The Generosity Project is a collaborative effort between ABCUSA, regions, and local congregations. The Generosity Project aims to help pastors re-frame the conversation around stewardship and generosity in their congregations. Bi-monthly blogs help support new growth and understanding as we deepen our ministry and discipleship. The reflection below was provided by Rev. Stacy Emerson.
Sustainability has become a buzzword across many disciplines—the environment, business, non-profits, and more. But what does it mean, and what does it have to do with stewardship?
First, what is stewardship? For Christians, we define stewardship as the responsible and careful management of the blessings and resources entrusted to our care by God. We are not the owners, God is, and as stewards, we are given the sacred responsibility to tend, manage, protect, and wisely use those resources to further God’s vision for the world.
There is no exact definition for the term, but it is generally regarded as the ability to meet our own current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is focused on 3 interrelated systems—economic, social, and environmental.
What the term sustainability offers that we tend to miss or downplay in our understanding of stewardship is its focus on the future. Stewardship is not just about what we currently hold in our care. We should also include what it means to be “sustainable,” viewing our management of God’s resources in the context of God’s larger work and will, for us now and for future generations. Sustainability thinking in regard to stewardship will enlarge our perspective by inviting us to consider finances, ministry emphases, vision, relationships, and creative planning. We need to ask:
- Is our mission sustainable?
- Are we reaching out beyond our church walls to our communities?
- Are we able to maintain growth through a relevant vision and ministries that connect and enliven?
- Do we have healthy financial practices that consider not only what we need for today but offer support for the needs of future generations?
- For many churches, decades ago, churches planned for growth and built large buildings which are now entrusted to our care—how are we stewarding that resource?
- And more importantly, can we try to anticipate what the future church will need? Is it a building? Is it some other location for ministry or not a location at all?
- What can we be doing now that will make our mission and ministry sustainable for the future?
These questions and more are necessary as we live into God’s calling for our generation and prepare the way for the next. It is work that will take time, prayer, and discernment as we think about stewardship and sustainability, but it is also work that we cannot afford to ignore.
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 Coordinator 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.