Stewardship Conversations: Churches and Stewardship Ministry
This month we continue our conversation with Sid Yeomans, President of Good $ense Movement, focusing on common ways in which our congregation members might struggle with stewardship and how churches address these struggles.
GS: In your experience, how well does church leadership generally understand their congregation regarding stewardship and stewardship struggles?
Sid: Money is often the “great silent subject” for pastors. In many cases, they have not received training or have not personally studied the second most-mentioned topic in all of Scripture. Sometimes their hesitancy is because talking about money can be perceived to be self-serving. For some pastors, it may be hard to preach and teach with integrity when their own finances are not in order. There may also be a concern that people will get upset when the subject of money is taught.
Forward momentum can be found by delving into how the Bible speaks to the very money issues that concern many seekers, and it does so in “seeker friendly” ways. Much of what turns people off over the church talking about money is that we often do so only in the context of a budgetary crisis or the annual “stewardship drive.” The reality is that, whether one is a Christ-follower or not, following the biblical advice regarding earning, saving, navigating debt, spending (yes, and giving too), results in financial health. The Bible is a good economic textbook!
My experience tells me that there are those in every congregation who have a passion and the gifts for this kind of ministry. Good theology says so, too! Because of the average church’s silence on the topic, many of those folks have never dreamed that there was a place for their passion and gifts to be exercised. Sound the call, and they will respond!
GS: What is the biggest struggle that church members typically have regarding stewardship?
Sid: Understanding what stewardship is and why it is important is often the biggest struggle. At stake are the answers to these questions: “Whom do we serve?” (Matt 6:21); “Where is our heart?” (Matt. 6:24); and “To where will our love of money lead?” (1Tim.6:10). We must grow in our understanding of how deeply interrelated our relationship to our money is to our relationship to God.
Stewardship is built on a set of financial principles that reflect what the Bible teaches about managing money. The overarching and most important of the principles is the cultivation of a steward’s (or trustee’s) mindset (a mindset where one views oneself as a trustee — as opposed to an owner — of all they possess). Additional principles have to do with the four things you can do with money — give it, save it, pay debt with it or spend it. Biblically we are called to be generous givers, wise savers, cautious debtors and prudent spenders.
The conviction that a lack of a biblical understanding of — and relationship to — our money can imperil our relationship to God has motivated the development of these ministry resources.
GS: What has worked – and what hasn’t – for churches in addressing this struggle?
Sid: For participants drawing closer to Christ through a stewardship ministry, experience has shown that people will attend with proper encouragement and that attendance tends to grow during the second and third offerings (as word circulates regarding the benefits of the course/event/small group community). With “up-front” pastoral encouragement, advanced publicity, assurance of confidentiality and realization that the course is not just about getting people to give more money to the church, participation is often greater than anticipated!
Within the stewardship ministry itself, because serving opportunities are generally done “solo” (e.g. budget coaching), small groups are particularly vital to the ministry. The ministry presents an opportunity to create several types of small groups for encouragement/growth/community:
- New coaches who complete coaches training;
- Experienced coaches who would otherwise be unconnected;
- Teachers who teach ministry programs;
- Course attendees who want deeper study about specific money topics;
- People who choose to engage in the coaching process in a group setting rather than one-on-one