Dec. 27 - Giving well is part of living well "While I can give to Lutheran World Hunger and know they are being really careful with my money, I decided I would give with a little less caution this year. … We have an extravagant God who makes me feel rich with all that I have been given. I want to pass that feeling on." From Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
Tell the Christmas rescue story. "Here's the truth about Christmas we need to remember: God loves us so much that the very Sovereign of the Universe staged a daring rescue, arriving in person to save us from sin, death and the power of Satan. And God did it with boldness and dramatic revelation about the nature of the Divine Heart."
A new vision for your congregation. So, it’s been a while since you reviewed your congregation’s mission statement, or maybe you don’t have one. Or, you are beginning to look afresh at what you think God is calling your congregation to do at this critical time in your history. And you’d like to know how to proceed. This free guide is designed to help. Also available by PDF download. By Mark Staples of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
5 ways to beat the clock .Stewardship of your personal time -- it may be the first resource management priority. This article lists five tips for young adults, but they really apply to all of us. From Campus Life magazine.
Dec. 20 - The name God chose. "When the shepherds asked what he would be called, they told them God had chosen the name. It was to be Jesus! ‘Jesus – ah, yes, “The Lord saves!”’ they must softly have responded. And as the wise men from the East bowed reverently before the child, the parents explained that God had chosen the name Jesus for him, because he would save his people from their sins." The 2004 Christmas message from John Larsson, General of the Salvation Army.
Generosity is about passing along God's grace. "Generosity is about giving out of abundance and thankfulness to others even when they don't deserve. Jesus talked a lot about giving to the poor. The term deserving poor is not there. Giving is not even about who the recipients are – it is enough that they are God's children. Generosity is about who we are as givers." Dana Reardon's weekly column.
The national gift crisis. "We are so blessed as a nation in material goods, it’s extremely hard work for many of us to come up with gifts for our loved ones that they actually 1) need, 2) want, or 3) can use. For most of the world’s population living day-to-day in poverty and despair, that would be a dream come true."
When the Holidays Hurt: 10 ways to cope with loss. "For many people, the holidays are a traditional time of happiness and festivity. However, for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays are a time of mixed emotions. There can be pleasure, but there is also much pain, because the season magnifies the sense of loss." Great advice for individuals or congregational leaders whose parishioners suffer the holiday blues. From Today's Christian magazine.
Dec. 13 - Help 'A Bunch of Guys' make a difference. "The Spirit is out there in the world calling us to see the hungry and the needy and the homeless and to give what we can of our talents and our wealth to become one with that Spirit that calls us. We become one with the Spirit, the breath of life and maybe it is "in there" when we Take a Breath." From Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
Income levels help identify big holiday shoppers Shopping trends reveal a shift in income and wealth, the Christian Science Monitor reports. "In the past 10 years, families in the top 20 percent in income have done extremely well. Despite the brief recession early in this decade and the burden of rising energy prices over the last year, the bottom 20 percent of households did OK over the decade, too. But the middle class has been struggling to keep up, adding debt, saving little."
Dec. 6 - Pass the peace of Christ this Advent. "Christ willingly offers Himself to us to offer us a peace that is beyond comprehension, but nonetheless real. It is a peace that increases with sharing rather than dissipating. It is a little like the loaves and fishes. Broken and blessed, the peace of Christ abounds when it is shared." From Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
A solution to avoid the holiday gift rush. Does Uncle Ed really need another bottle of cologne for the bathroom cabinet? Or Grandma another angel pin? ELCA World Hunger suggests other gifts in its 2004 Alternative Gifts Catalog -- presents that will benefit some of the planet's neediest people. Click here for the online version. Click here for the full PDF version of the catalog. Click here for other alternative gift-giving ideas.
Is your church contributor-friendly? "A smaller percentage of church donations comes via the collection-plate. In fact, a growing number of people do their banking electronically and simply loathe writing checks. Others would rather give their via credit card. Still other donors would be happy to give in-kind donations, stock, real estate or bequests, but they don’t think of it or don't know how. Does your church give them guidance? " From SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.
Nov. 29 - Planned giving awareness in the local church
Teach a new way of giving. Stewardship planners know there are a number of alternative ways to give to the local church than the annual pledge, but do your congregation's members? This article suggests a five-year plan for educating folks in the pews about opportunities for contributing to the ministries. From the United Methodist Church's Center for Christian Stewardship, which has lots of other great resources worth checking out.
Does your church website make it easy for donors? If members want to find out about giving opportunities at your church, would they find the information on your congregation's website? Sadly, the answer is often "no," and congregations lose out on chances to educate and inspire their members to contribute to the ministries. Here are webmaster's choices of several churches and a seminary that do a good job explaining ways folks can donate:
Thanksgiving conquers the darkness of 'entitlement'. "In his insatiable appetite for new toys, my son displayed an attitude that seems epidemic in our culture – that the mountains of stuff he already owns mean nothing in the face of the new toys he wants. We can forgive such childish thoughts coming from, well, a six-year-old boy, but among grown-ups the entitlement mentality is pretty sad." From SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.
Nov. 22 - Thanksgiving in a dangerous time "We all gather. We gather to give thanks. We give thanks that we have been given each other to celebrate with and to mourn, to worry with and to pray with. We give thanks that some of us have enough to share and to truly live the meaning of the words, 'giving thanks' "
Check out 'Buy Nothing Day,' Nov. 27. The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest Christmas shopping day of the year, and that's why the consumer-culture activists at Adbusters.org have been promoting that Friday as "Buy Nothing Day" for 13 years now. Whether or not you jump on their radical bandwagon, Adbusters' provocative material is worth looking at for an alternative vision to the consumer economy. Adbusters.org.
Go in Peace! Serve the Lord! Thanks be to God! "The words above, familiar to millions of Lutherans as the sending prayer to conclude weekly worship, shine brilliantly in their simplicity and power. The prayer captures the essence of our discipleship response to the Gospel."
Gratitude training. "It's a little ironic that the season in which we give thanks and the one in which our children are making their holiday wish lists come so close together. We try to give our children so much, but sometimes forget to give them the greatest gift, the capacity to appreciate and to feel grateful." In this stirring essay in The Christian Science Monitor, a child psychologist offers keen observations and practical advice.
Nov. 15 - Where your treasure is, your heart will be also. "In our lives we want to desperately hold on to what we have -- people, relationships, material possessions, power, prestige, and even money. And we don't want anyone else to tell us what to do with any of them. We tend to think they are ours to have and to hold from this time forth and forever more. But these are only temporary." Inspirational reading from the Rev. Kristi Beebe in The Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Ten things pastors need to know about funding ministry. "Too many churches are interested in teaching generosity truths only when there is a budget crisis or building project in the church," writes Brian Kluth, in this inspiring and practical article from ChurchCentral.com.
