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Your Church Should Help You Be a Good Steward

  • 2002 4 Feb
Your Church Should Help You Be a Good Steward
Here are nine reasonable expectations you should have for your local church (whether big or small) to encourage you in your spiritual development through your use of possessions.

1. Pastoral staff trained in biblical stewardship and living it
At the end of his letter to the young pastor Timothy, Paul states what he thinks Timothy ought to be teaching:

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share. (1 Timothy 6:17-18, NRSV)

Clearly Paul believed that a young pastor should be able to speak out on possessions from a biblical standpoint, and also to challenge his congregation to be willing to share the money and material things that God has given them. The pastor has the major responsibility for the vision, direction, and implementation of stewardship in the local church.

2. A written philosophy of money and possessions
Does your church have an articulate vision statement of stewardship and the use of possessions as a core value of its ministry? ... a church can deal with financial issues in an elegant and Christlike manner. There is no attempt to hide the fact that the running of a church depends on the faithful giving of its members, and it is clear that members are expected to give to support the church. But the church presents its own set of values: It will not use gimmicky tactics to get people to give money; it has set up a series of checks and balances to ensure responsible use of these resources; and finally, it promises to give clear and biblical teaching on this topic (presumably not just during budget emergencies). ...

3. Money is not treated from a fund-raising perspective
When the fiscal year comes to an end and giving is lagging behind, or when an urgent need arises, churches easily slide into fund-raising mode. If dressing up like clowns and juggling offering baskets would help people give, many churches would be sorely tempted to try it. And what churches often resort to falls little short of these circus acts. The goal is to get people to dig deeper into their pocketbooks, and no idea is too far out if it will produce this desired end. The alternative to this fund-raising approach is to emphasize giving as part of a Christian's relationship to God. ...

Giving is not something that comes easily to most people. People who have developed a lifelong habit of giving often learned to do so through years of discipline and the consistent example of parents or leaders. Such an attitude is not fostered by churches that rely on fund-raising approaches to meet their budget shortfalls or building fund goals. The aim of the church must be to raise Christians who have learned the difficult art of giving, and have also integrated their giving into their entire Christian life. Raising these kinds of Christians takes more time, but in the long run it will build a strong and faithful giving congregation.

4. Biblical giving themes are regularly preached
Since the topics of money and possessions are so prevalent in Scripture, plenty of texts could serve as the basis for sermon material. Christians should expect their pastor to regularly challenge them with these truths. An annual stewardship sermon is better than nothing, but it is not an adequate presentation of the rich biblical possibilities. Christians who are not challenged regarding their financial life from the pulpit are spiritually impoverished. ...

5. A lay committee that oversees stewardship education programs
Churches often have a finance committee ... The finance committee is responsible for financial accountability, allocating the resources, managing such necessary items as expenditures, salaries, salary caps, salary reviews, and keeping an eye on how money is coming in and going out. ... The stewardship committee, on the other hand, is responsible for the integrated programs of stewardship in all areas of the church. Its main job is to watch over how stewardship and money issues will be presented. This group casts the vision and mission. It insists on a faith-based budget process in which no budget is prepared until the gifts of the people are pledged. ... It is also the responsibility of this committee to read the culture and alert members to the seductive ways in which advertising, television, peer pressure, and the like promote a consumer lifestyle and contribute to our society's widespread influence.

6. An intersocial and integrated stewardship education system
The goal for every church is to build a nurturing spiritual community where discussions about stewardship are not perceived as unusual or threatening. Every level of church education ought to be permeated by these values. Messages from the pulpit are laced with references to stewardship; children in primary education are given easy lessons on the importance of giving to God and others; new members are taught the importance of giving in new members' classes. Each major ministry division should be expected to integrate stewardship into its activities. ...

7. The use of outside resources
Because most churches are inadequately prepared to teach biblical stewardship, they should be ready to draw upon resources available from outside the church. ...

8. Tools that encourage a variety of ways to give
Nowadays people hold many assets other than cash. In a few years, passing the offering plate may seem a quaint reminder of bygone days. Churches should strive to make giving as easy and practical as possible for members. Some options for convenient giving might include the following:

Open a charity account in the church's name at a local brokerage firm. ...

  • Provide planned giving services that encourage people to give annuities, set up trusts, or include the church in their will. ...

  • Provide information about ministries the church supports. ...

  • Pursue convenience mechanisms such as payroll deductions, automatic electronic fund transfers, and options for giving via a Web site.

      9. Regular communication about the church's financial position
      If a church's leadership expects members to exemplify biblical stewardship, it is crucial that the church itself be run on the same open and clear principles. The best way to make it evident that the church is being run on such principles is to establish regular patterns of communication with the congregation. Financial information should not only be released once a year at the annual business meeting, but should be available at all times. And since a church expects its members to give 10 percent of their income to Christian work, it is natural the church should make some similar sacrifices by giving to various missions organizations or outreach programs. The church should work within the general principle that, everything it asks the individual member to do, it will do as well.

      But no matter how scrupulous a church's leadership is about its financial accounts, it will do no good unless this is communicated to the members. There are many ways to accomplish this, but following are a few that have proven successful:

      • Send periodical giving statements to people to encourage them to be more faithful in their giving. The main purpose of the statement is to provide people with an update of their giving to date, and to help keep them from getting too far behind. Furthermore, it challenges them to consider their giving as it relates to the faithfulness of God. ...

      • Send out faith-and-possessions newsletters that contains testimonies of people in the congregation who have learned to give as an act of faith and grace. This newsletter should also focus on the accomplishments of the church made possible through the faithful giving of the members.

      • Provide ongoing stewardship thoughts in all venues of church communication. An example of this might be to include a weekly stewardship verse in the bulletin, or a short stewardship lesson from the pastor in the monthly newsletter.

      Excerpted from God and Your Stuff: The Vital Link Between Your Possessions and Your Soul, copyright 2002 by Wesley K. Willmer with Martyn Smith. Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, Co., All rights reserved. For copies of the book, call 1-800-366-7788.

      Wesley K. Willmer, Ph.D., is vice president of University Advancement and a professor at Biola University in La Mirada, Ca. Martyn Smith is a freelance writer who holds a master of theology degree from Fuller Theological Seminary.

      How does your church challenge and encourage you to handle money and possessions wisely? What do you wish your church would do better in this area? Visit the Books Forum to discuss this topic. Just click on the link below.

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