September 2012
Practicing Generosity

Recipe for Spiritual Growth

Like virtually every Episcopal Church, the [2011-2012] stewardship committee of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church (Olathe, KS) sat down in the spring to strategize for the coming fall 2011 campaign. The ensuing conversation would no doubt be a familiar one to those involved in church stewardship. What is our theme for the year? Should we ask for a percentage increase in giving? What amount do we need to raise to meet next year’s budget? Should we redesign the pledge card?

During the conversation, however, St. Aidan’s rector – Juli Sifers – suggested the committee take a week or so to read Michael Durall’s book Creating Congregations of Generous People. The next time the committee met, the conversation was entirely different. The thinking was certainly outside the box - or perhaps better said – outside the collection plate. Durall inspired a different look at stewardship and the understanding that stewardship is holistic and organic. Ministry is derivative from stewardship: Our care for our churches, our congregations, ourselves, and the world outside our front doors, is all stewardship.

As a foundation for our congregation’s stewardship plan, the committee used Durall’s Recipe for Spiritual Growth. This recipe has several key ingredients, with congregations being called to:

  • Worship regularly – at least once a week
  • Meet God daily in a set time of prayer
  • Participate in the congregation’s educational program
  • Engage in individual study regularly, for improvement of the mind, for enlargement of Christian experience, and in preparation for Christian service
  • Serve regularly in the programs of this church and in the areas of Christian responsibility outside of this church
  • Dedicate a tithe of income to the work of the Kingdom of God
(From Creating Congregations of Generous People, copyright 1999 by the Alban Institute, Inc.) 

Even his use of the word recipe was inspirational, leading the committee to use the metaphor of the nourishing properties of bread as a central focus of our plan.

St. Aidan’s stewardship committee developed the following plan:

  • The word recipe inspired the metaphor of bread for stewardship and its nourishment of the heart, mind, and soul. Specifically, stewardship was likened to Friendship Bread. As you may know, Friendship Bread dough grows continually. It is designed to be separated and shared with friends. Each small lump of dough can go on to feed scores of people. Likewise, each response to God’s call can nourish hearts, minds, and souls in countless ways.
  • Stewardship letters would contain no mention of the annual budget, meeting the budget, or the need to fund the budget.
  • A ministry booklet was created. Each activity within the church was classified using the points within the Recipe for Spiritual Growth.
  • The stewardship effort was kicked off at a ministry fair. The ministry booklet was distributed and leaders of each activity were on hand. The congregation was encouraged to sign up for ministries of interest.
  • Freshly baked bread was served at the fair. And Friendship Bread starter dough was distributed to attendees. Members were asked to bake a loaf of Friendship Bread to bring back to church on Ingathering Sunday, where the bread would be blessed and donated to a local food pantry.
  • The dough continues to be used as part of the church’s bread ministry. Loaves are baked each weekend and delivered to the homes of visitors to the church or people who receive weekly visits by Lay Eucharistic Visitors.
  • Durall’s Recipe for Spiritual Growth is included in the bulletin each week.

The 2011-2012 stewardship campaign was a success, but did require a third, more direct letter. The committee realized and learned later from the congregation that the pledge card and instructions for its return were not clear. This resulted in a number of pledges not being renewed until the final letter was mailed and follow-up phone calls made.

St. Aidan’s stewardship conversation continues with articles in the monthly newsletter and regular celebration of the results of our stewardship. Although the church’s campaign was not necessarily unique or novel, it did help reinforce the fact that vision drives stewardship. The vision is our response to God’s call and the stewardship of God’s kingdom.

Doreen Rice has been a professional fundraiser for nearly 25 years. She is also studying for the priesthood and is very active within her congregation as a member of the stewardship committee and as a lay Eucharistic minister and visitor.


This article is part of the September 2012 Vestry Papers issue on Practicing Generosity