Stewardship should focus on God, even in a pandemic
September 22, 2020 by Olanda Carr
Over the past few weeks, I have found myself drawn to Isaiah 40:31 “…but they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
I have perhaps been drawn to this scripture because it seems that all we have been doing for weeks and months is waiting – waiting for the next ‘phase' in a phased, reopening process, waiting for favorite businesses to reopen, waiting for worship services to resume. Simply put, as the old John Mayer song states, “waiting on the world to change.” And, while some of the waiting has abated, it seems fair to say that we all have some additional ‘waiting to do' before things are close to normal.
The referenced scripture refers to those who were held captive in Babylon. Their only prospect for hope and deliverance was to be found in God. Hence, this scripture is often referenced by those who are in unusual and unfamiliar circumstances of danger, uncertainty, or want – to those who look to God for merciful deliverance and intervention. And, while we are certainly not captives during this time, I suspect there may have been times this year where we have perhaps felt that way! Our Americanized lens of expected comfort and convenience has shaped our view to resemble these circumstances – we are uncertain; times are unusual and unfamiliar.
The question then becomes, “how on earth are we to promote a stewardship campaign in the midst of all of this waiting?!?!” Excellent question! While there is no magic answer, let me offer a few thoughts to consider.
Perhaps we should start with the basics. While we may have to wait some additional time to do a few things, we don't have to wait to implement our stewardship campaign and program. The fall stewardship campaign season this year will be different, but we should not let that stop us. In fact, there are many things about this stewardship season that will remain the same.
For one, our stewardship initiatives should remain focused on God. As the Babylonians came to realize, God is always the answer. While the pandemic has certainly changed a lot of things in our day-to-day lives, it has not changed this reality. Thankfully, God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Thus, our stewardship campaign, communications, and other activities should always be grounded in our relationship to God, utilizing elements of prayer and scripture. Similarly, our stewardship program should also strongly correlate to the mission and vision of the congregation. Catchy themes are great, but themes that unite scripture, mission, and vision are even better!
Secondly, stewardship should continue to be focused on ministry. Contrary to popular practice, our members give of their time, talents, and treasures to support ministry efforts of the church. Hence, communications focused on expenses and upkeep of the church can sometimes discourage generosity. Even during a pandemic, we must continue to focus on the ministry. While I suspect many of the ministry activities normally operated from the church have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, we must ask ourselves, “what ministries have we continued to do?” The answers to this question should be highlighted in all stewardship communications.
Lastly, we must continue to tell the story. It is incumbent upon each of us to be able to articulate our theology of stewardship. Pandemic or not, we all have a story to share. Our theology of stewardship is linked to the answers to a few questions, such as:
- Who taught us about the importance of giving to the church?
- Why do you give to the church?
- What has the pandemic revealed to you concerning your relationship to God?
- Similarly, what has the pandemic revealed to you about your relationship with your church?
Consider recording the responses to these questions and sharing them on the church website or social media. I think we all would agree that now more than ever, technology is an effective way for us to share with one another. Let us use the gift of technology to share our stories in innovative and creative ways.
Yes, the pandemic has changed much of the world we once knew. Instead of waiting for our world to come back, let us focus on the world that is here today. Despite its challenges, it is still a pretty awesome place. In this world, we still serve a mighty God that can do amazing things. In this world, we still have the promise of hope. In this world, we still have the light that no pandemic can ever extinguish – the light of Jesus Christ. Let us utilize our stewardship season as a time where we remind ourselves of these potent realities.
All is not lost – the best is truly yet to come.
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. Olanda holds a BBA and MBA from Montreat College (North Carolina) and is an elder and assistant treasurer of First United Presbyterian Church. He resides in Charlotte with his wife, Monica.