Swinging on the blessings of God. "In the rite of baptism in The Lutheran Book of Worship, we reject the Devil and all the Devil’s “empty promises.” In our consumer culture, we are especially vulnerable to the Devil's empty promise that it is our possessions and consumption that will make us happy. Like all the Devil's deceptions, that empty promise leads us away from God and destroys our soul. "
Idea Booklet for Special Giving. A very insightful congregation put together a sort of menu of gift ideas for families and other donors who wanted to give something to the church. It was a simple matter of matching a wish list of church needs -- everything from new lights in the parking lot to new pew cushions -- with estimated prices. Available in HTML or in RTF for easy editing for your own congregation's needs. From First Lutheran Church, ELCA, Eau Claire, Wis., and made available through the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers.
A generous leap of faith. "Making the decision to tithe is a little like jumping off a cliff into the water below. You can hear the water but you can't see it. So you trust that it is there. It really does catch you and hold you and refresh you when you hit it."
Nov. 8 - It blows my mind: Six Points on Stewardship. In this Stewardship Sunday sermon based on 1 Cor. 8:1-15, Pastor Ed Marquart talks about how much God gives us, and how little we tend to give back. "Christ was never cheap. Being a Christian is never cheap. The cross is never cheap. All the stories in the Bible about conversion and discipleship call for total commitment. Christ asks to rule every part of your life and mine: our hearts, our hands, our minds, our mouths, our feet, our everything, including our pocketbooks." From Sermons from Seattle.
Avoiding the connection between faith and money. Especially from the pulpit, money may be the most taboo subject in America, and yet the pastor who refuses to talk about money misses a great opportunity to teach the congregation the real meaning of stewardship. A very inspiring, well-thought-out essay from the Rev. William O. Avery in The Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Nov. 1 - Children show us the joy of sharing. "We should all get as excited as children about passing out whatever is given to us. First we pass out what we got in church: God's love and grace, forgiveness, God's Word or hope. Then we pass out what God has given us to share in the rest of our lives. We share the time and possessions that move through our hands."
Entrusted with much. "Just giving money is not enough if we are to be good and faithful stewards. ... Through our lifestyles the world may witness God’s loving character in action by our effective and proper use of talent, position, and power." From MoodyMagazine.com.
To live fully is the best response to death. "We are all going to die. If no one has pronounced the sentence yet, let me say it now. We are all going to die. I always figure that is why we have Ash Wednesday, in case some of us haven't heard. But what are we going to do between now and the time of our death? Whose lives will we change? What difference will our lives have made to the lives around us and to the world? "
Stewardship Training. Here's a wonderful PowerPoint presentation you can adapt to educate your congregation about the stewardship this year. Pastor Sue Eidahl and the folks at Zion Lutheran Church (ELCA), Stratford, Wis., created the presentation for a past campaign and are making it available through the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers. You can also access the material as a QuikTime movie.
Our ministry visible and invisible. In his letter to his congregation, a stewardship chairman asks members to consider two aspects of ministry. "Over the course of years, what is visible and invisible to you and me may depend on our circumstances, interests, or place in life at the time. The visible church is only a small portion of what [our church] brings to its members. There is much more!" By the Ronald E. Keener in The Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Oct. 18 - The power of ‘entrepreneurial faith’. "It’s the dream of every stewardship committee and pastor serving struggling congregations: Sunday by Sunday more new people fill the pews – and the collection plates – to bring stability then growth. Sounds great, but how do you get there? Incredibly, not by focusing on numbers of congregants and dollars. That’s the advice of two pastors who led dramatic turnarounds in their churches."
More than tipping -- tithing! "Living unthankfully to God is living with a low-grade fever, as dangerous to our health as leprosy. Not contagious or dangerous in itself, it leads to disfigurement, decay! Living gratefully to God, on the other hand, gives us a healthy glow that comes from turning to our Creator. Giving gratitude to God means coming to feel good about ourselves."' By the Rev. Roy Roderick in The Lutheran Laity Movement Archives
Oct. 11 - Stewardship, Faith and Life. "Although we profess a wider understanding of stewardship, we have allowed it to be primarily focused on the given of money. Even when we add time and talent to our discussion, the message we hear is related to money. We need to focus on the 'need of the giver to give' versus the 'need of the institution to receive.' " By Duane Englehardt in The Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
More than balancing the church's books. "I have been hearing and reading what I have already recognized: There is a disparity between what stewardship leaders want to teach and lead and what congregations want. Congregations are looking for a plan to increase the amount of money they take in every week so they can balance the budget and keep the doors open. Stewardship leaders want to talk about generosity as a way of life."
Oct. 4 - A Shower of Blessings Stewardship Thrust -- "What can we do to motivate members about their response to God's blessings?" That was the question stewards from Grace Lutheran Church, ELCA, Eau Claire, Wis., asked. The answer is this full stewardship program, part of the archives of the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers.
Rediscovering God's Mission: A Challenge for 21st Century Christians -- Here is a free study designed to help you and other members of your church to think anew about what the "mission of God" means to you. The study features two lessons. The first takes a look at the total context for mission today. The second explores the levels in which mission is carried forth. Each section concludes with a brief set of questions to consider as an individual or in a class. From Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
The bedrock of stewardship - "A colleague in ministry attended a conference on evangelism and came away rolling his eyes. All the programs and earnest ideas seemed like gimmicks, he said, compared to the simple evangelism strategy he read in Acts 2:42-4. I’ve been mulling it over and think it may apply to the fund-raising and budget making aspects of stewardship as well."
Charity's most valuable gift: Hope - "We who talk stewardship and those who would give need first to be sure in the hope of a better world. We need to see what Jesus saw when he laid hands on a leper or fed hungry people with little. We need to see strong healthy people caring for each other."
Sept. 27 - We must be compassionate, yes, but strong. "Mother Theresa is portrayed as loving and compassionate, and certainly she was, but to work under the conditions she did and care for the dirty, filthy, cast-off people. She had to be incredibly strong and brave. To leave a well-to-do household to live on nothing but what God provided, she had to know that Jesus that I know."
Zacchaeus. Here's a great stewardship sermon on Luke 19:1-10, which comes up on the lectionary cycle Oct. 31."Zacchaeus was changed. Zacchaeus was changed, from being greedy to generous, from selfish to selfless, from a thieving heart to thankful heart. How did this happen?" From Edward Marquart, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church (ELCA), Des Moines, Wash., whose website, Sermons from Seattle, offers lots of free resources.
