“Good and Faithful” Stewardship

June 5, 2018 by Olanda Carr

As a Ministry Relations Officer serving the east region, one of my favorite topics to speak on is the effective utilization of the narrative budget. I enjoy this subject mostly because a narrative budget is an excellent way to transform the traditional line item budget into a graphic, pictorial representation of resources at work in the areas of mission and ministry.

Olanda Carr
Olanda Carr

Additionally, the narrative budget is just one of the many ways a congregation can encourage a shift from budget-balancing-based stewardship programming to faith-based giving in all areas—time, talent, and treasures. Most would agree that congregants do not give to simply balance the annual budget, rather they give through faith as a response to gratitude, to support the mission of the church, and to provide for the future.

We give to express GRATITUDE …

I remember the first time I was asked to deliver the morning stewardship message at a congregation within my territory. As a ruling elder, I was not exactly thrilled at this opportunity! Yet, I graciously (and nervously) accepted the challenge. As I prepared for the message, I immediately sought God’s help through prayer, scripture, and meditation.

The result of this spiritual journey curiously led me to what I believed to be a ‘nontraditional’ stewardship text: Luke 17:11-19 – Jesus’ healing of the 10 lepers. I’ve always been intrigued by this text, troubled by only one of the 10 returning to thank Jesus for their divine restoration. It would seem to me that all 10 would want to vehemently return thanks for such an unexpected and miraculous healing!

That’s when it hit me – for me, generosity and giving are strongly rooted in gratitude. God has been so gracious to me throughout my lifetime that I have no choice but to return thanks in the way I live my life and spend and share my resources. I suspect many of us feel the same, grateful to God for consistent provision and sustenance. The question then becomes, how do we express this gratitude?

We give to support MISSION …

Before His ascension, Matthew 28:19 (KJV) reminds us that Jesus commanded the disciples to “go ye therefore and teach all nations …” This command directs and guides us still to this day as we constantly seek ways to teach and share the gospel with our neighbors. Congregations from across our denomination strive to be faithful to this command, utilizing missional programming and activities to reach the masses. I contend that this work is why many of our members align with our congregations. Our command and desire to faithfully share the gospel should shape our vision, mission statement, and our ministry programming. In stewardship, our annual campaign and year-round efforts should specifically address this question.

In short, how are we responding to Jesus’ command?  How are we participating with Christ?  The more successful we are with articulating our responses to these questions, the more successful our stewardship efforts are bound to be.

Congregants give to mission, not just to repair the HVAC system or the leaky roof.

We give to the FUTURE …

“We serve a God that not only was present in the past, but is with us now and will be with us in the future. ” – Olanda Carr (Photo: Westminster Pres, Richmond, Va.)

Future plans are also an integral part of our generosity formula. While it is tempting to ‘rest upon our laurels’ and speak of the famed, glory days of ministry when our pews were filled, and our coffers were overflowing, we must resist this temptation!  We serve a God that not only was present in the past, but is with us now and will be with us in the future.

Thus, we must celebrate the future by being visionary, always courageously looking to the future with our plans, ministries, and activities. Perhaps little excites our members more than plans of how our congregation will continue to thrive, well beyond the foreseeable days ahead. We must therefore remember to be visionary in all areas of our generosity program, deliberate with highlighting our plans for the short- and long-term ministries of the congregation.

Scripture reminds us to be “good and faithful” stewards in all areas and seasons (Matthew 25:23). Thus, our generosity efforts must not be narrowly reflected in the fall but should also be practiced throughout the year, in all aspects of congregational life. Encouraging our members to give in response to gratitude, while focusing on our mission and the future, can help us shift from a perspective of avoidance and scarcity to one rooted in FAITH, of celebration and abundance.