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.
The work of the Stewardship Team is critical to a successful stewardship campaign and to the overall stewardship ministry of the church. Gathering the right people at the right time for the right work is essential.
Understand generosity: The lay leaders who help the pastor nurture generosity in others must first understand the importance of generosity and know generosity as a personal, spiritual practice. Generosity is at the heart of discipleship and good stewardship leaders know all about the ways giving serves as a conduit of God’s love in the world.
Believe in the church’s mission: Being able to translate and interpret the church’s mission begins with wholehearted belief and support of that mission. The Stewardship Team must fully support and feel called to help the church advance its mission and ministry, knowing that God’s call is precious and must be answered with faith and passion.
Are trustworthy: In order for the work of the Stewardship Team to flourish, these leaders need to be people the congregation trust. Emotions around money can be sensitive and trust is the foundation for a leader’s ability to ask for financial gifts.
Whether your congregation has a one time a year stewardship campaign, or weaves themes of generosity and giving throughout the year, the work of the Stewardship Team includes:
Communication: The Steward Team works to tell the story of the congregation and its impact on their neighborhood and the world. Letters, bulletin inserts, newsletter articles in addition to social media posts and personal storytelling are a few of the tools the Stewardship Team has to communicate the mission and ministry of the church.
Mission & Vision Interpretation: The Stewardship Team must be able to clearly answer the question, “why does our church exist?” Beyond that, the team must help people clearly make the connection between their giving and serving to the accomplishment of the church’s mission and vision in the ways it answers God’s call. Helping others see the impact they make on the world—through a narrative budget, the sharing of testimony, and visual storytelling—is powerful and inspiring and essential in the work of stewardship.
Education: Teaching about the biblical imperative for generosity, giving, and serving is foundational to nurturing generosity for every generation. Sunday School, adult classes, children’s sermons as well as education around financial management are all opportunities to teach about generosity.
Asking: The Stewardship Team will, at some point, ask for money. The direct appeal in fundraising is an important and sacred part of the work. And it is important for the team to know how to do this well, imagining: how would I like to be asked? Chances are the use of guilt, cajoling, and scarcity thinking (i.e., give or the lights will be turned off) are not ways we would like to be asked to support anything. Not only are they emotionally manipulative, these techniques have proven ineffective. The work of the stewardship team is to help people make connections between giving and discipleship, between generosity and helping change the world, and between the church’s mission and answering God’s call.
Thanking: Saying thank you is an important part of the work of stewardship. And saying thank you well is about having a plan. The Stewardship Team should have a varied approach to thanking donors, whether it is for a one-time gift, on-going support of the church, a legacy gift, support for a special cause, or for special occasions. Think about, how would you like to be thanked? Letters, phone calls, coffee with the pastor, stewardship luncheons—whatever the culture of your congregation is, gratitude is essential to the work of stewardship.
The Right Time:
Nurturing generosity is something that takes time, over a lifetime, to do. So often our churches relegate this work to once a year with a brief stewardship campaign in preparation for the next budget year. But stewardship goes way beyond the needs of a budget. It is at the heart of discipleship and stewardship is how the people of God share the love and grace of God.
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.