Tithing: A good response? When giving is based on thanks, those who cannot tithe will not feel shame or guilt. One person said, 'I know I am cheating my Lord when I do not tithe, but I cannot give more than 5 percent.' Another whose income was barely enough to pay the rent and feed his family said, 'Do I give to feed the hungry in Africa and not have enough to feed my own family?' " By the Rev. David F. Conrad, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Sept. 20 - Management is a learned art. "The management of our lives as Christians is a learned art that is the Holy Spirit's work of making us more nearly whole. (Sanctification is the theological word for this process of growth.) As Christians, our vocation is to be stewards of our lives and all of creation. In particular, we are especially challenged to manage that part of creation in which we are placed to live and utilize our gifts. By the Rev. L. Douglas Stowe, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Hampton, Va., in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Giving for a rainy day. "If I have been given more than I really need and there are people out there like this couple or people in Florida who are hurting from a hurricane or children who are hungry then what I need to do is to increase my giving beyond a tithe."
'The people who rebuilt the walls'. Bethel New Life in Chicago proves that the promises God makes in Isaiah 58:9-12 are true. Bethel began as a ministry of Bethel Lutheran Church in Chicago’s riot-devastated West Side. What started with $5,000 in church funds to renovate a dilapidated three-flat apartment building has since grown to a highly respected agency employing hundreds, working with a multi-million-dollar budget and witnessing to the power of faith in Jesus the Christ. From SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.
Sept. 13 - The Bible and Money. Pastors, start your stewardship sermons! Generous Giving has a handy index of Bible stories and passages related to stewardship. For sermon illustrations, look up some fund-raisers in the Bible (such as Ezra and King Josiah) or generous givers, false givers, money advisors, etc. From Generous Giving.
Generous alternatives to tithing. "I believe the era of the church being the established temple of the people, if it ever did exist in that sense, is over. That does not mean the message of Jesus no longer needs to be proclaimed. It is just that as we need to explore new ways to do evangelism -- that is, to get the word out -- maybe we need to explore new ways to support the ministry." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
Giving hilariously: No-nonsense stewardship. “For God loves a cheerful giver,” St. Paul writes in Cor. 9:6-7. When greed is in charge, we cling to money and possessions as if they were permanently ours. When we rise above greed, we give to God's work 'hilariously.' The Greek word we translate 'cheerful' is 'hilarious.' Paul challenges us to give 'hilariously.' That means giving spontaneously and giving joyfully. The Macedonians rose above greed by giving hilariously. So can we!” By the Rev. Ron Lavin in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives
Sept. 6 - Money Management: A Spiritual Exercise. "What would happen if we accept God’s gift of tithing when we accept God’s gift of money? If we give off the top, we claim our place as 'givers' before we admit that we are 'consumers.' That puts our priorities in order and establishes a framework of gratitude around the rest of our financial affairs." By Henry Morris, pastor and stewardship consultant.
Stewardship is not about money. "Stewardship is about being a person of character who is worthy to be given a great trust and being found faithful as we carry out the will of the master. Even if money is involved in carrying out our trust, it is only a tool that is used as we carry out the will of God." By Pastor Jim Bliss of Resurrection Lutheran Church (ELCA), Dublin, Calif.
Every member visits: Challenges as opportunities. "People are learning that stewardship is not a dangerous monster threatening to break into their homes and steal their money. Commitments to the Lord and His church are generously given following a visit by trained visitors to every member household." By the Rev. Kurt Wandrey. In the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Absent from the banquet. "U.S. Census Bureau reports that 1.3 million more people are living below the poverty line and 1.4 million more people have no health insurance. … We can and should work for public policies that promote good jobs at fair wages, decent housing, education and health care. Especially in a presidential election year." From SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.
Aug 30 - A theology of stewardship. Growing in stewardship involves four distinct phases, according to this study guide that provides a biblically based program for a classroom or workshop series. Can be done on its own or incorporated or adapted for your own stewardship drive. Good stuff from Joy Lutheran Church (ELCA), Gurnee, Ill.
Martin E. Marty: Poor progress. Amid reports that more families are in poverty and lack health insurance, one one of our ages' pre-eminent theologians wonders why religious voices are absent on the issue: "Religious approaches to poverty do not make the headlines. Think of all the items you have read this election year about the chosen 'social issues' of highly active religious groups; the ones that reached prime time and made headlines. Did any have “poverty” high on their agenda? " By the Rev. Martin E. Marty. From Sightings, published by the Martin Marty Center.
Fun with fundraisers. "What's the quickest way to send church members or church school parents scurrying in every direction? Say: ‘We need to do a fundraiser!’ The good news is that the 'fun' is back in fundraising! An exciting array of programs and products and excellent support from firms specializing in fundraisers makes it easier than ever for church groups to raise lots of money." From Your Church magazine in ChristianityToday.com.
'Hello, Houston? We have a problem!' "Like a slowly hemorrhaging wound that baffles doctors, membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America continues to slip, and a just-released report shows that in 2003 the denomination dipped below 5 million members for the first time. Okay, the slip of 1 percent of members from 2002 isn’t the end of the world, but edging below the 5 million mark should rouse us out of our collective slumber of denial." From SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.
Worship feeds us, so we can feed God's sheep. "I had a thought when I was meditating on so many hurts and sorrows in this world. We put up so many crosses and crucifixes to remind us of Christ. I think Christ would like it if instead of our gaze being upon the cross, that we would check out the view from the cross." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
Resourcefulness. "Resourcefulness is one of the touchstones for achieving greatness. Sometimes in life we must do what it takes to adjust to adverse conditions. We discover what really works when the chips are down. We turn to a new way when expected things fail us. Beautiful signs of greatness often emerge as we come face-to-face with overwhelming odds, and find ways to cope or overcome." By the Rev. Peter Marty. In the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Aug. 23 - Miracle Sunday stewardship. Here's a program outline for launching a financial campaign for a major project. Through the example and experience of a local church that wanted to pay off its mortgage to save interest and free up money for mission, you'll get ideas on how your own church can manage a successful campaign. From the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers.
Transform your indignation into action. "What is it that you are justifiably angry at? It is something you think someone else has fallen down on? Is it something you may even be angry at someone in church or the government or even God for? So get angry and call someone. But don't stop there. Do what you can do about it." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
Giving extravagantly "We are people of great abundance, and we can afford to give extravagantly. Thousands of children still die each day from hunger in this world. How can we continue to deny an abundance that makes dieting a higher priority for us than searching for food? ... But the most important reason of all to give extravagantly is because we must give that way if we want to participate in the extravagant love of God, the giver of Jesus Christ." Prophetic words in an essay by Margaret G. Payne, Bishop of the New England Synod.
Discovering your church's mission. "The primary focus of the church centers on the Gospel. The work of the congregation must grow out of this focus. The structure of the congregation is helpful only as it facilitates mission and ministry. If we take away our focus, the church has no compelling reason for existence." By the Rev. Roger Skatrud. In the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Conservation's time has come - again. "Today, conservation sounds like a quaint idea from the 1970s – along with earth shoes, John Denver songs, geodesic domes and the 55 mph speed limit – but it’s a concept Christian stewards should take off the shelf and polish up…. For stewards, energy conservation brings double benefits: It cuts down on environmental pollution and it reduces costs." From SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.
