Facing the Dreaded Stewardship Campaign

… or perhaps you shouldn’t.

I’ve known many pastors who didn’t want to preach stewardship sermons, or “money sermons” as they’re often called. The congregation doesn’t want to hear about money. They’d rather be encouraged in various ways.

I’ve also known many pastors who claimed they were totally unafraid of the money sermon. They claimed that they were bold and would preach about money every time without apology. In practice, however, very few actually could preach without apology. Informing the congregation at the start that you’re not going to apologize for preaching about money is, in a way, an apology.

Then comes the stewardship campaign itself. Frequently, this is also done with an apology, and as a necessary evil. “Unfortunately,” we tell people, “we need to run the church and that takes money. So, sorry for interrupting your lives, but could you please give.”

You might expect that my next paragraphs would talk about how to face this and do it without apology. Perhaps I should encourage us to face it head on and to tell people how their money is needed for God’s work, so suck it in and give!

Indeed you should be able to talk about money. You should be able to preach sermons on money. You should be able to tell the church about the needs. But if your stewardship campaign is a means of meeting the church budget, and if that is the motivation of people to give, then I think you have a problem. They have a problem too.

Stewardship is

 

about caring for what God has given us. It’s about everything in our lives. Now in one sense, if we make a topic about everything, it becomes about nothing. In this case, we’re talking about taking care of and making good use of everything. The best expression of this comes from a book I publish titled Stewardship: God’s Way of Recreating the World, page 25:

The Macedonians, in spite of their poverty, begged to give to the Jerusalem church—even beyond their means—because they first gave themselves to the Lord. Sure, it is possible to raise a lot of money using sophisticated methods based on psychological triggers and emotional appeals. These are too often resorted to as substitutes for the Macedonian way. A congregation that first “gives themselves to the Lord,” recognizes their stewardship partnership, and everything they do springs from that commitment. So let’s not encourage tithing, that’s about money. Let’s encourage seeing all we have as God’s and act accordingly. (emphasis in original)

That’s something you can and should teach every week, even every day. It’s behavior you can encourage in every sermon, every Sunday School lesson, and ask people to carry out whether they’re in church, at their work, at home with their families, or at any place or time in their lives. It’s the practice of Christian living.

At the same time, if you’re a church leader, you may need to take a look at the church budget. Is the budget made according to these same principles? Does your church budget help people carry out this kind of giving? Has your church, as a whole, given itself to the Lord as a community, and is this reflected in your church activities, your facilities, and yes, in your budget?

I’ve just created two new categories for stewardship for our retail site, Energion Direct. One is for ministry, aimed at pastors and church leaders, and one is for general study. Right now, they only differ by one book. Check them out.

If you’re a church leader (priesthood of all believers, anyone?) I hope, you can educate your community on the joys of being God’s stewards, energize them to take effective action to be God’s presence in the world, and empower them to carry out the mission of their community as God calls and guides.

Henry E. Neufeld, Publisher