What is Stewardship? Is it a letter someone will write this fall and mail with fingers crossed? Is it an October sermon? Is it an overwhelming sense of anxiety that this year's pledge numbers are on your shoulders?
No. Stewardship is the work God has given us to do, and it is work that happens all year long.
Yes, the pledge campaign is a part of Stewardship, but only a part.
And when we treat Stewardship as if all it is is the pledge campaign, we strip that very pledge campaign of its power. And we strip our congregations of a fuller realization of their own power and importance to ministry.
If we don't put Stewardship in context during our church year, how can we blame people if they "tune out" when we ask for their financial commitment in the fall? For what? And why?
The good news is that you can get started right now in putting Stewardship – and our roles as stewards – in context. Right now, this summer, is a great time to start doing just that: Contextualizing Stewardship. It will strengthen the fall pledge campaign.
One parish in the Diocese committed to contextualizing Stewardship is St. James Church, Upper Montclair. Last Spring, The Bishop's Office on Stewardship's Teaching Team went to St. James to lead a discussion around "Stewardship Best Practices" at their Vestry Retreat. It was a fun and creative session for all of us, and the best part was when the Vestry came up with the idea of starting a regular series of Stewardship Minutes to be presented by a different member of the congregation each week, highlighting a different ministry, and starting right away (that next Sunday)!
Since they got started in March, the Stewardship Minutes have continued, scheduled by the Vestry, and presented by Vestry and other members of the congregation, who share personal stories about the exciting ministries of St. James.
And that means that this fall, when it's time for the pledge campaign, that campaign will be built on a deeper and broader understanding of all of the church's good works and ministries. That is an example of year-round Stewardship. And that makes real the weekly blessing: "Send us out to do the work you have given us to do."
This newsletter is produced by the Bishop's Office in conjunction with the Diocesan Council for Stewardship. To subscribe, contact Cynthia McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have lots of additional stewardship resources available for your use, including the Diocese of Newark website and our Stewardship Matters Facebook Page.
Please reach out to Cynthia McChesney, Advisor to the Bishop for Stewardship and Leadership Giving at cmcchesney@dioceseofnewark if you have suggestions for future topics, or would like information on scheduled workshops. We can also provide small group stewardship coaching. Some topics include: Stewardship best Practices; Just in Time Stewardship; Asset Mapping; Spiritual Giftedness. Let us know what would be helpful!