Why Do Year-Round Stewardship?
By Betsy Schwarzentraub
Director of Stewardship, CA-NV Annual Conference
When national stewardship leader Eugene Grimm did some stewardship training in our Conference a few years ago, he described what year-round stewardship is and is not.
Year-round stewardship is not a way to get money out of people every month of the year, he said. Likewise, it is not really a church program at all. Rather, it is:
- A spiritual matter (first, foremost and always);
- A lifestyle: part of our daily Christian living; and
- An ongoing, permanent part of the congregation's life and ministry, where "the bottom line" is Jesus Christ.
Another way of saying this is that year-round stewardship is an intentional effort to strengthen and support members in understanding our role as God's stewards of all that God has given us. This can occur by offering education, information, and involvement in a holistic stewardship ministry.
So, given these descriptions of year-round stewardship, why would church leaders make the effort to do it? Here are at least five reasons I can think of to participate in year-round stewardship within our congregations:
1. Through it, we learn that stewardship is a lens through which we can see all of our ministries. Once we learn to look at ourselves, our involvements, and the world through this set of glasses, we discover that every aspect of living is the occasion for managing what we've been given on behalf of God: our relationships; use of time; individual abilities; common talents; money and possessions; church, work and family lives; health; and all the rest. We become aware that we are meant to be "good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (See 1 Peter 4:10-11)
2. A year-round approach teaches people the bedrock of stewardship education, upon which everything else is built. As the message and experiences sink in, our church members learn more about the Bible and seek to apply great stewardship, practically and personally. We naturally think and act more like stewards and less like owners or consumers. And we stop "selling" the congregation's programs and services (as if we were doing secular fundraising), and trust that giving money and everything else is a natural, joyful, freely-initiated process. (See 2 Cor. 9:6-7)
3. Through year-round stewardship, we can promote life-long development of our personal stewardship, as we learn and practice new behavior, placing one spiritual building block on top of another. "Growing givers' hearts" is the way one book (of the same title) puts it. The Scripture describes it as building up the Body of Christ, growing to maturity, where different parts of the corporate body build one another up in love. (See Eph. 4:11-16)
4. Practicing year-round stewardship provides a channel for individuals to give according to their values, so the people and projects they care deeply about are not relegated to an on-again, off-again existence based on shaky funding. How many times in our local churches have we voiced a deep passion for a specific ministry, started out with a plan or a staff person, and then had to drop the effort because we didn't have an ongoing funding base? Through year-round stewardship, people can learn to support their values in an intentional, ongoing way, through their personal involvement, money and prayers. (See 2 Cor. 8:1-6)
5. Year-round stewardship also gives a connection between worship and mission and a context for interpreting our connectional ministries. Instead of multiple one-time presentations that might be forgotten quickly, we can offer events and resources under a unifying year-long theme, tying it in together and reinforcing our call as disciples of Jesus Christ. This gives people a single message that gets through even to "those on the run" in our jam-packed, everyday lives. (See Hab. 2:2-3)