Packing Your Stewardship Toolkit

Ideas to Help Tackle Challenge of Stewardship

Submitted by Rev. Eric Heinekamp, Director of Business Affairs, Presbytery of Chicago

Rev. Eric Heinekamp presenting at LEAD 2015

Rev. Eric Heinekamp presenting at LEAD 2015

For many church people, stewardship is a concept of contradiction and paradox. We say we hate to talk about money yet at session meetings across the presbytery it is often the key discussion topic. Elders look to pastors for financial leadership and inspiring sermons on giving yet bristle at the suggestion that pastors should know what members actual give. Charitable giving in the US is growing nearly 5% each year yet giving to churches is shrinking. What are we to make of these contradictions?

At a L.E.A.D. session in March. many of us gathered to share insights and helpful tips on tackling the challenges of effective stewardship. Here are 7 keys to effective stewardship that we shared that day and some new ideas to help your church build its stewardship toolbox.

  • Know why we give. People choose to give to the church rather than another charity for 3 reasons – they believe in the mission, they have faith in leadership, and they know the money will be used as intended. People are less likely to give out of moral obligation so we must help them understand why they should give to the church.
  • Focus on the mission of the church, not survival. Members are not inspired by giving that simply meet a budget, fixes a roof, or pays off debt. Members give when they are excited about being part of something that transforms lives. Churches must become much better at telling our stories.
  • Be intentional. Competition for money is stiff and other non-profits work very hard at fundraising. For churches to raise funds they must have well thought out and executed stewardship programs. Don’t be afraid to talk about money. Know that different members have different needs so target messages to each audience. Above all, be thankful.
  • Provide solid leadership. Effective stewardship requires leaders who practice what they preach. This includes pastors who must preach on money, talk about money, and understand the importance of stewardship in the lives of members.
  • Look at all sources of giving. Stewardship should look beyond paycheck to paycheck income and look at investments and estate planning options.
  • Try something new. If you always do the same stewardship program each year consider doing something fresh. Change the timing of the program. Use a narrative budget or completely separate giving and budgets. Implement on-line giving. Consider workshops on personal financial management.
  • Learn from others. There are incredible and affordable resources each church might consider as they plan their stewardship programs. A great place to start is the Presbytery of Chicago website. Our Stewardship Toolkit was created by the Stewardship and Financial Development Work Group. You’ll find links to websites, lists of helpful books, and tools like sample narrative budgets.

“As a form of ministry, fundraising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry”, Henri Nouwen in Bread for the Journey.

This article was originally published on page 12 of the June 2015 Our Common Ministry, the presbytery’s newsletter. Download the complete issue.

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