“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”Matthew 6:21
Have a question about stewardship in our synod? Contact Pr. Matthew Short at email@example.com.
I get asked frequently why most nonprofits, but especially churches, run stewardship appeals in autumn. The agrarian cycle of our ancestors lives on in many ways in this world, and this pattern is no exception. In autumn, farmers would know the gifts that they would have on hand for the coming year, both monetary and otherwise, and so it was at this time of year they’d be able to make their pledge for God’s mission in their local parish.
Like so many things in our world, this tradition remains strong, and in many ways remains logical. After all, it was not so many weeks ago that Sunday Schools kicked off in most parishes in the United States. It was not so many weeks ago that yellow T-shirts and “God’s Work. Our Hands.” logos filled social media as congregations reaffirmed their commitment to loving God and their neighbor through acts of love, service and kindness. Schools start again. The holiday/holy-day rush begins again.
In many ways autumn remains a time of beginnings in the lives of humanity, even as the Earth in this part of the hemisphere begins to go out in the blaze of glory. It remains a good time to talk about stewardship. But instead of “campaigns” or even “appeals,” I think, the community of Christ should call them “invitations to renewed generosity.” After all, our agrarian ancestors were really deciding how to use God’s generous harvest to multiply that generosity through their faith communities. The same remains true for us.
My ancestors, the ancient Christian Celts, would do this cool thing at this time of year. As their last fields were gathered, they’d all come together to raise up the final sheaf and they’d process it back into town, giving thanks to God that God was generous again that year. They’d celebrate the generosity of the Divine, both in the harvest and through the gift of Christ for the world. They’d do as that old hymn in so many hymnals sing, “come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”
I wonder if every stewardship appeal, every “invitation to renewed generosity” could be a scene of rejoicing as you, as a community, gathered around the generous, crucified and risen One, brings in the collective sheaves to continue changing lives in this world. Come rejoicing, Beloved, bringing in the generous sheaves God has given you!
Tim Brown, ELCA Director of Congregational Stewardship Support
P.S. Congregational Stewardship has a Vimeo page! If you ever miss one of our livestreaming presentations or webinars, check to see if it’s posted on the new Vimeo page for ELCA Congregational Stewardship. These programs are perfect for stewardship teams in need of continuing education or councils curious about what’s happening in the realm of stewardship.
How do we, as communities of faith, change our thinking on stewardship and generosity to meet the challenges of the moment? In partnership with the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the ELCA is offering congregations the opportunity to reexamine their stewardship thinking and imagine ways to act on their findings in their communities. The six-week webinar “Cultivating Generous Congregations” will offer virtual cohort sessions (four on Zoom, two that allow you to do your own work online) where congregational leaders can discuss, dissect and collaborate on how generosity might work in their contexts. The webinar costs $550 per congregation, plus workbooks ($30 each).
These cohorts have a proven track record of helping move congregations in generosity and mission! For a deeper look at what the webinar entails, watch this brief “Cultivating Generous Congregations” video.
Please contact the Rev. Larry Strenge (Larry.Strenge@elca.org) or the Rev. Tim Brown (Tim.Brown@elca.org) if you’re interested in participating! They will work with your synod to get you registered for the fall cohort.
Mark your calendar:
“Cultivating Generous Congregations” Live Zoom sessions
10/10, 10/24, 11/7 and 11/14 @ 5 – 6:30 pm CT
You’ve heard about narrative budgets. You’ve probably even seen some examples or watched mini-demonstrations explaining what they are, how they’re assembled and how they convey your community’s impact. Is the process still too confusing or daunting for you?
On Monday, Nov. 27 the Rev. Tim Brown, the ELCA’s director for congregational stewardship support, will lead a step-by-step webinar on how to create a narrative budget. Bring your current (2023) budget and pieces of your projected 2024 budget, and get ready to do some work in real-time to start the narrative budget process. Over the course of 45 minutes (with plenty of time for questions), this webinar will send you well on your way toward presenting a narrative budget at your next annual meeting. Pastors, council members, stewardship teams and all other interested parties are welcome to attend.
