Ten good stewardship habits

Progressively bigger stacks of coins grow plant shoots.
 on November 1, 2014

At this time each year, many parishes embark on intentional-giving pledge drives. It is a time of great anticipation, as volunteers take stock of their accomplishments over the past year and dream about future ministry possibilities. For some parishes, this is the only slot on the calendar when time is devoted to discussing stewardship or pledging or a myriad of other topics expressly focused on finances.

Here are 10 good stewardship habits that need to be encouraged by our parish leadership if stewardship is to be more widely embraced in our parishes:

  1. Preach about stewardship. While it might seem obvious that we need a dialogue about generosity, there is a general reluctance to preach on this topic. A good sermon, preached seasonally, will help reinforce our understanding of stewardship as being inherently biblical.
  2. Promote stewardship education in all parish media. This includes newsletters, parish bulletins, bulletin boards, social media and websites. Include some sort of testimony, lay witness, reflection or ministry update. It all helps to keep the stewardship message relevant.
  3. Celebrate volunteerism. Single out a parish ministry each week and celebrate its work in front of the whole congregation.
  4. Say thank you. The church benefits by having one of the most captive audiences in the not-for-profit sector, and they should not be taken for granted. Think of ways to publicly acknowledge the giftedness of others.
  5. Encourage your parish to tithe to outreach. The tithe remains the measure of generosity that is most widely admired and yearned for, and it is a challenge for most of us. It is precisely because it is such a challenge that parishes should lead by example and endeavour to donate 10 per cent of their revenue to outreach, including 5 per cent to FaithWorks.
  6. Talk about leaving a legacy of faith. Legacy giving is not a well-established tradition in the Anglican Church. If we made a commitment to dedicate one Sunday each year to promote gifts through wills and estates, an important foundation will be laid for future generations.
  7. Encourage pre-authorized giving. By making a monthly gift to the church through our bank account, we demonstrate the important role the church plays in our lives and the value we place on ensuring that the ministry needs of the church are met.
  8. Lead by example. Churchwardens and clergy need to be examples of good stewardship. Their enthusiasm for stewardship education is essential. Incumbents need to be seen as financial supporters of the parish as well.
  9. Develop an annual narrative budget. A narrative budget shows what ministries were supported by the previous year’s offerings and how the vestry is budgeting resources to carry out the congregation’s mission. It helps the vestry demonstrate its accountability to the rest of the membership so that its accountability inspires trust, and trust inspires commitment.
  10. Conduct an annual intentional giving campaign. Christian disciples need to be moulded and fashioned. They need to be taught about what it means to be generous and then be invited to give of their own time, talent and treasure.

Stewardship is more than an intentional giving campaign held in the weeks after Thanksgiving. If stewardship is to become a way of life – that is, a lived-out example of how we profess our Christianity – then we need to find ways of incorporating it into our daily lives.

Too often parishes seek a quick fix for their financial stewardship decline. They mistakenly believe that if they implement a giving campaign in the fall – and experience the anticipated 15 per cent increase in giving – then all will be fine. But what is wrong with aiming for robust growth and transformation by implementing a year-round process? Change takes time, patience, energy and a willingness to trust the process. Our most successful parishes are examples that growth is possible precisely because of the investment that leadership makes.


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