October 8, 2018

Stewardship Ministry – Make it Happen (pt. 1)

In this column, we’ve looked at some applications of Michael Hyatt’s “Best Year Ever” teaching to our stewardship ministries.  We started by looking at some beliefs that limit us – lies of the enemy that discourage us before we get started down the path of stewardship ministry.  In April, we discovered the importance of assessing where our congregations are in their understanding and practice of stewardship.  In June we turned the corner to look at designing the future, emphasizing Hyatt’s concept of SMARTER goals.  We were challenged to prayerfully think through goals for our stewardship ministries based on this framework. Last time, we emphasized the importance of understanding the motivations behind our stewardship ministry goals – finding our “why” so that we have the motivation to continue when obstacles arise.

In this newsletter and the next, we’ll conclude the series by looking at Hyatt’s twelve steps for realizing our stewardship ministry goals.  The specific goals will be different for each of us, but the framework for accomplishing them is consistent.  We’ll take the first six steps this month and conclude next month with the last six.  Note that these are not necessarily in chronological order, but are different steps to take to stay on the path.

  1. Get off your “but”.  Don’t let circumstances become excuses for not making progress.  Recognize the circumstances, update your goals if necessary, but remember why you’re on the path of stewardship ministry.  Don’t settle for, “I’d love to start a stewardship ministry, but…” thinking. Recognize God’s power to overcome obstacles and pray for his intervention as well as his direction.
  2. Don’t overthink it.  This one is my favorite, because it’s my biggest tendency.  Planning can become a substitute for action.  The best plans are the ones you actually put into action.  Remember, it’s easier to turn around a car that’s moving than a car that’s parked.  Move in a direction, and make adjustments as you need to.  So, for example, don’t spend month after month devising a grand plan.  Start small, execute something, and make adjustments as you need to..
  3. Chunk down your goals.  Stewardship ministry is more of a marathon than a sprint, and you can’t start the marathon at the finish line.  You need to take step after step, and achieve mile after mile.  Break down bigger goals into smaller, more manageable ones.  This has the dual advantage of providing the encouragement of accomplishment and of confirming that you’re on the right path toward the bigger goals.
  4. Get it on your calendar.  This goes for both goals and tasks.  On your personal ministry calendar, plan out what you need to do in order to accomplish the ministry goals.  And get something on the church’s calendar, with the help of your church leadership.  Many churches have found it helpful to create an annual cycle of stewardship ministry events that their congregations become accustomed to.  For example, some congregations offer a class like Freed-Up Financial Living each January, as individuals and families are planning their budgets for the year.  The Stewardship Ministry Pack can provide ideas for what a year-round stewardship ministry might look like.
  5. Honor your commitments.  Of course, when it comes to any kind of ministry, some things are beyond our control.  We may set a goal of having a stewardship class in January only to be overridden by some other ministry priority of the church, for example.  God does not hold us accountable for things that are beyond our control, but good stewardship of our ministry requires that we both make effective plans and then live up to our commitments to execute them.
  6. Review your goals and key motivations.  Here’s where it makes sense to have goals of two different kinds – goals that are project-related and goals that are results-oriented.  For example, a project goal might be something like, “Hold a stewardship training class in January of next year.”  But we also need to think through the “why” – what do we hope to accomplish by holding such a class?  Do we hope to reduce the debt load of our congregation?  Do we hope to improve our congregation’s practices of living within our means?  Think of the results you want to accomplish for God’s honor in your congregation – this can help keep you going when the specific plans you’re making don’t always come to fruition the way you envisioned.

These aren’t steps to perform in isolation, but rather key activities to keep your goals in front of you and to keep you moving toward them.  Often, many of these need to be considered together.  For example, suppose you fall behind in your plan to launch a stewardship ministry.  First, you won’t know you’re behind unless you’re reviewing your goals and your progress against them.

If you then come to realize that a key factor was lack of buy-in from church leadership, don’t let that become an excuse or a discouragement.  Instead, review your motivations to understand why stewardship ministry is important to you (and to God!); confess any sin or unwise action that might have contributed to the problem (for example, lack of effective communication with key leaders); and adjust your goals as needed.

We’ll conclude next time with six more steps to help keep you on track to accomplishing your stewardship ministry goals.