Why it may be time to end your church stewardship committee

Why does your church have a stewardship or generosity committee?  What is the point?  When I ask church leaders these questions, I don’t get the rapid response for which I am hoping.  Or, in those few times when I do, I often hear one or a blend of the following answers: “To help our members live more generous lives”, and “To enable our members to thoughtfully steward all God has entrusted to them”.  These responses are expected and should be among the core reasons church communities commission these teams.

My standard follow-up questions in these intake exercises are: “What ways are your church stewardship committee engaging this mission statement? Through what mediums are they helping members live generous lives? Name them.”  This is where the intake tends to slow down and the exercise of crafting appropriate work for the stewardship committee begins.  Most of these committees aren’t doing much work at all.

Another, possibly greater, misstep I often uncover is that the work being done is not closely aligned to the commissioned team’s mission statement.  Think of the typical church campaign that raises funds for an operating or capital budget.  Are these campaigns purely for the purpose of inspiring generous living or inspiring commitments to support a unified budget?  If the reason for the campaign is not aligned to the mission statement, which usually is the case, the committee’s mission is compromised.  When this happens, is it any wonder why committees operating with this misalignment are struggling to engage meaningful work and a clearer path forward?

Get aligned.  This is the way ahead for some stewardship committees.  Pause your work, gather for a retreat, and evaluate your activities up against your mission.  If you are not aligned, renew your focus with new goals and desired outcomes.

Or, you can quit.  Start over.  Throw the old statement away and begin again.  Why not?  If the work was not meaningful and the team was not engaged, what do you have to lose by bringing about a completely new stewardship ministry?

Here is an important secret to learn. Quitting is not always failure, and quitting can make way for the new and needed work.  Once more, if the team was not engaged and the work was not meaningful, what do you have to lose by bringing about a completely new stewardship ministry?

Here is one formula for quitting and beginning again:

  • Get the key people and the team itself to agree it is not working as is. Get the buy-in that it is time to reinvent.
  • Assemble a new team. Do this with enthusiasm and purpose. Stewardship ministry matters.  Inspire the people you want to serve on this team to say “yes”.
  • For the first meeting, don’t be overly distracted by the work of stewardship ministry in the past. Remember, you are beginning again—starting from scratch.  You can now dream and craft a new mission statement.
  • Narrow your mission down to one word. In the last two years, this has been my challenge to stewardship teams and I have discovered it to be helpful.  In one word, what is the mission of your team?  What one word conveys the behaviors you are hoping the members of your church will more consistently engage as a result of stewardship ministry?  One church community has chosen the word, “First”.  Not only is the church community the First Presbyterian church in their city, but they also discerned the call for giving and sharing to be the first, prioritized financial activity of church members.  Membership is encouraged to practice generosity first, not after all spending habits are satisfied.  After choosing this word, new goals emerged.  One was the beginning of a stewardship class that shared ways for members to renew spending habits and be more intentional at sharing practices.  They have alignment!

Stewardship ministry is important—and as important as all other ministries in the church.  Treat it as such.  Give it your best thinking and invest enough time to inspire the right people to be a part of it.

Is the work of your church stewardship team aligned with the mission statement?  Who are key people in your community that can help renew the stewardship ministry?  What do you have to lose by starting over?  What do you have to gain?

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