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.
Re-framing the Stewardship Conversation: Stop Talking about the Bills
Well, maybe not entirely. Paying the bills is an important part of managing our resources. Of course. But when the conversation around the ministry of stewardship and generosity in our congregations focuses on the bills and not on the ministry we do in God’s name, we have our priorities mixed up.
Generosity is about the giver, not the receiver
When we focus on the bills, we put all our attention on the need of the church to receive and not on the nurturing of the giver as a generous disciple of Christ. Our stewardship conversation is truly about the biblical call to live generously in how we think, in what we believe, and in what we do.
Focusing on the bills puts people in a scarcity mindset
Trying to motivate people to give based on what a congregation is lacking is a poor strategy and ineffective. We do not convince people to give by pointing out we are out of money. People want to know that their gifts are supporting something that will make a difference and worthwhile, inspirational, and meaningful. God calls us to ministry and God resources us for the success of that God-given ministry. The question is, are we actually answering God’s call or are we stuck doing what we’ve always done because that’s what we know how to do?
Re-framing the Stewardship Conversation
We can begin to change our attitudes about stewardship when we:
- Connect people’s giving to the ministry being done. Find ways to regularly tell the story of your church and make an intentional connection between the impact your church is having and people’s generosity. It could be through a meal served at your soup kitchen, a young person baptized in faith, the life-giving help of the AA group that meets in your parlor—let people know that these things happen because of their generosity.
- Talk about what generosity is. Generosity is more than donating money. It is a way of life. It starts with gratitude for God’s presence and blessing in our lives and ends with every act of kindness, justice, healing, hospitality, and hope that serves as a conduit of God’s love moving through us into the world. Giving is one part of generous living.
- When tempted to talk about keeping the lights on, talk about what happens when the lights are on By shifting our focus away from what is lacking (the money to pay the electric bill) and toward the holy things that happen in our building (lives being transformed), we are engaging in a conversation that will bring hope and inspire our work together.
- Start with gratitude. Generosity is rooted in remembering the ways God has blessed us—with life, with family, with community, and with purpose. When we engage in this kind of remembering, we are moved to make that blessing flow through us to impact the world around us. In that way, gratitude leads to generosity: Having been loved, we love. Having been healed, we help others. Having been given hope, we work to bring hope where it is needed most.
Re-framing the conversation around stewardship is not an easy thing to do. We are wired to see the challenges looming before us and biologically react with fear. But with prayerful intention we can shift our perspective from a mindset of scarcity to honoring the God-given call of ministry that inspires and draws out our generosity.
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.