October 2018 Good $ense Newsletter
Cleaning Up Our Finances
How do you clean? At home, are you the type of person who would prefer to have things simply organized and picked up or do you prefer to have surfaces not just picked up but completely sanitized? Myself, I prefer to have my space picked up and organized daily. My husband and I are deeply impacted by our environments. If there is order in our environment, then we are able to relax and have fun. Roughly once a week, we will spend time cleaning countertops, vacuuming floors, sometimes dusting furniture, cleaning smudges off of windows, etc.
This process has worked well for years. However, I completely missed one item we use daily, our microwave. Last week, I looked into our microwave and I was appalled. This appliance sits high above our stove top and just barely at eye level for me. How could something I use daily be so terribly messy? Okay we have a problem. Not only was it messy but I needed to decide which method should I use to clean it. Chemicals? Vinegar? Water? One thing for certain- lots of elbow grease! If you cannot relate to this at all, have you ever looked inside your office microwave?
Finances are a lot this way. We may be going through the motions, doing repetitious practices from week to week. And yet, there may be something off. Something not quite right. There’s lots of approaches, methods and suggestions on how to clean up our finances. Most approaches will suggest when and how to focus on finances but doing so does require a lot of elbow grease and unfortunately there’s no microwave option for adjusting finances. Why? Because finances really a heart issue. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Freed-Up Financial Living is intentionally designed as a 6-week course so that the participants make time to focus on their heart. Focusing on your heart allows God to move in your life through the area of finances, grow closer to Him and allow God to use you for his Glory. Become a Diligent Earner, a Generous Giver, Wise Saver, Cautious Debtor and a Prudent Consumer. To find out what money motivation personality you have and what the Bible has to say on the issue of money, check out the FREE Money Motivation quiz and List of Scriptures: https://goodsensemovement.org/resources/freed-up-financial-living/
Good $ense Movement
Transforming Finances! Transforming Lives!
A Better Stewardship Year, pt. 5
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.
- 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.
- 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..
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Truths That Transform: The Steward’s Mindset (pt. 3)
We Are Stewards of God’s Possessions
In this column, we’ve affirmed that God created all things and that he continues to own and care for all he created. One result of that is that we don’t truly own anything; we are merely caretakers or stewards of what are ultimately God’s possessions. We have this responsibility and privilege for a short time; then those possessions will pass (one way or another) into someone else’s care for a while.
In the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21), Jesus tells the story of a man who had more than enough – so much that he did not have room to store it all. Rather than give some away to the poor, he decided to build bigger barns to hold the excess. Then he would take life easy, because he had all he needed (rather than continuing to work and providing for others). But God let him know that his time on earth was up.
This man did not see himself as a steward of God’s possessions; rather, he saw himself as the owner. As a result, it did not matter to him that God had blessed him in order to bless others through him; he saw his riches as solely the result of his own work and as solely for his own benefit. He did not consider that life here is brief.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells three parables showing various facets of his return and the consummation of the Kingdom of Heaven. The second of these three parables tells the story of a man going on a long journey (Matthew 25:14-30). Before departing, he entrusts varying amounts of money to three of his servants, based on their abilities. Two of the servants act as wise stewards, working with the money and investing it so as to bring returns for their master. The third servant wants nothing to do with stewardship, and merely buries the money and then returns it. On his return, the master commends the two servants who acted as faithful stewards and condemns the servant who did not.
Taken together, these two parables illustrate two aspects of God’s ownership and our stewardship:
- God’s ownership is permanent, while our stewardship is temporary
- As the owner, God expects and deserves faithful stewardship from his servants, and faithful stewardship will receive a reward at Jesus’ return.
So stewardship is more than just recognizing God’s ownership. It’s more than avoiding conspicuous consumerism (though it includes that). It’s being faithful with the resources he has provided – faithful to bless others and to honor him. Faithful to multiply those resources for God’s use.
Money Matters: Culture or Scripture?
Adapted from Freed-Up Financial Living
In school they tell us we’re being equipped to earn it. Then for the rest of our lives — for as many as fifty or sixty hours a week — we’re busy making it. We invest countless hours in thought and discussion deciding how to deal with it. We walk around shopping malls for hours on end determining how we’re going to spend it. We’re caught up more often than we’d like to admit worrying we won’t have enough of it. We dream and scheme to figure out ways to acquire more of it.
Arguments over it are a leading cause for marital disintegration. Despair over losing it has even led to suicide. Passion for it causes much of society’s crime. The absence of it causes many of society’s nightmares. Some view it as the root of all evil, while others think of it as the means for great good.
One thing is clear: we cannot afford to ignore the reality of the importance of money.
Our culture isn’t ignoring it. We’re bombarded hundreds if not thousands of times daily with messages that foster discontentment and encourage us to adopt the values of our culture with regard to money. We’ve made it painless to spend money by using credit cards and smartphone apps rather than cash. We’ve made it quick and easy to spend with one-click shopping. Our culture pulls us into spending to accomplish values that it encourages us not to think too deeply about.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of information on this crucial matter in the Bible. More than two thousand Scripture passages touch on the theme of money. Jesus spoke about it frequently. About two-thirds of Jesus’ parables make reference to our use of financial resources. He once warned that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
He talked often about these matters because he understood what was at stake. He knew that, left to our own devices, this area would quickly become a source of pain and frustration — and sometimes bondage. Worse, he saw how easily our hearts would be led astray from pure devotion to God into areas of worry and even obsession over possessions. He wanted to protect us from these pitfalls and to show us the liberty that comes from following God fully in every area of life, including this one.
Given all that rides on our understanding and use of money, how is your congregation doing in this critical area? Is there a general understanding of how God would have us think about and use the resources he has put in our care? Or is stewardship just another word for what goes in the offering plate? If your congregation could use some help in this area, check out Freed-Up Financial Living, Good $ense’s flagship stewardship resource. We’d love to help you spread vision and commitment to stewardship in your church!