Aug. 16 - Biblical stewardship Principles. Perfect for inspiration or reference alike, theologians from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod came up with a wonderful list of eight biblical principles for stewardship, available in a variety of languages (how many Lutherans read Portuguese?) and versions for presentation to different age groups. Uses a Q-and-A format similar to Luther's catechisms.
Proclaiming stewardship. Here's a gem for pastors who want to emphasize stewardship from the pulpit and classroom. Susan K. Hedahl, professor of homiletics, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, offers tips for sermons and temple talks. "Ask what the stewardship profile of your congregation is -- Before public proclamation, it is necessary to ask: Where have we been? As a congregation, what gifts do we already employ for ourselves and others? Where do we hope to be in the months, the years ahead? Which resources do we need to consider, expand, develop?" In the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives
Stewardship of the Gospel. "If there's a silver lining to the slow erosion of membership and donations in Mainline churches, it's this: We are rethinking our mission and strategies for the 21st century. Church members bemoan the closure of congregations and the decline of influence of their denominations, but something much more fundamental is at stake: The Gospel itself." From SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.
Go in peace! Serve the poor! "But this road in the Christian life, this way of the cross passes by many people all over the world. It passes by soup kitchens in our neighborhood and disaster victims in Florida and aids victims in Africa. If we haven't seen them on our journey maybe it is because we aren't making the journey.'" In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
Aug. 9 - Ten Functions of an Effective 'Stewardship' Congregation. "Most congregations struggle with how to organize 'stewardship' because it is not clear exactly what that means. To some stewardship means 'budgeting,' to others it means developing 'financial independence' and to still others 'balancing' the budget. None of these definitions suit our understanding of Biblical stewardship and they usually result in negative experiences in congregations and denominations." Good insights from the Central States Synod, ELCA. It's in PDF, which requires Adobe Acrobat. Click here for your free copy of Acrobat.
Churches must teach stewardship. Here's a report from an annual meeting of the Christian Stewardship Association filled with inspiration and great tips. "Materialism is doing a much better job than we are at reaching people. ... We must train people as to a proper relationship and attitude toward money. I believe it’s what’s keeping us from significant steps toward fulfilling the Great Commission." From ChurchCentral.com.
Getting rid of 'all the crap'. "Jesus sent out his followers instructing them not to take a lot of stuff, and he warned them just before the parable of the rich man in Luke 12 to beware of thinking life consisted in the accumulation of possessions. I think Jesus was hinting that when our lives are cluttered by possessions, ideas, loyalties and desires, it’s harder to keep focused on living a Godly life." From SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.
And be thankful! "If we are indeed thankful, then surely a manifestation of that gratitude will be a generous sharing of the love and blessings we have received from a gracious God. Paul reminds us that this thankfulness is to be expressed in whatever we do, in word and deed -- another way of saying that we should put our "faith in action" always and in all ways!" By Clint Schroeder, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Affluence vs. being rich toward God. "Not being rich toward God is about needing things or more things. Do you ever think, 'If I just had this much more or made this much more a year, then I would have enough.' Do you ever say, 'When I get to this point financially then I can help out my church or give to world hunger.'" In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
Aug. 2 - Stewardship of People. Institutional loyalty is admirable and deserves development and encouragement. But it can easily rate ahead of a loyalty and concern for fellow workers. The institution can swallow up the “risk” and “emotion” of people relationships. We can “hide” and “slip by” in the vast machinery of an institution." By Glen Holmquist, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
July 26 - A new vision for your congregation. So, it’s been a while since you reviewed your congregation’s mission statement, or maybe you don’t have one. Or, you are beginning to look afresh at what you think God is calling your congregation to do at this critical time in your history. And you’d like to know how to proceed. This free guide is designed to help. Also available by PDF download. By Mark Staples of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
How much is enough? "Besides simply having more time to share and more money to give, another reason to simplify is to model faith in God and do His work in a watching world. Tom Sine, author of Why Settle for More and Miss the Best? and Mustard Seed Versus McWorld, says cutting back is not enough for Christians, who too often have 'sold out' to idolatry and 'are shaped by the expectations of materialism.' We need, Sine says, to come up with 'a fundamentally different notion of the good life and a better future.' " By Stan Guthrie, writing in Moody Magazine.
Obesity a symptom, not a disease. "As a culture, we Americans medicate and pacify ourselves with consumption. And not just food. Because it’s not only America’s waistlines that are getting bigger, but also the mini-mansion houses we’re building, the overstuffed cars and light trucks we’re putting on the road, the increasingly ostentatious wedding receptions we’re throwing, and on and on. For Christian stewards, overconsumption represents a profound misuse of God’s gifts.
Testimony of a tither. "Some people think of a tithe as legalistic. For me, a tithe is only the beginning of giving. A tithe is not an amount, but rather a dedication and a commitment to give of our first fruits." By Robert O. Drange, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
July 19 - Invisible Abundance. "We [Americans] live casually with abundance that most people in the world cannot even imagine, and yet most of it is invisible to us. … Maybe the biggest obstacle to generosity toward the poor is our blindness to the abundance that God has given us. Maybe the most important American middle-class prayer should be a request for eyes to see our abundance." Prophetic words in an essay by Margaret G. Payne, Bishop of the New England Synod.
Pastor: Fund Raiser for Mission. "The time has come in our church when we, as clergy and leaders, can no longer divorce ourselves from raising money for mission. To a present culture of materialism, selfishness, and consumerism, we are called to model in our own lives and teach others Christian financial stewardship." By Jerry L. Schmalenberger, former president and professor of parish life at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.. In the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Is There Happiness in the Mainline? "Just for fun, do a Google News search on “happiness” and begin to sift through the responses. You’ll get a trove of hits on consumerism, plus idolatry ranging from hedonism to asceticism, selfishness to selflessness, voluntary simplicity to compulsive complexity. But what you won’t get is Mainline Protestantism. What? Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Congregationalists aren’t into happiness? "
July 12 - The Stewardship of Effort. "Love in action requires energy given to us by God and always usable for the glory of God. When energy flows through our being, it becomes much easier when we, with vigor -- containing our integrity, spend the necessary time to fully express our thanks to our God. It also assures us of renewal of energy should it be required." By Arthur L. Larson, benefactor of the Stewardship of Life Institute, In the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
July 5 - Francis of Assisi: Steward of a Radical Faith. He lived more than half a millennium ago, but St. Francis has much to teach stewards of today, says Gerald Christianson, history professor at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. "We stand under judgment because of our greed, our grasping, our accumulating, our self-love — in short, all that Francis perceived would continually afflict those who have. Yet, at the same time, we live under the promise. "I am not ashamed of the gospel", Paul writes in Romans 1:16, "it is the power of God into salvation." In the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
No Place to Hang Their Hats. "Homeless-shelter workers report that increasingly the clients tend to be families with kids, with one or both of the parents working. Christians, and especially American Christians, correctly value hard work and self-sufficiency. But when market forces erode the value of hard work and jeopardize self-sufficiency, we should question why." This is the message from SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.
