This month in stewardship: March
February 18, 2020 by Robyn Davis Sekula
The season of Lent is here. This is a time for austerity, evaluation and preparation for the celebration of Easter.
Stewardship may not seem compatible with Lent but it depends on how you view stewardship. Viewing it broadly, think about stewardship of the Earth, acts of kindness and generosity. In researching this topic, I found a few ideas that inspired me for stewardship during Lent.
Tread Lightly for Lent
Tread Lightly for Lent is a wonderful resource that is produced by our own Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – more specifically the Presbyterian Hunger Program. This is a downloadable, four-page calendar that suggests simple things you can do each day to better connect you with the impact that your own choices make on the planet, along with reflections, verses and thoughts that pair with this theme.
These suggestions are so simple but meaningful – and what’s more, they could be used by anyone at any age. In fact, I’ll be sharing this with my own three daughters and husband prior to Ash Wednesday so that we can all participate together.
Examples include visiting www.footprintcalculator.org to find your own impact on the planet (March 5) and write down everything you throw away today and challenge yourself to use fewer disposable items (March 12).
I love the simplicity of this resource and its adaptability to all ages. This is a great new way to practice stewardship.
First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury, N.J., issues a challenge to the congregation to do acts of kindness throughout Lent. This started in 2018, and plans are underway to do so again this year.
Rev. Hannah Lovaglio says 2018 was the first year the church did the challenge. In 2019, the children and youth of the church kicked off the challenge.
“This is intergenerational,” Lovaglio says. “Anyone can do this. Lent is a hard concept for children, but 40 acts of kindness – that’s easy.”
Members of the congregation are invited to report these acts of kindness by writing on a bulletin board at the church what they did. They can post anonymously. Lovaglio says the reports back are everything from holding a door open for someone, to reaching out with a meal for someone who may need it.
One especially memorable report came from a bus driver who is a member of the church who creates a safe and welcoming place for children who are on the spectrum on their bus each day. “He thought of his work as a calling,” Lovaglio says.
And that’s the point – thinking of our daily actions as calls to be more like Jesus, taking our faith out into our community. “We are a village church,” Lovaglio says. “About 50 percent of our members live right here in the village of Cranbury. If that many people are committing acts of kindness, it can really make a difference in our community.”
In the UK, an idea that has taken root is 40 Acts, which challenges participants to 40 acts of kindness during Lent – one for every day. If you sign up, you’ll wake up with a new kindness challenge in your inbox every day. This is operated by Stewardship Services, a London-based non-profit.
During the past decade, the program has built into a movement. More than 100,000 people have participated.
What I love about it is how it codes the challenges, using a stoplight system. Green is a challenge that cost nothing and takes less than five minutes to complete. Yellow is a challenge that will cost around $5 or maybe a little more and will take more time to complete, and red challenges will be for those with more resources and time.
What if you borrowed the idea and challenged your congregation to do something similar?
You could ask for members of your congregation to do such an act of kindness each week when coming to church. Bring jars of peanut butter for your local food pantry one Sunday. Ask for diapers for a ministry that provides such supplies to parents. Stock a Little Free Library with children’s books featuring diverse characters in a family neighborhood one week (check out www.flyawaybooks.com for great Presbyterian titles). The options are endless and can be a very simple way to connect your church with your community.
Lovaglio provided a theological basis for acts of kindness in Lent, tying it directly into stewardship. “Our good works are in grateful response,” she says. “We are doing this out of gratitude because of the gifts of God, and because God loves us.”
As a theological concept, stewardship prompts us to gratitude, which compels us to give back to God what always belonged to God. This year for Lent, consider going above and beyond to create a new practice that challenges you to connect with your world.
Robyn Davis Sekula is Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the Presbyterian Foundation. She is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and attends Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky.