September 2020
Stewardship and Abundance

Creating Year-round Stewardship with Holy Currencies

In the beginning God created everything. And God saw that it all was good. And it is good! It’s stunning that God created it all ex nihlo – out of nothing. I wonder how often we who draft and pitch the annual stewardship campaign feel as if we’re trying to create something out of nothing.

We struggle with stewardship campaigns, and many see the fall as that dreaded time of year. No one wants to lead the campaign, and most probably don’t plan ahead. Few of us dance and sing like Miriam after crossing the Red Sea when we receive the letter, phone call or personal visit that invites us to pledge. Most of us probably feel we’re giving all we can and can’t create any more. Parish teams strive for increased stewardship results every year – more pledges, more money or more increased pledges. The focus tends to be only on the money.

Money is not the only currency sustaining our faith communities

Yes, God has blessed us with this currency, some more or less than others. We are each invited to give within our abilities – even to tithe 10 percent of our income. And now we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, an economic crisis, racial and political divisions that harm our wellbeing and ecological disasters. There are five other currencies that God has blessed us with: Gracious Leadership, Relationship, Truth, Time and Place and Wellness. We neglect to reap the blessings from them.

In Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries, Eric H.F. Law illuminates and helps us see the five other essential currencies. Gracious Leadership is the ability to use skills, tools, models and processes to create gracious environments among existing members and externally with non members. Currency of Time and Place is thepaid and volunteer time that leaders/members offer to the church/ministry and the properties from which a church/ministry operates, along with other properties owned or accessed by the church/ministry. Currency of Relationshipmeans the internal and external networks of mutually respectful connections that leaders/members of a church/ministry have. Currency of Truthis the ability to articulate individually and corporately the global/wholistic truth, both internally (church/denomination) and externally (neighborhood/town/nation). Currency of Wellness isthe state of being healthy physically, socially, economically, ecologically and spiritually within a church/ministry, the neighborhood, the town/city, nation or the earth, especially as the result of deliberate effort. When these currencies flow, regenerate and recirculate, we build sustainable missional ministry.

Tunnel vision leads to the scarcity trap

Many church leaders, now more than ever, focus much of our attention on finances, the building, and the pastor. We wonder, “Are we going to meet our budget? If the church’s income is not on target, how can we get people to give more during the second half of the year?” We also wonder how to make capital improvements, particularly in emergencies. This is a kind of tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision on money and the building can lead to ignoring other currencies that may help church leaders make wise decisions for long-term sustainability. This is how churches fall into the scarcity trap: The more they obsess over money and the building, the more the focus is narrowed and other opportunities and options are ignored. We make decisions without the full benefit of the currencies of truth, relationship, wellness and gracious leadership. These decisions, in turn, may cause the church’s financial picture to worsen as all the currencies aren’t flowing and recirculating. If they don’t flow, they stagnate and turn rotten. In this way, the cycle of scarcity continues.

Stewardship of all God’s currencies is important for sustainable mission and ministry

One of the biblical images of our role within God’s creation is that of a steward put in charge of the household while the owner is away. (Mark 13:33-37) Because we don’t know when the owner will return, we are challenged, as stewards, to stay alert. At any moment, we might need to account for that which has been put in our charge. This alertness should not be limited to a particular time of the year. We should avoid focusing only on the currency of money, which can reinforce the tunnel effect. Try reminding your community to be good stewards of all of God’s currencies – time, place, gracious leadership, relationship, truth and wellness.

So, we have a choice in what we do with the resources over which we have control. We can choose to hold on to them and let them turn rotten or use them to further divisive and destructive causes, or we can choose to let them flow in life-giving, truth-telling, relationship-building, community-enhancing ways. It’s the flowing of these currencies that gives them value. All six need to flow for ministry to be sustainable and missional. The flowing of the currencies must recirculate to replenish what was spent, so that the ministry can be regenerative.

Holy Currencies 365 days a year can move us to see God’s abundance, even in these times

In the Holy Currencies: Stewardship365 Curriculum, there are exercises for all the Holy Currencies that can be employed to keep stewardship going throughout the year. Use them to interrupt whatever tunneling your church members might be preoccupied with and remind them of what is important – the flowing of truth, the exercising of gracious leadership, the networking of relationships, the fostering of wellness, the sharing of our places and the investment of our time. Use the various congregational engagements, perhaps once a month, to remind everyone that they can choose to nurture these currencies toward the holy and toward creating a sustainable community through all the days of our lives.[1]

Stewardship365 enables congregations to discover year-round time and talent and disrupt a tunnel-focus on treasure, that stuff we’re storing up here on earth, that we are holding onto, that we think we’ve earned. This is living in a mindset of scarcity.

We can live differently. We can give and receive differently. We can turn our mindset on its end – upside down like the money changers’ tables in the Temple – and live in and with God’s abundance. We can live differently, if we look around and notice how lucky we are to be co-creating with God – right now, even with a pandemic, economic crisis, ecological disaster and political divisiveness.

Bill Cruse is an Episcopal priest, currently in the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey. He is Senior Associate and Eastern Regional Director with the Kaleidoscope Institute. Originally from Ohio, he now splits his time between the NYC metro area and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. His vocation includes cultivating sustainable missional ministries and anti-racism training and intercultural competency development.

To learn about living and flowing the abundance with which God has blessed us, visit the Kaleidoscope Institute’s Stewardship365 web page.

Resources:

[1] (Modified excerpt from Chapter 1 of Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries and Chapter 8 of Holy Currency Exchange, both by Eric H. F. Law)

  • 1. 1
This article is part of the September 2020 Vestry Papers issue on Stewardship and Abundance