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A Look at STEWARDSHIP Programs
Plus some theological, practical, and cultural musings
Any campaign should begin with and be conducted with a “biblical basis” and a “spiritual focus.” The focus is first on stewardship, then on the money.
Stewardship ought to be integrated holistically into the entire ministry and mission of a congregation. The actual campaign to “fund” the budget is only one part of the education, worship, and mission arising out of stewardship over the year.
“Stewardship is not only a matter of money. But it is never LESS than a matter of money.”
“Jesus summed up the spiritual connection between money and God this way: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). Financial stewardship is treasure management that helps us to escape the trap of selfishness by keeping ourselves spiritually focused on God. Each of us makes two choices in life. We either become emotionally attached to our money, or we become emotionally attached to the God who gives us our money.”
–New Consecration Sunday
“Stewardship means using the gifts God has given us to produce God’s shalom on earth.”
--Celebrate the Gift: Stewardship Beyond Survival
As we think about the acts of God on our behalf, our hearts respond with gratitude …
Then, as we think about living grateful lives, we realize that we are not really developing a theology of stewardship. Instead, we are discovering a theology which draws us directly into a life of stewardship.
Given these understandings, and building on the biblical base, stewardship is the responsive practice of Christians making proper use of the gifts God has given them for the sake of God's work in the world and is marked by the following elements:
That recognition includes the realization that the steward is the Lord's as well.
2. Stewards understand that, while they are given a great deal of freedom, they are not autonomous. The owner will review their work. Just as the potter molds the clay (Jeremiah 18:1-13), so the Lord of Creation shapes the life of the steward. To realize this is to realize, as well, that stewardship is not a matter of finding rules but recognizing that the whole of life is under the Rule of the Redeemer. Therefore, a life of stewardship will be an "exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world." (Book of Order G-1.0200)
3. Stewards are not just caretakers. They are to hand on their work with improvements. In creation, God instructed humankind to "be fruitful and multiply." Stewards will be creative and productive with the resources they have.
4 Stewards are not beneficiaries - others are. Stewards do not give because they happen to have enough to give. Stewards have received what they have for the very purpose of giving it away. "No surer rule and no more valid exhortation to keep it could be devised than when we are taught that all the gifts we possess have been bestowed by God and entrusted to us on condition that they be distributed for our neighbor's benefit." (John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.6.5) He goes on to say that since there is no way we can increase God's possessions, the way we extend generosity toward God is by practicing it toward the saints on earth.
5. Stewards are to use and build on the gifts given in a way that reflects the character and purposes of the owner. Therefore, our stewardship should bear witness to the love, mercy and grace of the triune God creates, redeems and sustains the world.
We’ll come back to Callahan but….
Stewardship Programs usually focus motivational prongs from the top half or the bottom half (or both) of the motivational grid. One thing which seems clear is that if you don’t focus on the top half, only the committed will be motivated by the “bottom half”.
Small Churches based on “relationships, not gimmicks” (Tex Sample)
Many of the churches who have chosen not to talk about money directly are concerned about not “embarrassing” members, particularly those who might be facing financial challenges.
This is combined with the conviction that everyone is “doing as much as they can” (which works with high commitment generations)
Fear that running a “high pressure” campaign might offend some people, or that some people might leave through anger or embarrassment
Many of our churches began as outposts for receiving mission—they were the place for support for people whose liveswere very hard. They never have “seen” themselves asbeing missional in outreach
On to the Programs:
“The Pony Express, the leading complete stewardship program, has been fulfilling the needs of more than 22,000 congregations around the country for over 25 years. This famous relay system is unsurpassed for maximizing responses from your church members. Now with first, second, and third year versions, The Pony Express has proven so effective that many churches use it time and again.”
Here's How The Popular Relay System Works
Prior to the solicitation of financial commitments, members who are mobile are divided into ten-houshold "Pony Express Run" routes. A special saddlebag is prepared for each route. It contains financial stewardship reading material as well as unsealed enclosure envelopes containing "estimate of giving" cards. Attached to the saddlebag strap is a list showing the names, street addresses and phone numbers of the route families and the "trail boss" recruited and trained to supervise the bag relay from home to home.