June 28 - Because God Is Generous. "The foundation of all giving is love and goodness. One special emphasis of the New Testament concept of agape love is that it is not primarily self-fulfilling, but is oriented toward giving oneself for the good of others." MOODYMagazine.com.
June 21 - Churches on the Grow Have Funding Options Available. "Recent studies show that church construction is outpacing construction in the private sector by a wide margin. New York-based Dodge Division of McGraw-Hill Construction research shows church construction rose by 14 percent last year. ... Along with that growth comes a growing need for financing." From ChurchCentral.com.
Giving to Churches Rose Substantially in 2003. The come-on headline is a tad overstated, as the details in the first few paragraphs reveal, but The Barna Group's usual insightful research into congregational giving is an eye-opener for everyone interested in financial stewardship. For example, the total giving to religious institutions as a percentage of gross household income: 2.2 percent. Yikes!
June 14 - We Have All the Time in God's World. “You see, the scarcity of time is all in my head, and in the mistaken thought that I have to accomplish everything. The more time I spend with God, the more I understand that we are all working God's will -- or better, that God's will is working through all of us and it is not so much what I individually accomplish as what gets done. You see God has all the time in the world.” In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
Endowments: Hidden Miracle or Hidden Peril? "Many congregations are doing marvelous things with their endowments and are empowered. There is a sense of mission, purpose, and empowerment in these congregations as they reach out beyond their own needs to address the needs of others. Other congregations are gasping, suffocating, or even dying because of their endowments. Why? Because they have yielded to the temptation that we all have experienced. Let's take an easier road." By Duane Englehardt, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
June 7 - Widow's walk ... does Jesus idealize poverty? Stewards love the Jesus' story of the "widow's mite" as the ideal illustration of sacrificial giving, here's a fresh wrinkle. "Our culture counsels us to became like the honored scribes, but Jesus counsels us to become like the dishonored widow. We are to model our lives on one we would normally overlook, being too busy admiring the lifestyles of the rich and famous." By Mary Anderson, pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, Columbia, S.C., printed in The Christian Century.
Our Charge: To Do God's Work. "We must provide a way for each member of the body of Christ to exercise his or her gifts, including the gift of financial support to the church. We believe it is essential to ask for regular commitments which address the basic needs of the church. The early church took care of the basics by the people sharing everything they had, something that is probably not practical with today's lifestyle, but the concept provides the foundation for the commitments we make today." By the Lt. Col. David Penman, USMC, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives
May 31 - The Hows and Whys of Money Leadership. Wow! Here's a free, seven-part curriculum for leaders who want to plumb the depths of their congregation's financial soul. It covers attitudes about money, congregational finances, leadership, money and theology and other topics. A real gem for congregations that find themselves stuck and don't know how to get going. Developed cooperatively by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Alban Institute and Lilly Endowment, it was principally written by Mark Vincent, lead partner for Design for Ministry, a consulting firm in Wisconsin.
Two Questions, Two Incredible Answers. "Do you know what else God does with this 'everything in heaven and in the earth' that is God's? Listen, again, to the psalmist: The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their meat in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire or every living thing." That's the "second" thing God does with this "everything in heaven and in the earth" that is God's . . . God shares it with you . . . freely gives you everything you need to nourish, to sustain, to make rich and full the life God has given you . . .." By the Rev. George Haynes, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
May 24 -Tru-Envy? From America's obsession with a perfect lawn, Jon Pahl of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia makes a religious connection: "We seem somehow uncertain of our salvation, so we seek enemies to conquer and control, and we seem driven constantly to display our power for others to see. Can there be a connection between the way we treat dandelions and the way we treat our neighbors? The way we treat the poor and sick and suffering of the world?" Reprinted, with permission, from the April 15, 2004 issue of Sightings, produced by the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
The Positives of Pledging. "Whether we call it a pledge, a commitment, an intent, or something else, it all comes down to the same thing: a statement that a proportionate share of our monetary resources is to be given for the proclamation of the Gospel. It says that our Christian giving is not only on a par with everything else in our household budget, but indeed is at the top of the list! We want to give the first fruits for the Lord’s work!" By Clint Schroeder, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
May 17 -Question for Youth: Where Have All the Eagles Gone? Here's an exercise for youth to help them learn about the effect of human activities on the environment, and then to put that awareness into action through advocacy and education. "I developed an eco-skit based on the situation of the Bald Eagles in North America. Since many young people seem enamored by these birds of pray, there probably will be some immediate interest." By the Rev. Dr. Clifton J. Suehr, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Irwin, Pa. In the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
May 10 - How to Improve Financial Stewardship. Here is a NEWLY REVISED version of a popular and practical, soup-to-nuts how-to guide for a successful stewardship program. Outlines the seven most popular financial response models used by ELCA congregations. An easy-to-follow guide for new stewardship leaders. Available for free PDF viewing or printed from Augsburg-Fortress (call 800/328-4648, ask for ISBN 6-0001-7457-8. Cost $4.95). From the ELCA's DCM.
Open to God's Surprises. "Congregationally based stewardship begins with the steadfast recounting of the story of the riches of God’s grace lavished upon us in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. That story defines who we are, namely, children of God called to faith by the Water and the Word of Baptism, nurtured and sustained by the Lord’s Supper, blessed and empowered by the Spirit of God, placed within the community of faith." By the Rev. Marcus Lohrmann, bishop of the Northwest Ohio Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Life on the Edge: A Small Congregation Redefines Its Mission. "If North America is now a mission field, this fact has tremendous implications for small congregations. Being on the margins can provide fresh opportunities for offering bold witness. It is often a better position for discovering mission than is the center. In scripture, faithfulness seldom comes from, or results in, large numbers or success. God often elects the small for extraordinary missionary service." By the Rev. Richard S. Bliese in The Christian Century.
May 3 - The Stories of Isaiah and Pepe What do Israel's greatest prophet and a present-day advocate for Mexico's poorest have in common? Plenty, and the implications for stewardship are profound. "By hearing their stories, you and I also can be transformed in our sense of call, because we cannot hear these stories without examining how God calls us to serve the people among whom we live." By the Rev. Dr. William Avery, stewardship professor at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Hunger 2004: Are We On Track To End Hunger? A slow economy and even slower political will has put our nation and the rest of the world greatly behind goals set in at the 1996 World Food Summit to reduce world hunger. That is one of the many findings in Bread for the World Institute's 2004 report on hunger. “Far too many children go to bed hungry each night, be they in Malawi or Milwaukee," said Rev. David Beckmann, president. "The problem is not the lack of food. Hunger is a political problem and people need to demand change from their elected officials.” Bread for the World is an ecumenical Christian movement supported by 45 denominations. Check out the report: Read the Press Release, Read the Executive Summary, Download the report in PDF.
