Shifting the Conversation
by Rev. Stacy Emerson
In my work with churches around stewardship and generosity, there are a few refrains that seem to echo consistently in our conversations. I often ask, what do you hear when you talk about stewardship in your church? And this is what I hear…
- stewardship is about paying the bills and balancing the budget
- stewardship is asking: How much of what is mine should I give away?
- we can’t talk about money
- denial around financial realities—thinking there isn’t enough when there is, or thinking there is enough when there isn’t
- resisting necessary expenses like deferred maintenance is the only way
- cutting the pastor’s salary is the only solution
- never talking about money, or, always talking about money
- blind trust in leadership around money matters, or, extreme suspicion of leadership
- the pastor needs to be protected from “material matters”
- I don’t have to pledge, we have an endowment
We are in dire need of shifting the conversation! Generosity is the heart of discipleship. Clarence Stoughton said, “Stewardship is everything we do after we say we believe.” Beyond money and budgets, beyond our sense of scarcity and fear, stewardship is a calling to be a particular way in the world—we are called to generosity. And so the shift in the conversation requires a different focus:
Stewardship is about paying the bills.
Stewardship is about loving God and my neighbor.
Generosity is about loving God and my neighbor.
Stewardship is about money.
Stewardship is about my whole self.
Generosity involves the whole of life—
time, talent, treasure and temperament.
How much of what is mine should I give away?
How much of what is God’s should I keep for myself?
Generosity confesses God’s blessing in all things.
We don’t have enough.
God provides for us in abundance.
Generosity trusts God’s provisions are sufficient.
Shifting the conversation in our congregations is essential for moving forward. May God’s abundant grace bring you new perspectives and courage for the sacred calling of being generous disciples in the world!
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Facilitator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.