Here's How The Popular Relay System Works
After the noon hour on the Sunday you designate, the trail bosses and their families start the Pony Express Run by sitting down in their homes and carefully digesting the motivational stewardship reading booklet. Then, each prayerfully fills in their estimated giving during the coming year, stewardship booklet is returned to the pouch from which it was removed. Next, the saddlebag is hurried on to the second household on the route list.
This second household repeats the process and then, within 24 hours, delivers the saddlebag to the third one for it's use. Returning home, this delivering "route rider" household reports by phone to the trail boss that the bag has been handed to a responsible member of the receiving household. After the last one on the route has used the bag, it is relayed back to the trail boss-- who delivers to the church office the "church mail" it contains.
Route-assigned households who were "missed" during the Run are sent letters with estimate of giving cards and return envelopes enclosed. They agree urged to respond without delay, ahead of the Sunday on which the summary report of the results of the campaign is made.
Prior to the Run, alert homebound members and members too scattered to have been placed on neighborhood routes will have received in the mail their estimate cards and return envelopes--with the invitation to let their postal carrier assist them in participating in their church's campaign. Or, as an option, special routes will have been created the these persons, with trail bosses recruited to relay the bags on for them.
What--No Pledge Cards?
That's right! The Pony Express Plan does not ask members to sign pledge cards. Nor does it call for "officials from the church" to call on members seeking their financial commitments. Part of the magic of this different approach is that it "wires around" the objections many members have to "signing a pledge."
The second year plan builds on the success and familiarity your congregation already has with the First year program. However, along with new artwork and letters there are several new additions.
Second Year PX Stewardship Education
Prior to the solicitation of estimates of giving, members are encouraged to engage in a study of Christian stewardship through their Sunday morning classes. The teachers' guides for the four week adult study and the three week youth study are both titled, Stewardship-Our Heritage.
Run Sunday Motivational Skit
If our church has a celebration worship style, then the delightful "Happy Trails" skit offers you a perfect opportunity to re-excite your members about the saddlebag relay AND remind them how it works
Second Year Phone Follow Up Solicitation
Immediately following the saddlebag relay, you will have the opportunity to let a phone team contact relay"missed" families and others to invite them to make verbal giving estimates. Suggested conversation scripts, carefully written to fit the categories of persons you may with to phone for follow-up solicitation, are provided. Missed route families who are also missed by the phone team will receive a missed family letter that encloses their estimate cards and a return envelope.
Shortened Relay Time. Whereas the previous Pony Express programs called for the bag to be relayed at 24 hour intervals over a period of up to two weeks, the third year plan calls for the bag to be relayed at 30 to 45 minute intervals on Run Sunday and the following Monday and Tuesday. The big advantage of this abbreviated Run, obviously, is that it gets the campaign completed in an even shorter time that before! You will be pleased to learn that the overwhelming majority of third year user churches have experienced satisfaction AND success with the shortened relay timeline.
Serious Stewardship Education. These excellent resources provide teaching materials to be used in three Sunday church school sessions prior to the solicitation of estimates.
And, stewardship involvement materials for older and younger elementary age children are provided, too.
Church-wide Chuck Wagon Dinner. Chuck Wagon Dinner Sunday, which involves the entire congregation, is held in the dining room/fellowship hall or other spacious facility the week prior to Run Sunday. The primary purpose of this popular event is to present to the membership the planned program and budget for the coming year. An important secondary purpose is to re-enforce positive feelings toward the church by creating a warm Christian atmosphere in which members may experience enjoyable fellowship.
Stewardship Beyond Survival by Leo Waynick
The theme, “Celebrate the Gift” invites us to rejoice both in the gifts with which we have been blessed and in God’s gifts of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The theme and logo are drawn from 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, which describes our giftedness.
One of 5 10-week programs in the Stewardship Beyond Survival Series.
The "Celebrate the Gift" program interprets stewardship in terms of gifts. It invites your congregation to rejoice both in the gifts with which you have been blessed and in God's gifts of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
On four Sundays prior to "Celebrate the Gift" Sunday, celebration cards are used to help members celebrate what they enjoy and appreciate about the Christian faith and your congregation. The cards are displayed in a prominent place in your church after they are completed each Sunday so that they may be read as people come to worship.
