Let's imagine two farms side by side. In one farm, you and your family live. You have everything you need to grow the food that you and your family need. But to make it work, you have to think like a farmer. You need to plant the crops at the right time, ensure they get sun, water them, and take out the weeds. Even though you can't control the weather, you prepare for it. When the growing season ends, you harvest the crops and save the seeds for next year.
Now, at the farm next door, another family also has everything they need to feed themselves. But instead of "thinking like a farmer"--following the year-round cycle of planting seeds, caring for them, and patiently waiting to harvest--this family hastily plants seeds as the weather starts to turn cooler and impatiently watches to see what happens next. Which of those farms will be successful?
Effective Christian stewardship is very much like farming. Just like the farmer who diligently tends to the seeds throughout the growing season, spending time and energy on stewardship education throughout the year sets us up for success when the time for harvest comes.
When we think of Stewardship as only a short, concentrated effort that only happens for a month or two, without investing time in Christian stewardship education throughout the year, it's like a farmer standing in an autumn field, shouting at a handful of seeds: "GROW!"
So the good news is . . .it's May, and as church leaders we still have time to plant seeds, water them, protect them, and prepare them for harvest. We have time to get working on Christian stewardship education. Here are a few ideas to get started:
Foster stewardship discussions at vestry meetings: Make Christian stewardship a regular topic of discussion at every vestry meeting. Help the entire vestry, as elected leaders of the church, to understand the importance of stewardship, and that they have an active role to play. Encourage open conversations about stewardship practices, challenges, and opportunities. By integrating stewardship discussions into their meetings, the vestry members can become ambassadors of stewardship education within the congregation.
Regular pledge statements: Pledge statements remind parishioners that their pledge dollars are at work throughout the year. These statements serve as an opportunity to showcase the progress and impact of parishioners' pledges on church ministry. If your church does not currently provide regular statements, consider starting this practice now. For churches already implementing pledge statements, how might they be more personal?
Broadening understanding: Expand the church community's understanding of stewardship by encouraging committees and groups within the church to align their ministries with stewardship. A church's Buildings and Grounds Committee can be a pretty natural place to start (are there ways to be better stewards of our environment through sustainable practices?) but why not expand those conversations more widely? Encourage parishioners to think meaningfully of what it means to be "a good steward," in their home and church life.
Team and Theme for the Fall: This is a good time to get a head start on the fall's pledge campaign, beginning with the campaign committee. This is also the perfect time to agree on this year's campaign theme. Click here for a workshop we held last year on the subject.
Happy planting season!
Missioner for Stewardship and Legacy Giving