are put back in the pews for the next Sunday. The Dean of the Cathedral also encourages parishioners to use the green EFT cards and thanks them for their faithful giving. The green cards serve as a reminder to everyone of how widespread the parishioners’ financial support of the Cathedral’s ministry is.
Online stewardship resources for every Episcopal congregation
Episcopal Parish Network (EPN) offers help to parishes under the capable leadership of Joe Swimmer. Here’s how he describes EPN:
Episcopal Parish Network is a community of almost two hundred and fifty parishes from around the Church and across the country. EPN is committed to strengthening parish ministry as the Church and society change. Recognizing that funding ministry is key to the future of the parish (and cathedral), EPN works with stewardship and development thought leaders and fundraising practitioners to create programming that helps parishes of all sizes to meet the challenge of funding ministry in this moment. From online programs to a Stewardship Community of Practice, made up of practitioners who gather every quarter to discuss best practices, to Stewardship workshops and pre-conference sessions at our Annual Conference, EPN is committed to training and equipping lay and clergy leaders. You can learn more about our work or view past digital workshops (AKA webinars) at www.episcopalparishes.org.
In particular, I recommend two of EPN's digital workshops: “Stewardship in the ‘New Normal’” and “What Can Clergy Do to Encourage Generosity in their Congregations during the Coronavirus Pandemic?” You can join EPN’s mailing list to receive notices of all future digital workshops covering many topics. If you ask a Vestry and Stewardship Committee to register for a workshop and not everyone can participate when it is broadcast, EPN will send you the video to watch later.
The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), under the excellent leadership of Executive Director Davey Gerhard, also offers many resources. Canon Gerhard describes the importance of offering online giving:
Throughout the pandemic, online giving has shown itself to be the way forward for sustainable fundraising in parishes. Offering at least one way for online giving and one way for mobile giving is essential for every church in order to maintain cash flow and to encourage younger, more tech-native generations to make gifts. As we move deeper into the 21st Century, our Millennial and Gen-Z members will come into their giving potential.
We must, as a Church, be ready to accept the gifts they have to offer in wealth, works and wisdom by providing transparent budgeting, online and mobile giving methods, and volunteer opportunities that inspire younger generations, proclaim our Gospel values to a world in need, and offer ways to plug into the community. The Episcopal Network for Stewardship, has free webinars and resources to help your church prepare for 21 Century intergenerational fundraising. Come visit us at www.tens.org
If your diocese belongs to TENS, ask your diocesan office for the pass code to download the materials for this year’s “More than Enough Campaign.” If your diocese is not a member, your parish can join separately. Stewardship Committees and Vestries can host “watch parties” for TENS webinars. A good one to watch is “Evaluating Your Pledge Campaign.” If you register for one of their webinars but cannot “attend” at the time it’s broadcast, TENS will send you the video presentation and you can watch it another time.
Planned giving needs to be part of or connected to your Stewardship Committee. When I preach on planned giving in the Diocese of Maryland, my sermon is titled, “Don’t Leave a Mess.” I ask, “Do you have a will?” Every state provides a will if you die without one, but most people want to bequeath their assets as they think best. If their children don’t need all their assets, I suggest they consider leaving some of their estate to charitable causes such as the church. I ask them to consider apportioning their assets by percentages to keep up with changes in the size of their estate. I recommend that every parish have a Legacy Society which honors people who have remembered the parish in their estate plans. Planned Giving on Demand from the Episcopal Church Foundation will supply the resources you need at minimal cost. Parishes, dioceses, or any Episcopal entity can also reach out to Jim Murphy, ECF’s Managing Program Director for Stewardship Resources and Operations (212-870‑2844, email@example.com), for guidance on using these resources and any other planned giving need.
I hope these recommendations will be helpful as you meet the new challenges for stewardship.
The. Rev. Charles Cloughen Jr. is author of One Minute Stewardship: Creative Ways to Talk about Money in Church, Church Publishing Inc., 2018. The book offers clergy and stewardship committees theological underpinnings of stewardship, as well as meditations from 46 authors, appropriate for Sunday mornings and weekly electrotonic newsletters, all indexed in the back of the book by Stewardship, Giving, Special Occasions, Planned Giving, Scripture, Church Year, and Contributing Authors. Charles has guided 40 Stewardship parish campaigns, served as Planned Giving, Stewardship and Development Director for eight years in the Diocese of Maryland and now serves as Planned Giving Officer for the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore, Maryland
Cloughen, Jr., Charles. Planning Your Estate, (Case Study), Faithful Giving: The Heart of Planned Gifts, James W. Murphy. Church Publishing, Inc., Oct 2022.
Digital Workshop on June 23, 2021, “Stewardship in the ‘New Normal’,” The Episcopal Parish Network.
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