Stewardship Navigator available for Presbyterian churches

March 18, 2019 by Sally Scherer

The work involved with creating and implementing your Presbyterian church’s stewardship program just got a whole lot easier.

Stewardship Navigator, an educational website launched this month by the Presbyterian Foundation, is a free online tool for Presbyterian congregations. You can find it at Stewardshipnavigator.com.

The site serves as a workspace for pastors and church stewardship leaders. It offers practical help with everything from stewardship campaign ideas to examples of thank you notes, a brochure maker and multimedia educational tools. And, if that’s not enough, there’s a link to a real person who can offer help, too.

The new website’s goal is to “help raise funds for your mission” by providing support for one of the challenging aspects of being a thriving church congregation, financial sustainability and management.

“We wanted the tool’s focus to be congregations of 150 people or less since that’s 83 percent of our congregations,” explained Rev. David Loleng, Director of Church Financial Literacy and Leadership for the Presbyterian Foundation. “But already it’s being used by some much larger churches.”

Stewardship Navigator is simple to use, accessible – whether you have experience with stewardship or not – and is customizable. It also offers storage for your church information, Loleng says.

“It’s especially helpful for churches that don’t have the capacity or the people power” to tackle a stewardship campaign, Loleng added.

A convenient replacement for manuals

Rev. David Loleng, Director of Church Financial Literacy and Leadership

The site replaces a paper manual. The goal is for the site to have 100 users in its first year, he says.

Convenience is one of the great benefits of the site, says Karl Mattison of Vice President of Planned Giving Resources for the Presbyterian Foundation.

“Having a stewardship resource online enables stewardship leaders to tap into their stewardship program on-demand,” Mattison says. “On-demand is a great gift to the many stewardship leaders who are multi-tasking through life. Having their program resource online means they don’t need to carry their paper manual with them wherever they go.”

Another benefit is the narrative budget builder, a tool that helps present the church’s budget in an easy to understand format that showcases program areas rather than a line-item budget. Loleng explained that a narrative budget can be presented in no more than six categories and can focus on the mission and vision of the church rather than on specific financial expenditures that are the focus of a line-item budget.

Mattison says creating a narrative budget can be a challenge for some churches. “Often, churches find that putting together a narrative budget is too complicated. So, we’ve designed an application where a church can input its own information to produce a simple narrative budget brochure.”

Though the site has just launched, it’s already proving to be helpful.

“I got an email from a colleague at a meeting today who says the site was stunning,” Loleng says. “Response has been positive. We wanted to stay true to it being simple, accessible and beautiful. It won’t overwhelm or confuse.”

Churches find tool helpful

At Olanda Carr’s church, First United Presbyterian in Charlotte, the tool has already proven useful.

“We’ve struggled some with stewardship,” says Carr, a Ministry Relations Officer serving the East Region for the Presbyterian Foundation and an elder at First United Presbyterian Church. “We got into a rhythm. We mainly sent out letters and that was it. We needed to retool and this is helping us do that.”

Carr is especially thankful that the website focuses on smaller churches. His church has about 200 members on the rolls.

Not only has Stewardship Navigator received praise among Presbyterians, but Loleng says that other mainline protestant denominations are interested in it as well. “It’s a great tool to share,” he says.

Lilly grant funded project

Funding for the site was made possible by the Lilly Endowment Inc. that recently awarded the Presbyterian Foundation a second grant of $1 million as part of its National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.

The first grant, awarded in 2015, allowed the Foundation to develop pilot programs that provided tools and grants to assist a small group of churches and pastors in discovering new ways to fund their ministries. The second grant, awarded in 2018, allows the Foundation to continue this work and take it to a national scale.

The grants are part of Lilly Endowment’s commitment to supporting the pastoral leadership development of clergy serving in congregations across the United States. Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

Sally Scherer is a writer and communications consultant based in Lexington, Kentucky. She is a member of Second Presbyterian Church, where she is an elder and a member of the choir.