Mark your calendar:
“Narrative Budget Step by Step”
Monday, Nov. 27
6:30-7:30 p.m. Central time
Join us on Zoom
Meeting ID: 813 1042 0337
One tap mobile: +13052241968,,81310420337# US
Many people view a capital campaign as a “necessary evil” (or even an unnecessary one!). But what if there’s a deeper spiritual calling inside capital campaigns that gets drowned out in the anxiety over the bottom line? Could God be inviting people to “dream dreams” in these often-ambitious endeavors?
In partnership with the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the ELCA will host a webinar on Monday, Nov. 13, in which the Rev. Meredith McNabb and the Rev. Tim Brown will explore the spiritual side of capital campaigns and invite you to think differently about the opportunity that awaits you.
Mark your calendar:
“The Spiritual Side of Capital Campaigns”
Monday, Dec. 11 @ 6 – 7 pm CT
Join us on Zoom
Meeting ID: 811 0881 1052
Are you looking for stewardship resources to fuel your ministries and imagination? Here are a few places to find guidance and support:
The Lake Institute on Faith & Giving has developed a website dedicated to sharing stories of generosity across faith communities. The Faithful Generosity Story Shelf features compelling and instructive stories with topics ranging from property sharing to ethical investment. A study guide accompanies each story so it can be used in council meetings or committee retreats, helping people think outside the box and reflect on current needs or desires in their own communities. Bookmark this page for continual updates or sign up to receive them via email.
Many congregations have a hard time finding someone to serve as their treasurer because the role feels daunting to so many. Edd Breeden’s A Handbook for Church Treasurers: Concise Information for a Complicated Task (self-published, 2019) is one of the most valuable works available to volunteer church treasurers, helping them master the ins and outs of their job.
Congregations and rostered leaders anxious about the future might appreciate a book that reframes the ups and downs in life. Scott Erickson’s Say Yes: Discover the Surprising Life Beyond the Death of a Dream (Zondervan, 2022) leads readers through heart-wrenching moments of grief and awakens in them the possibilities that come with resurrection. Erickson, an artist and biblical storyteller, weaves through this work a spirituality that will bind the hearts of the faithful. If you or your community needs a reframing of your current situation, you may find this book to be a wonderful resource. After all, we’re invited to steward not just our gifts but our whole being … including our frames of reference. Give this book a try.
Have a great stewardship resource to share? Please send articles, books, movies and other media to Tim.Brown@elca.org. The best gifts are those that are shared!
Finding organic ways to speak about stewardship can be difficult, especially in relation to the lectionary texts. Not every sermon should be a “stewardship sermon,” but on any given Sunday, stewardship themes arise from the biblical witness and can be highlighted! Remember that stewardship is about how we live our lives, not just about how we use our finances. Stewardship is a life trajectory.
Below are just a few readings for some of the Green Season (Time After Pentecost) and All Saints Day that might inspire thoughts on stewardship:
Matthew 22:1-14 | Oct. 15
Ah, the grand banquet where those worthy in the eyes of world are deemed not ready to eat with the Lord. How do we steward our hospitality? We may say, “Everyone is welcome,” but “welcome” and “invitation” are very different things. Being welcome to attend and being invited to attend each have unique implications: welcome is a general “admit all” whereas invitation means “we want you and your ideas and your hopes and dreams for us and with us.” Which of these does your congregation, does the wider church, extend?
Matthew 22:15-22 | Oct. 22
Following on the heels of the great banquet, today’s question is about taxes. And rather than fall down the rabbit hole of taxation, arguing about who deserves what (remember last week’s parable about discerning “deserving”?), focus on why we long to parse out where our money goes. What is our relationship to money? Are we so possessive of it that parting with it, for whatever reason, causes pain? On the flip side, what about the truth that, in our current economy, money means agency, so it is important and deserves wise stewardship? Today is a good day to talk openly about how our relationships with money are not only economic but also spiritual.
Matthew 5:1-12 | Nov. 1/All Saints Sunday
How do we steward our blessings in this world? Not the ones we feel we have but the ones we give to others? With so many “Blessed” farmhouse signs hanging in living rooms and stenciled on kitchen walls, the true meaning of the word can easily be lost. Blessing doesn’t mean “everything is great.” Blessing means something more like “I know I’m OK, by God, no matter how things are.” By that definition, who is blessed in this world, and how can we make that known?