May 12 - 18 , 2008
Here is an archive column. Enjoy!
Stewardship Lessons from $3-a-gallon Gasoline
A radio news program recently interviewed a filling-station owner who put the gas-price crisis into perspective. The owner pointed out that nearby the station was a Starbucks coffee, where high-end lattes and frappachinos go for way more than a gallon of gas. "These customers come here and complain about paying $3 a gallon for gas, but then they go across the street and drop $5 on a cup of coffee," he said.
It's an observation that goes to the heart of stewardship values: People grouse about paying a little more for something they need, but they gladly open their wallets and surrender their credit cards for grossly overpriced stuff that they want. Does this sound familiar?
Pastors and finance committee chairs have long known that when it comes to giving to their congregations, many members look at their contributions the way they look at their gasoline bills: "What's the least I have to pay?" They note with frustration that many parishioners who seem to be able to drive the biggest SUV in the showroom, to watch the latest plasma television, to jet off on luxury vacations and to remodel the kitchen every five years nonetheless howl in protest when asked to increase congregational giving above 2 percent of their income.
The challenge is to get our people to look not only at the level of their congregational giving, but more importantly at the entirety of their household budget. What are they really spending money on?
Some years ago I was working as a newspaper reporter and making a decent income, but frustrated because I never seemed to put money away. I wanted to find out what I was spending my money on, and for just a month I carried around a little pad and wrote down every single purchase. At the end of the month I was totally astounded to learn how much money I spent on restaurant meals, take-out coffee and entertainment.
Tightening my belt was pretty painless. And I began not only to live on my income, but also to sock $100 a week into savings. Interestingly, at the time I shared an apartment with a fellow reporter at the newspaper who made the same money I did. But while I was saving, the other reporter was always broke and had to take a part-time job to make ends meet. Now we shared the apartment, so our living expenses were identical. The difference was our spending habits. My colleague spent money lavishly on ski equipment, a second car, vacation trips and eating out every night. I was saving.
The point is, while many people truly just scrape by, many others are in a "just scrape by" position because of how they spend their money. Stewardship starts with an understanding that there is sufficiency in God's world for all our needs, but not necessarily all our wants.
If families were encouraged to look at their household budget with that same underlying premise, they may find they are richer than they thought. And from that, gratitude and generosity follow.
--Rob Blezard, Webmaster and editor
Reprint rights gladly given to congregations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: "Copyright (c) 2006, The Rev. Robert Blezard, www.stewardshipoflife. Used by permission."
New This Week
Stewardship Strategies for Local Churches
OK, here is a “Stewardship 101” type of resource that identifies key points and issues for any congregation to assess where they are in stewardship, where they should be – and how to get there. Good stuff. Click here for Stewardship Strategies for Local Churches, from the United Methodist Church’s Detroit Annual Conference.
Stewardship Notes from the Road
“Going on vacation doesn’t mean you leave stewardship issues at home. If anything, vacation time means facing even more decisions about use of one’s resources and care of God’s good creation. Does one fly and purchase carbon offsets, take a train, or drive and cry at the rising cost of gas? Does one stay with relatives and friends or book a hotel?” Click here for this latest essay by SOLI columnist Sharron Reissinger Lucas. Click here to read her archived columns.
Five Components of Congregational Stewardship
This simple resource is the kind of thing you can tape above your desk or put on your fridge with a magnet. You can refer to it to stay focused. Simple. Direct. Informative. Click here for “Five Components of Congregational Stewardship,” from the LaCrosse [Wis.] Area Synod, ELCA.
Website: Christian Ecology Link
From the United Kingdom comes an interesting website put together by Christians devoted to doing something about the environmental crisis. Here you’ll find tips, free articles for a parish newsletter, as well as research, inspiration and links. Check it out. Click here for “Christian Ecology Link.”