Vision Fulfillment. Facing a major capital campaign? Here's one expert's step-by-step strategy for accomplishing going from vision to fulfillment. "Every successful capital campaign, whether for new construction, renovation, debt reduction, or budget enhancement, has a structure and a timeline from inception to completion. While campaign lengths vary, four years is typical, and a capital campaign firm is involved at strategic points when expertise and organization are needed most." In ChristianityToday.com.
April 26 - Jürgen Moltmann: Reconciliation with Nature. This fine essay by one of our era's pre-eminent Protestant theologians is just one in a classic edition of Word & Word, published by Luther Seminary, St. Paul. The issue provides in-depth scholarly treatment to the environment issues, including:
Leaf Composting on the Prairie. "Solid waste disposal facilities are at a premium. It becomes clear than that these facilities cannot afford to accept materials that can be easily composted. But that's not the only to consider composting leaves! Composted leaves are a valuable resource. It can be used to fertilize lawns and gardens, as an excellent mulching material, and can even be utilized as part of a potting soil mix." By the Rev. Kathleen Kinney, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Down-to-Earth Theology. One of the most prophetic voices in American Christian thought, Sojourners devotes its entire March issue to the environment. Every article is rich, provocative, passionate and faithful. Highlights:
Spiritual Circuit Breakers. "Did you ever consider pain as a blessing from God? Humans can invent devices that break or disconnect when continued use could cause damage. Motors have thermal switches that turn them off if they get so hot their coils could be damaged. Electrical circuits have fuses that blow. ... God has built into the human being devices that warn of dangerous physical activity. In Christians, God also builds in warnings of dangerous spiritual activity. God blesses us with warnings to "take a break" from questionable or dangerous activity. Paying attention is good." StewardLife, from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
April 19 -Environment as Creation. Looking for some good reading on religion, the environment and public policy? Walter Bruggemann, the New Testament scholar from Columbia Theological Seminary, weighs in with reviews of three new books. "Thoughtful women and men of faith do well to think again and again about land as God's gift and about the environment as the habitat of the creator's will for creation—especially because at the present time, the tilt in public posture and policy is all toward economics at the expense of the environment." In Books&Culture.com.
Bluebird Nesting Boxes: A Project for Youth and Adults. "This project, which also involves building bluebird nesting boxes, is designed for a two hour youth group session for children about nine to twelve years of age. The project opens with a call to worship that gathers the children into a community to focus on their response to God’s call to become caretakers of the world." By Richard Carter and Edward Ebersole, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Website: Evangelical Environmental Network. Here you'll find a wide variety of resources for use in your congregation: articles, small-group resources, tips, links, liturgies. Especially check out the 2004 Creation Sunday worship materials which center around the theme God's Oceans.
Eco-Myths. "Don't believe everything you hear about the church and the environmental crisis," reads the teaser on this report, which takes a very balanced, Biblical approach to an important that has become polarized. "Fueled by misconceptions, misinformation, and even showmanship, the environmental debate rages in the popular media. One side likes to quote Rush Limbaugh, who paints Vice President Al Gore and friends as "tree huggers"; the other charges 'rape of the Earth.'" From ChristianityToday.com.
Freedom in Christ. "Freedom is a precious blessing of God. As we consider that blessing, we recognize how much more it means to a Christian--one who lives the StewardLife. Stewards freely respond to God for His action in freeing us--not just socially or physically-- but spiritually. And spiritual bondage is more eternally destructive than physical bondage." StewardLife, from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
April 12 - Website: Web of Creation. From Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, a unbelievably comprehensive data base of resources about religion and the environment. Here you'll find background materials on environmental issues of all types, guides for study, workshop outlines, programs for worship, awareness-raising ideas, advocacy steps and more. Some highlights:
The Church's Call to Environmental Stewardship."The biblical call to stewardship will lead us to foster quality of life. The quality of life that is measured only by material goods and economic factors is incomplete. Total quality of life must include the health and stability of the natural world, relative justice and peace for people, and the free and true worship of God Almighty. It is on this basis, on this biblical vision, that Christians are motivated to respond to ecological crises." By Gilson A.C. Waldkoenig in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice. This is the ELCA's landmark social statement on the environment, approved at 1993 Churchwide Assembly. Check out the discussion guide.
Life-giving Breath of God: Protecting the Sacred Gift of Air
Rogation Sunday Resources. The classic "seedtime" festival presents a wonderful opportunity for churches to celebrate the environment. Here are some worship planning resources from SOLI, the ELCA, Lutheran Environmental Network, Web of Creation,
Stress Can Strengthen You. "Have you ever thought of stress as one of God's blessings? Scripture tells us that certain kinds of stress serve to bring out the best in us (Jeremiah 9:7; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3; 1 Corinthians 3:13-15; 1 Peter 1:6-7). The person who lives the StewardLife knows that 'good' stress and its challenges can foster patience, endurance and creativity." StewardLife, from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
April 5 - Confirmation Emphasis: Environmental Stewardship. Here's a six-part program for confirmands to explore a complex issue that affects us all. "Given today’s serious environmental challenges, both locally and globally, it is appropriate to make stewardship of the environment a much higher priority than in the past. This is an excellent opportunity to talk with youth about situations that impact their lives on a daily basis."
Common Excuses for Not Giving to the Lord's Work
God's 'Negative' Blessings
March 29 - Empowered Laity. The story of the Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship. From 1907 until 2003, when it closed shop, LLM was a powerhouse for American Lutheran stewardship. This 1997 book chronicles the rise of this organization from humble beginnings at Zion Lutheran Church, Sunbury, Pa. Offered at a special rate of $6.59, including shipping and handling. By the Rev. Dr. William Avery, stewardship professor at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary. Read the book's introduction!
Lighting the First Candle. "We shall never know the true meaning of being faithful stewards until we are prepared to risk the transitory for the sake of the ethereal." By Robert Buhr, in the Lutheran Laity Movement archives.
The 'Thermodynamics' of God's Love. "Through His Holy Spirit God makes the move. He comes to you. His love begins to warm your cold heart. He thaws your spirit and its natural resistance to His grace. You become capable of receiving what He gives." StewardLife, from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
March 22 - Making Christ Known 2004. PowerPoint presentation and publication available for free download from the ELCA. Professional, colorful presentation outlines the domestic and global ministries of the ELCA that a member's pledge supports. Brochure available for publication in whole or in part. Articles can be reprinted in your congregational newsletter, used in an educational forum or posted on the bulletin board. ELCA congregations can get free printed and CD copies. From the ELCA Division for Congregational Ministries.
