Creating a harmonious stewardship team

May 12, 2021 by Olanda Carr

June is African-American Music Month. Originally created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, this month is set aside as a time for us to remember the musical influences of African-Americans. Despite its 40 years of existence, this month of focus is seldomly publicized, so it might be new to you.

Growing up in a musical family, however, I was consistently exposed to music throughout my life and thus made aware of the significance of June. And, while my individual talent pales in comparison to my other relatives, I have a great appreciation of the musical arts. Perhaps this is why I frequently use music examples in my workshops. I often find myself creating hypothetical gift illustrations using instruments, songs, and other forms of musical expressions.

One of my favorite references is that of a choir. I can think of few better examples of a stewardship program or generosity team than a choir. After all, a choir represents the combination of unique voices to produce a blended, harmonious sound. Similarly, a generosity team ideally should have the voices for all areas of ministry, coming together to create a cohesive stewardship program.

If you have ever sung in a choir, one of the basic, initial elements to address is the matter of parts – do we have the ‘bases’ covered? Choir directors often mimic coaches that way. Instead of ‘who’s on first’, it becomes “who’s on alto”? Or, similarly, “where are the sopranos”? In short, are all of the needed parts covered?

This type of logic should also be applied to the composition of our generosity teams. Have we covered all the parts? Frankly, do we even know what the parts are? I contend that the parts of a stewardship team generally look like the areas of ministry from the church. Contrary to familiar practices of old, a stewardship team isn’t necessarily composed of financial wizards or spreadsheet savants. Rather, generosity teams should be composed of those that represent the actual ministry of the church. Representatives from mission and outreach programming or Christian education are examples of such areas. The ‘score’ of stewardship is about telling the story of the ministry of the church – inspiring others to give of their time, talent, and treasures to this ministry.

To tell this story well, you need the folks that actually know the story around the table! And it’s okay to have a ‘guest soloist’ sometimes to do a specific task, such as writing an article or making a minute for mission announcement. Remember, not everyone wants to permanently join the team.

Another integral part of belonging to a choir is the element of consistent practice. To those who can relate, choir practice is a whole thing. A needed thing that choir members must participate in to learn new music, review parts, smooth our rough patches, and sometimes even throw out a previously believed good idea!

Practices can be quick, but often they are a bit tedious. In the case of the more tedious practices, sometimes you find yourself in need of a reset. In my experience, that’s when the choir director gives a pep talk. Encouragement regarding a missed note or two goes a long way. The best reset of them all, however, is the reminder that we are all singing for the glory of God.

Generosity teams are similar in this aspect as well. Not every new idea about stewardship is going to work. Not every pledge campaign is going to yield the results you were hoping for. But don’t give up – keep practicing, experimenting with new ideas. And as you do, always remain focused on the reason you are all around the table – to bring glory to God. Stewardship, like music, is a form of worship and discipleship. All that we do is therefore focused on giving God the praise. Remind yourselves of this every time you need a reset!

As we roll into the summer months, I encourage you to be creative in the ways you sing of stewardship. Perhaps use this time to review your team – do we have all of the parts covered? Are there some key voices that are missing from the generosity ‘choir’? If so, start recruiting! Don’t forget diverse generational representation. Similarly, perhaps use the summer months as a time to do a shared reading on stewardship innovations. Your Ministry Relations Officer would be happy to suggest a few titles. While singing familiar music can be comforting, we need to challenge ourselves to sing some new songs as well.

And it’s okay if you miss a note or two the first time you sing the new song (sorry, family). Remember, practice makes perfect!

Olanda Carr is the Senior Ministry Relations Officer serving the East Region. He works with congregations to create a culture of generosity, offers seminars and workshops, develops gifts and fundraising plans for ministries, and provides coaching to finance, stewardship and endowment committees. You can reach Olanda at olanda.carr@presbyterianfoundation.org.