Confident Steward 2.0: A Year-round Stewardship Program
A year-round stewardship program consists of three major components only one of which is the financial campaign. The three components are:
Stewardship Education …Mission Interpretation …Financial Stewardship
Stewardship education is that portion of the program that helps the members of congregations understand the meaning of stewardship both biblically and theologically. Members of all ages are taught the lessons of what it means to be the stewards of the gifts of God. This program will help you locate and plan for stewardship education for all ages year round.
Mission is the way that disciples use the gifts of God to show God’s grace to each other and to the world. An active mission interpretation program helps people understand the opportunities and the results of their stewardship. This program will link you to the latest information about the denominational mission program — in the presbytery, synod and General Assembly. It will also help you develop materials and presentations that will interpret your local mission.
Financial Stewardship is the method by which we obtain commitment to the life of discipleship. This is done primarily through a financial campaign that provides the means for those commitments to be made. These campaigns often include the opportunity to make commitment of time and talent as well as money.
This interactive CD and Web-based year-round stewardship program
CDs Available ($10.95 each):
Each CD includes a Getting started page with samples and materials for that particular approach. The rest of the CD is the same for each theme. (Let’s Look at a demo).
The problem with Commitment Sundays/pledge drive: first 50 households give; second 50 don’t give much, but the harvest is:
Might think about a campaign which is organized on compassion, community, hope
We are grateful for the compassion and generosity of God’s gifts in our lives.
We are thankful for the Hope with which God blesses us.
We generously pledge(or estimate our gift) ______ to advance God’s Mission in 2006
Bulletin newsletter: people-centered/family-centered document, not institutional document
Six ways people give generously
All six are available to congregations
Spontaneous 3-5 causes–save 2 of these out of budget for special cause impulse giving
If you do not make it available to your people, they will give to other organizations
Major Project: blueprint for mission
Positive reinforcement raises more generosity any day than negative reinforcement every day
When congregation is doing well, say “thank you well done”
Send confirmation “thank you” confirming pledge
Thank for current, increased, first time, new recorded contributions, special gifts–personal notes for all of these. Recruit some whose spiritual gift is writing notes of encouragement.
Make Statements “Thank You” Statements and include Encouragement Letters
About all “canned” programs:
Honestly Erin, the best advice I can give on my years of using all the ones that you will be describing. They will all work extremely well if you have a committed team of planners, enablers, and carry it outers. I have not seen any significant change in commitment, except if the message comes from the heart and soul of those getting the message out.
In our experience the Consecration Sunday tended to spin the figures by inflating what those who weren’t there were likely to give. 3 out of our 4 years we came in lower.
The worst campaign is letter form.
We had some pretty good success with a Phone-a-thon type of program for three years in a row. We used one of our local church member's business establishments and tied up 4 phone lines. People were told they would be getting phone calls.
The last two years the Session has designed a program around some themes that began to be presented through marketing in early September. This was followed by some intentional designs of graphics reflecting theme and materials mailed to people along with some Mission moments in church. The results compared with that of Consecration Sunday. It depends on who your workers are and how committed the are willing to be --Gary Lyon
For the past few years, we dwelt on money at the congregational meeting which occurs the week prior to the stewardship dinner. An elder walks through the budget, quickly summarizing parts and taking questions.
On the day of the stewardship dinner, copies of the budget are made available and another opportunity for questions is given. But a major focus of the Stewardship Dinner is recognition of the commissioned service of the Visitation Teams.
Pledges are dedicated in worship on a Sunday around this time. Lately we're getting about 40% of the cards returned.
Prior to the congregational meeting, our campaign has consisted lately of a direct mailing including a copy of the line-item budget, a fact sheet highlighting parts of the budget, a copy of the current year's mission plan, a pledge card and a letter written by a different person (or people) from year to year.
Last fall, 2 of our youth who attended the triennium wrote thanking the congregation for their support and acknowledging the nurture they’ve received over the years.
This past year we did leadership pledging. When the letter went out, it included the fact that 25% of the budget was already pledged by the session and deacons.
Hope this is helpful. We are ready to do something different -- probably a narrative budget to be mailed with the pledge card. We've done those before with some success.
--Cowansville First Union Church, Mary Marks King
Let Your AttitudeBe Gratitude!