The Stewardship Series

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“Stewardship education is an integral part of church life because it instills in us one of the core values of the spiritual life.  As we strengthen our faith, we need continually to reexamine our views about money in church and in our everyday lives.” - Michael Durall, author Creating Congregations of Generous People

Recently two discussion topics popped up in the Deacon's Forum. The first asked about whether part of our taxes could be considered tithing.  The second springboarded off that and asked whether it was the percentage we gave or the money we spent.  Tithing - money - giving - are topics under the stewardship umbrella that we don't often hear spoken about in our traditional church settings.  Do you know how many times this topic is addressed in Scripture?  Any guesses?  2350.

It seems that Scripture doesn't have any issue talking about money - so why do we?  My best guesses are the following:

a) people have come to see the church as "money grabbing" always looking for more money, taking offerings and collections - so in an attempt to minimize that perception we (as the church) don't talk about money off the pulpit and we may try to hide our offering time somewhere in the service, if we take an offering during the service at all. 

b) in our Western culture money has become highly privatized to the point we consider it "none of anyone else's business".  Elders in their visits used to ask very direct tithing questions. I understand that is not the norm now. I imagine there would be some pretty upset congregational members if this did happen.  In our consumer culture we view our money as just that - OURS.  We do what we want, we spent it as we wish and we don't want anyone dictating parameters around these decisions.  

As deacons we are called to promote stewardship, but stewardship is a complex topic - and discussions about money can get emotions running pretty high.  That's probably why we focus our church stewardship topics on "the environment", "our time" or "our gifts". But for the next few weeks I'm going to be looking at the who, what, where, when, why and how of monetary stewardship - because tithing and giving are spiritual matters.  

My goal in writing about this topic is to start the conversation. I'm not looking to give you a set of rules to follow - but rather, I want to provoke your own thinking about money and giving.  I've asked many people their thoughts on this topic - and the results were surprisingly diverse.  Some folks had very clear and defined opinions and practises.  Others were more haphazard because they didn't know what to think.

As a church - this is not a topic to be silent on - so let's talk about it! What are your thoughts on financial stewardship? Do you have any questions about tithing - giving - money? If so, write them in a comment below or send me an e-mail because it's highly probable that you aren't the only one with that question and I want to discuss them!

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Hi Melissa,

I'm encouraged by your focus on stewardship.  This Sunday we'll be completing a three-week stewarship series developed by Robert Heerspink, called "The Joy of Generosity" (Reformed Worship, March 2001), which has been helpful.  Yes, it's interesting how infrequent we talk about this subject.  And I'm also guilty of avoiding it.  But as one author reminded me recently, giving is data that must be analyzed.  If nothing else, this study has challenged me to give more, which is a good thing!

With Gratitude,

Leon H. Johnston

Wolf Creek Community Church

Leon - it seems like that could be a great resource for other churches to use!  Thanks for sharing!

I don't think churches have done a good job at teaching stewardship because at least in the past pastors were not taught how. Too often church finances are left to deacons who are also untrained in this area. Deacons who ask a Pastor to preach a sermon on giving because the church is short of money are going about things the wrong way. So its trying to encourage giving by pointing out how short of the budget the church is. While budgets are needed, they do not promote an understanding of stewardship. The worst thing to do is to try to make people feel guilty. Done right good stewardship training can make a great difference in a church and kingdom finances. There are lots of resources available.

I agree!  Giving to the budget is never inspiring, and giving out of guilt is not in line with a spirit of generosity!  I've also found that pastors avoid the financial stewardship discussion because their salaries are part of that and it can feel awkward.  I'm hoping that this will be a forum where we can start these conversations going.  Are there any resources in particular that you would recommend?

Some of the best resources I have found come from Brian Kluth (www.kluth.org). Brian has devoted himself to teaching stewardship. He has a 40 day devotional for individuals or small groups. When our ministry group used this, one of our members was convicted that they had not done enough to teach their children about stewardship even though the parents are generous givers themselves. Churches have reported significant increase In giving when using Brian's materials.

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I commend you for starting this dicussion. Try and engage people from Barnabas (USA)  and Christian Stewardship Services (CDN). These folks are involved, usually, with CRC members on ``end of life``  financial issues.  Also suggest you seperate the USA discussion from the CND discussion because of the legal and tax issues that come up. It can be very confusing  if the person writing is not identified as coming from the USA or CND.

I am from CND.

I think we need to be careful not to confuse giving, with stewardship.  Giving 10% or 20% of your income to the wrong causes could be very poor stewardship.   Giving 10% to the church is allowing the church to be stewards of that money.  If the church is a good steward, then the money will be used effectively and efficiently in causes that honor and glorify Christ, and which promote the gifts which God has given us. 

In terms of encouraging others to give a "stewardly" amount to the church, I think this should be done holistically.  First of all, it needs to be seen and felt to be voluntary, the results of cheerful and thankful giving.   For those who want to be cheerful givers, they should consider "giving back to God" as their first priority, not just checking whether there is something left over to give after buying the fancy boat or cottage or vacation or big screen TV.   Giving is always a sign of spiritual health, a sign of thankfulness and contentment with God's blessings, and a sign of willingness to trust God for our daily needs.  A lack of giving is sometimes a sign of idolization of money or financial security, and sometimes a sign of poverty.  

And Jesus was very clear that "giving to God"(church) can never be a substitute for obedience to God, which includes obeying God, loving your neighbor and looking after the needs of those placed in your care.

 

For those that think a church budget is a "money-grabber", they should realize that a church budget is not simply another "Ask for Money"; it's an "Opportunity for Ministry" and thus, a means by which we can answer God's call. I would encourage all churches to adopt a narrative budget format so that those opportunities are easier for congregants to understand and support.

"What we receive in life is God's gift to us.  What we do with it is our gift back."