Stewardship in the Congregation. "The stewardship of the gospel begins where we are. It is within and outside the congregation that we share the responsibility and accountability with other stewards of the gospel. And it needs to be said as forcibly as possible that what we do is as important as what we say. Someone has wisely observed that "It is not enough to talk the talk, unless we also walk the walk." By Roger Smith, deployed ELCA stewardship specialist, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
The Hidden Costs of Too Much Stuff. Why do we have it, where do we get it and why do we keep accumulating more of it? And what is it costing us, not just in dollars, but in storage space and time spent buying and tending to our stuff? I blame it on the Pottery Barn catalog. Whenever I glimpse that evil source of home-decorating temptation, I succumb to the affliction of our age: SDA, the Senseless Desire to Acquire. By M.P. Dunleavy, columnist for MSN.com's Money Central.
Cast-Aside Blessings "In the world today, sometimes low tech and simple is ignored. Do you pay attention only to complex solutions to problems? Has your cultural training made you ignore God's simple blessings and look only for the dramatic, the large, the expensive? God gives lots of pencils. In fact, as you look around, you can observe blessings ignored by others--cast aside--because they are not significant." StewardLife, from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Share Your God-Given Talents. "So much in life can be modelled on the stance of the couch potato, aimlessly flicking the channel changer, but that leads nowhere. A parish in which all are actively engaged is an exciting and rewarding community, not just a supplier of spiritual services, where we pull in to tank up with what is offered. It is a lively faith family that challenges us as disciples to do great things for Jesus, in the spirit of the Acts of the Apostles." By Thomas Collins, Archbishop of the Edmonton, Ontario, Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
March 15 - Grace & Gratitude Grow Givers. "This money, this talent, this time that I have is all owned by the one who shaped and fashioned me into his child. It all belongs to the one who made me and who claimed me in holy baptism. When I have settled this ownership issue then I have settled some very basic issues about my life. I have settled the issue of life's basic direction. So I am pointed in the direction of how I can best be shaped by the potter who fashioned me." By Larry Smith, from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Open Your Eyes, Use Your Gifts."So how do people see Christ today? Can you cause a resurrection appearance of Christ for someone? Others (especially non-believers) can perhaps recognize God in the world around them, but they can only learn of Christ by seeing Christ in you. As you live the StewardLife, be a resurrection appearance of Christ for someone this week." StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
The Full Text of Jimmy Carter's Talk.Last week we featured an ELCA News Service story about Jimmy Carter addressing the 16th Nobel Peace Prize Forum at the ELCA's St. Olaf College. Here is the full text of his speech -- compelling, thoughtful remarks. A good read.
March 8 - Carter Decries Growing Income Gap. Former President Jimmy Carter said Americans have "failed miserably" at sharing our wealth with the world. In the keynote address at the 16th Nobel Peace Prize Forum at the ELCA's St. Olaf College, Carter said half the world's people live on less than $2 a day, he said. "That includes shelter, food, clothing. And as you can quickly see there is nothing left over for an education, health care or self-respect or for hope." From the ELCA News Service.
Athletes Putting Their Faith In Action. "We may never know what all of the Christian athletes give, or in the many ways they give, nor is it any of our business to know how much money they give, but we do know that many of these athletes practice Christian humility and put their "faith in action" on the playing field and off. These highly-skilled athletes are thankful for their God-given abilities which makes them so great. " By the Ralph Gould, from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Don't ''Trash' Your Blessings."The memory of how God blesses you can fade as fast as ice melts in the freshly brewed tea of an iced tea maker. The realization of what God gives is tossed aside as easily as wadding up a paper towel and tossing it in the trash. You don't give it a second thought." StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
Martin E. Marty on Habitat for Humanity. "Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat, and his colleagues and volunteers have modeled how one can be motivated by a particular religious 'story' to be hospitable to others. Habitat now builds in numbers of dominantly Muslim nations, has attracted Jewish support, and never asks the creed of those with whom they work, thus proving that 'particular' faith and the 'common good' can intersect." From Sightings, published by the Martin Marty Center.
March 1 - Zacchaeus, Patron Saint of Stewards. "Zacchaeus did not promise to read scripture more faithfully nor to attend the synagogue more regularly. On this occasion he was not pledging his time or his talent to the programmatic mission of the faith community. Worthy as those are -- and necessary for the life of the people of God -- this visit was about something else. This commitment was to re-order his financial priorities and his stewardship of material things. " By the Rev. Glenn Schoonover, from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Digging Deeper: Money and Your Heart. The third Gospel has a great deal to say about how Christians are to handle finances. "Money can make it hard for an independently minded person to admit his need and dependently trust Christ for eternal salvation. Luke 18:18-30 does not teach that giving to the poor will merit one’s salvation. Other New Testament passages make it clear that salvation is not the result of good works (Rom. 4:1-3; 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9). Luke simply illustrates how riches can hinder a relationship with God." By Mark L. Bailey of Dallas Theological Seminary, in Moody Magazine.
Look for God's Spring Blessings. "God's gifts come to us in such innocuous ways at times it is hard to notice. Hidden in the daily routines of life, the sunshine, the rain, mowing the grass, is a story of God's silent care (Matthew 6:30). Unless we make a conscious effort, we can miss these signs of God's grace. The wonderful thing is, the blessings don't depend on whether or not we notice. God gives them freely to all (see Matthew 5:45; 10:8)." StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
Feb. 23 - Economics Vs. Stewardship. "I constantly am struck by parallels between my life's work as an economist and my concept to Christian stewardship - in economics we deal with how we use our resources to fill our human wants, in stewardship we deal with how we choose to use God's gifts to us. I have noted that those who are closest to our basic resources - closest to the land, water and other natural resources - have the best perspective on what good stewardship means." By the Rev. Richard L. Peterman, from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Sins of Emission. No politician seriously believes that Americans are willing to deal with global warming. Is it too late to prove them wrong? "Sin, of course, is a word we've agreed to stop using in polite company-a cheap way of making an argument, its force eroded by its constant application to matters of personal style. So let's refer to the pattern of unfortunate option selection by the Bush administration when it comes to the environment." By Bill McKibbon, a leading Christian environmentalist, in Sojourners.
