A Generosity Project Reflection – Stewardship and Adaptive Challenges

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A Generosity Project Reflection – Stewardship and Adaptive Challenges

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.

In his book Tempered Resilience, Tod Bolsinger writes, “What makes leadership so daunting, in the final analysis, is the burden of responsibility for the flourishing or faltering, the success or failure of an organization, community, or movement that has been entrusted to your stewardship. When the challenge of the moment moves from maintaining and preserving to changing and thriving, the stakes are raised and the heat is turned up.”

Church leaders recognize that the days of maintenance and preservation of the church are long gone, and we are living in the furnace of change with the very future of the church at risk. And for many of us, the stewardship of our resources—financial, volunteer, and church buildings—are at the top of the list of concerns. We know that unless we bolster those resources, the future is bleak. So how do we re-imagine stewardship with the stakes so high? We might want to turn to the latest and greatest stewardship program that claims near certain effectiveness on the one hand or lean into inevitable decline on the other and shy away from rocking the boat. In my experience, the latest and greatest stewardship programs may work for a season or two but then churches find themselves back in a slump, having learned little about their own context and church culture to help them overcome their challenges. But if we view stewardship as an adaptive challenge without a clear, simple, or easy technical fix, we might find the hope we need to change, and then survive and thrive.

An adaptive challenge has these 3 qualities:

  • Survival: The organization must address the challenge if it is going to have a future.
  • Perplexing: All the known methods have failed to address this challenge.
  • Innovation: Therefore, resolving this challenge requires new learning.

How many of us see our stewardship—of finances, volunteers, and church buildings—with these statements in mind?

Even before the pandemic completely changed the way we do church, leaders knew and felt the burden of stewardship of the churches entrusted into our keeping. And the question still lingers about how to lead at a time when the stakes are so high.

The Generosity Project is designed to address the adaptive challenges associated with stewardship. Pastors are invited into a yearlong cohort that meets online to engage in assessing their own church context, to gain new insights around stewardship and adaptive leadership, to implement experiments to address the challenges, and to grow in a supportive collegial environment. If you would like to know more about The Generosity Project and how it can help your congregation, contact The Generosity Project Coordinator, Rev. Stacy Emerson at stacy.emerson@abc-usa.org.

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.