September 1 - 7, 2008


One Habit of Highly Effective Stewards

For the first time since becoming a pastor 2 1/2 years ago, I've been revisiting a gem from my library, Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" (Simon & Schuster, 1990). 

Habit 3 took on new light now as I deal with more duties and details than seems possible for any one person. It reads simply, "Put first things first." In light of problems of stewardship and discipleship facing most congregations, Habit 3 has a lot to offer.

Covey says tasks facing a manager or institution fall into four general categories:

1) Important and urgent.
2) Important and not urgent.
3) Not important and urgent.
4) Not important and not urgent.

Covey describes "urgent" as a task demanding attention, such as a ringing phone or a co-worker with a question. "Urgent" tasks present themselves for attention regardless of whether they are important.

By "important," Covey means essential to furthering the mission or reaching the goals of the organization. "Important" matters may not be "urgent," and so may be put off.

When managers and institutions fail to live up to their full potential, Covey says it's usually because they get stuck in the rut of attending to matters that are not important -- whether urgent or non-urgent.  (I thought of this as think of the telephone sales calls I endure even though I have no intention of buying, or meetings I attend knowing fully well they will be a waste of time.) 

Managers do better when they also attend to important and urgent matters. In a pastor's case, it might be visiting someone in the hospital or talking with a distressed parishioner. But it's still a recipe for underachieving if I'm not attending to the important but non urgent matters -- such as visiting perfectly healthy parishioners who just need a stronger connection to the church, or taking the time to plan a great Bible study. 

You've probably guess where I'm going here.  The best managers and institutions focus on all the important matters, whether urgent or non-urgent, and give the rest low priority. 

How many of our churches are involved in activities that are not important? How many of our pastors clog their schedules and work hours with matters that, while noble and good and perhaps useful, are not really important to the overall mission and goals of the church? And what might be the mission and goals? Jesus put it well in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), whose verbs tell it all:

Make disciples!
And teaching!:

Now that's important!

-Rob Blezard, Editor and Webmaster
Reprint rights gladly given to congregations for nonprofit use. Just include the following notice: "Copyright (c) 2008 The Rev. Robert Blezard, Used by permission."

New This Week:

Great Website: Stewardship for the 21st Century
Stewardship for the 21st CenturyHere is the, um, second best free stewardship website on the Internet – it’s a virtual online library of stewardship resources for congregations. Bookmark this site alongside SOLI for everything you need in Stewardship. Click here for Stewardship for the 21st Century, from Luther Seminary.

Labor Day 2008
USCCBFood for thought this Labor Day week, this statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops puts the economic life of our nation and world into Christian perspective. Drawing from the Bible and the Roman Catholic tradition, Bishop William F. Murphy reminds us that the Gospel calls us to consider, before profits, the welfare of our brothers and sisters. Click here for Labor Day 2008, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Sharron LucasDrawing Big Circles & Coloring Outside the Lines
How poorly we listen to Jesus’ call to expand ourselves and our comfort zones. “In the unfortunate end, what it means to be church is skewed by the limits of narrow minds, shortsightedness, and fear.” Click here for “Drawing Big Circles & Coloring Outside the Lines,” the latest essay from SOLI columnist the Rev. Sharron R. Lucas. Click here to read archived columns.

Maximum Generosity300 Ideas for Effective Fundraising Letters
Do you dread crafting the letter for the annual stewardship appeal? You’re not alone. Here is a great resource with 300 terrific ideas for helping you craft the letter with just the right flair. Click here for 300 Ideas for Effective Fundraising Letters, from Maximum Generosity.