Lost? Use GPS - God's Positioning Spirit. "As stewards, God gives you guidance as a gift--the guidance of the Spirit. I am sure you recognize the Spirit as a gift of God in your life, but have you ever thought to recognize God's guidance as a gift? You can have the best map in the world, but may still not find your destination." StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
Feb. 16 - Can Stewardship Be More Inviting? "All stewardship talk which begins with money starts at the wrong place. The place to begin meaningful stewardship conversation is with the concept of freedom. ... God’s love is freely given to us simply because we are God’s children, simply because God loves us apart from our worthiness or unworthiness. When we learn this truth and appropriate it at the center of our being, then we are truly free." By the Rev. William O. Avery, stewardship professor at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Send Lazarus A hard-hitting look at how Jesus' story of Lazarus and Dives applies to our own thinking about outreach to the poor. "Now, Luke's parable lacks the sort of data that people like to have when deciding whether and how to help. It doesn't say, for example, if Lazarus was deserving or lazy,"drug-addicted, mentally ill, or a good Joe down on his luck. We don't know whether he cornered Dives with pathetic spiels every time he left the house, or whether he just lay there, annoyingly mute, day after day. All we know is that he was at the gate, sick and hungry. And that, Luke seems to say, is all we need to know to predict the reversal ahead. By J. Mary Luti in the Christian Century.
The Value of a Good Word It's always easier to motivate people to do their best by using a positive feedback than criticism. Everybody knows that, yet negative thinking still dominates in many organizations -- including our congregations. The strategy makes no stewardship sense.
The Life of a Steward-Servant "Empowered by the Spirit, Christians can challenge indolence and indulgence -- without excuses, rationalization or other mental gymnastics. God's people are empowered to live a God-pleasing StewardLife using and enjoying all that they have received from God." StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
Digging Deeper: Money and Your Heart "Money can make it hard for an independently minded person to admit his need and dependently trust Christ for eternal salvation. Luke 18:18-30 [the story of the wealthy young man] does not teach that giving to the poor will merit one’s salvation. Other New Testament passages make it clear that salvation is not the result of good works. Luke simply illustrates how riches can hinder a relationship with God." By Mark L. Bailey of Dallas Theological Seminary, in Moody Magazine.
Feb. 9 - God's Gentle and Not-So-Gentle Leadings. "There are indicators in our lives every day. As a steward -- a person with 'new eyes' to see God's grace and blessings -- you can train yourself to b e aware of indicators of God's gifts." StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
About God's Generosity ... "Everything we have, everything, is a trust, a gift, on loan, from God. Even me. Whatever I am, I am God’s. Whatever I have is God’s. And whenever I feel stingy with what I have, I remember the hymn: All that we have is thine alone, a trust, 0 Lord, from thee." By Paul R.Axness. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
The Spirituality of Stewardship. The message is clear: Parishes flourish when parishioners commit themselves. "Stewardship is undeniably fruitful. Where, over time, more and more parishioners become engaged in committing their time, talent and treasure to the work of the Gospel, the Church flourishes. Parishes report an upsurge in volunteer engagement, a greater fervour in the prayer life of the community, a more effective outreach to those in need, an increase in religious and priestly vocations, and so on." By Thomas Collins, Archbishop of the Edmonton, Ontario, Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
Feb. 2 - Tithing: A Step in Walking the Way of Christ. "Jesus did tell his disciples to pay their taxes to Caesar; rendering to him the coin that has his face on it, but giving to God what is God's. I guess that raises the question: what part of your life belongs to God? Have you given it all to God, or just part of it? Is Jesus the ruler of your life, or someone you follow on Sunday from 10:30 to noon? By The Rev. Dr. Walk Jones, pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church, Pensacola, Fla.
12 Steps to Selecting Fund-Raising Counsel. "All churchmembers tremble at least a little bit when they confront the prospect of a campaign for capital funds, for whatever purpose. They know they are inexperienced, don’t have any formalized campaign structure or plan, have no method for evaluating their congregation’s ability to respond, and don’t know how to pace a campaign so the congregation’s excitement reaches a peak at the same time they will be asked to make commitments of money." By William T. Evans. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Jan. 26 - The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity. A must read by Walter Brueggemann, the respected Hebrew Bible scholar who brings searing Scriptural insight into American consumerism and religious life. "Christians have a long history of trying to squeeze Jesus out of public life and reduce him to a private little Savior. But to do this is to ignore what the Bible really says. ... When people forget that Jesus is the bread of the world, they start eating junk food -- the food of the Pharisees and of Herod, the bread of moralism and of power. Too often the church forgets the true bread and is tempted by the junk food." From The Christian Century.
Giving Servants. "The issue of 'giving' is the key element in the growth and health of an individual and a congregation. Want to be truly rich? Then give! Want to be truly successful? Then serve!" An inspirational, enriching essay by Glen Holmquist. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Jan. 19 - Would I Betray Him? "Life has a way of pushing us to decide whether the pursuit of earthly pleasure and treasure will be more important to us than a non-negotiated love for Christ. The decision comes with a consequence. When forced to make a choice, we discover that a choice for anything instead of Christ inevitably leads us to betray Him." Great insight from Joseph M. Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, from the archives of Moody Magazine.
A Little ... It is Enough The story of Jesus miraculously feeding the 5,000 is so important, it's the only account shared in all four gospels. It offers many lessons for modern-day stewards. "Are we not to this very day, much like those first followers of Jesus? We are all too fond of committees. We will do an analysis of most any situation and decide what cannot be done. And have good reasons for it." By Kenneth Fink. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
The Practice of Stewardship: A Spiritual Discipline in Response to God's Grace "The practice of stewardship begins with hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament that changes our hearts and wills so that we become the generous children of God." This and other insights from Gary Hedding, Assistant to the Bishop, Northwest Synod of Wisconsin and made available through the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers.
Jan. 12 - Money: Do Our Attitudes and Practices Reflect Our Faith? "I need to daily remind myself that everything I have, yes even life itself, is a gift from God. I do this by offering a prayer of thanksgiving at the beginning of every day for this new day and for the many blessings that continue to be bestowed by God. We are tempted by the sin within us and the multitude of events around us to want to put our faith in man. Money especially has this power. " By Duane Engelhardt. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
For Lutherans, Stewardship Is More Than Just Money for the Church "The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is offering services to help busy people evaluate their use of money, share their faith, and teach children about living and giving." An informative story by Melissa Ramirez of the ELCA News Service.
Jan. 5 - Martin E. Marty: Generosity. How are the values of generosity we cherish and promote for ourselves and our congregations reflected in our nation's policies? "Since the days of Alexis de Tocqueville, Americans see theirs as a religious, moral, generous nation -- a nation whose people have been looking into the mirror and making this appraisal. ... How are we doing?" From Sightings, published by the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Stewardship Bottleneck. "It is hard to believe that the root cause for poor stewardship is a simple little two letter word. It is a word that we learn early in life, long before we learn that we have and are responsible for all of the gifts God has entrusted into our care. Babies often use this word by the time they are barely one year old. From that point on, it guides most of us for our entire life. What is this evil and malicious word? It is the simple word 'my,' that is, belonging to me." By Robert Drange. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives