Shifting stewardship mindset: a pastor’s story

May 9, 2019 by Susan Herman

Rev. David Duquette had long held a negative perception of stewardship, namely, that it went hand in hand with guilt and shame.

Part of the lore in the church where he currently serves — Pennside Presbyterian Church in Reading, Pa., — was that “If you didn’t pledge the session would come knocking on your door,” he says. “No one wanted to be on either side of that door, knocking or answering!”

His mindset shifted after he attended his first Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference, thanks to a Church Financial Leadership Grant, offered by the Presbyterian Foundation. Presbyterian pastors, 1001 New Worshiping Communities leaders or commissioned ruling elders may apply for the grants, which pay half of the cost of attendance of Stewardship Kaleidoscope. Applications are available here.

Pledging for the sake of mission

Rev. David Duquette

When Pastor Dave served as Lehigh Presbytery’s moderator a few years ago, he was exposed to many good models of stewardship and planned giving through his interactions with people at other churches. He used his first Church Financial Leadership Grant to attend the 2017 Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference, and did so again in 2018.

The number one change that resulted from his participation, he says, is that his church “shifted from pledging in order to meet the budget to pledging for the sake of the mission.” He notes that he and other leaders at Pennside have been able to do more mission interpretation, and be “a lot more celebratory about giving and mission.”

Pastor Dave has implemented a practice he learned about at the Kaleidoscope conference called “Because you gave.” Now in his church, each week’s offering is introduced along with a story about mission, which concludes: “This was possible because you gave.”

Electronic options make giving accessible

Another Foundation resource Pastor Dave benefitted from through the grant was information on managing e-giving. Pennside Presbyterian put a Give Now button on its internet homepage and lists the church’s community missions in a prominent place. “We asked ourselves, how do we have people participate and support our ministry, recognizing that we live in 24/7 world and that Sunday morning isn’t always free?”

E-giving is now integrated into the pledge card process, too, and the church plans to begin streaming its services online to allow greater accessibility.

The results of Pennside’s efforts have been measurable. During the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year, even as membership contracted by about 25%, giving actually increased by 4%.

The sixth fat cow

Pennside Presbyterian Church

Looking forward, Pastor Dave notes, “We’re in the early stages of implementing a planned giving campaign, which we’ve never done before. We are trying to be more intentional about having the church remembered in people’s wills, and building an endowment that will fund ministry.”

While the Reading, Pa., region has received negative press because of poverty-related issues, Pastor Dave says, “We’re looking at that as a tremendous opportunity for our church. Our motto is ‘Called by Christ, we are sent to serve.’ That’s what we’re trying to live in to.”

Drawing on the Bible story of Joseph, Pastor Dave says the stewardship model he has in mind needs to see the present time as the sixth fat cow of the seven fat cows in the dream Joseph interpreted for Pharaoh. The seven starving cows that appeared next in the dream remind us that famine is coming, and right now “is the window of opportunity at my church and at a number of churches…My goal is to lay the financial foundation for the ministry of our church permanently,” so that the church’s giving can focus on its mission.

The Church Financial Leadership grant has ultimately helped turn the stewardship mindset around at Pastor Dave’s church. “Seeing stewardship as joy has been a game changer for me and for our church,” he says.

Susan Herman is a freelance writer and editor. She worships and volunteers on the music team at Carmichael Presbyterian Church near Sacramento, Calif.