The Episcopal Church defines stewardship as:
What I do, with all that I have, after I say, “I believe.”
Using the gifts God has given us, to do the work God is calling us to do.
Christian stewardship is grateful and responsible use of God’s gifts in the light of God’s purpose as revealed in Jesus Christ. Christian stewards, empowered by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves to conscious, purposeful decisions.
Stewardship is lived out in:
- Living and telling the good news
- Sharing God in seeking justice, peace, and the integrity of creation in an interdependent universe
- Wisely employing God-given human resources, abilities, and relationships
- Sharing the material resources we hold and giving them in service, justice, and compassion
- Providing for future generations, sharing in the life, worship, and responsible stewardship of the Church and of its mission
- Stewardship is a joyful act for the individual, the community and for the sake of God’s world.
This definition comes from the standing rules of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. The Episcopal Church is a founding member of this group and remains active in its continuing work. You can find out more about ESC on their website.
Annual giving is:
- Ordinary stewardship
- The regular practice of returning to God a portion of all that God has given us. It involves teaching ourselves how to create a life built upon the notion that all that we have is a gift from God.
- The portion of what God has given us as annual income that we give to God each year through our congregation. In addition to sustaining and expanding the mission and ministry of the church where we worship and are formed and cared for, a portion of this giving goes to fund the mission and ministry of the diocese.
Why Should I Pledge?
There are many reasons to pledge, of which the following may help you to determine whether to pledge or not:
- It is an important part of your faith journey.
- It is a promise to your faith community.
- It is active witness.
- It helps the vestry develop a more accurate plan for the church year.
- It helps you by providing the necessary record of donations for a tax deduction.
What is Stewardship?
- Stewardship is a year-round ministry. There is a committee charged with the responsibility for seeing that this is so.
- Members of the stewardship committee pray often, individually and collectively.
- Leadership (clergy, vestry, and stewardship committee) lead by example. They are committed to tithing. Commitment to tithing does not mean it is a requirement. It means we will try. It means leaders give proportionately as they work towards the tithe.
- Talking about money is expected. This does not mean it will not be difficult.
- Telling the “story” is one of the program’s primary tasks. It begins with God’s story and proceeds to the stories which come forth from the congregation.
- The annual financial stewardship program always includes a training event and training always includes Bible study.
- The stewardship committee meets monthly and includes a brief inductive Bible study as part of their meeting.
- The line item budget includes 3% of expected pledge income to be used to fund the stewardship program.
- The stewardship committee has a plan. The best case scenario is that it is multiyear (three to five-year) plan which supports the plan developed by the vestry and is directed towards achieving the mission/vision of the congregation.
- The stewardship committee is intentional about its own discernment of new members. Membership of the committee changes somewhat each year.
- Training is for everyone. Continuing education for the stewardship committee, vestry and clergy is expected and is provided for in the committee budget.
- Basic assumptions include the following:
- Stewardship involves joyous acts of thanksgiving in response to all that God has given us.
- Stewardship is about changing lives.
- Stewardship programs are guided by grace, not guilt.
- We are God’s stewards. What we do grows out of our relationship with Him.
- Stewardship is fun.
- If you’re not talking about Jesus, it probably isn’t stewardship.
Stewardship and Money
- The first place to look for money is in the heart, not the wallet. About 75% of the annual income of the typical congregation comes from 12 to 15% of the members. These folks also do most of the ministry of the church. They usually can talk about the ways that they have known God in their lives. The amount of giving is not connected to the amount of money that they have. There are rich and poor, stingy people. Generous people come in all economic categories. The key to stimulating the primary givers is to keep a steady supply of stories of lives saved and changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That means that the Gospel is being preached, taught, lived, and that peoples’ lives are being changed.
- Most people find it hard to talk about God and money. God and money are both wonderful and powerful. Most people are so afraid of them that they can’t talk about them. So we need to create arenas where it is safe to do so. I have found that small groups and studying the Bible can, with prayer and over time, talk about God and money. I have also found that unless this conversation takes place, there will be no basic change in giving patterns.
- Though it stirs folks up, we still have to talk about the tithe. God has every right to require the tithe. I see no mention in Holy Scripture of God asking us what we think about it. The irony is that most folk who submit themselves to that discipline find it to be a rewarding and uplifting practice. I have a friend who says: “God and I can do together more with 90% of my money than I can do on my own with 100%.” I personally don’t believe that God blesses those who tithe in special ways. But while I don’t believe it, my experience confirms it. The word “tithe” occurs 67 times in the Scriptures. Indeed, about one-third of Jesus’ parables deal with money. In fact, Jesus makes reference to the tithe in Matthew 23:23 in a most powerful way. If someone wants to fight the tithe, they have to fight the Bible.
- We aren’t saved because we give money to God. Salvation is a gift from God’s grace that comes through faith (itself a gift from God). We enter life in grace through our Baptisms and our claiming of Jesus as Savior and our submission to his Lordship. We grow in grace through steady participation in worship and ministry. Giving will not affect your salvation. Salvation will definitely affect your giving.
- Everyone is already doing the very best they can. Everyone is already giving everything they can, given their spiritual health. Whatever you give, give it with joy. The difference between what you give and what God wants you to give is made up by Jesus in the same way that Jesus bridges our sinfulness and God’s holiness.
- Yes, we really do need to sign pledge cards. At one level, a pledge card is merely an act of kindness to the vestry and treasurer since it enables them to plan a budget. But at a deeper level, people who pledge feel like they belong to the Church. So pledging is an identity or community statement. At the deepest level, a pledge card is the only document that most of us sign every year saying that we claim Jesus as Savior and submit our lives to his Lordship.
- If you are not smiling when you sign your pledge card, you have filled in the wrong amount. You have pledged too much or too little. Give a happy amount!
- How we bring these truths into the culture and common practice in our congregations will vary. Some will be more successful than others.
Hugh Magers is a retired priest from the Diocese of West Texas and formerly their director of stewardship.
Money Reflection Questions
- What is your earliest memory of money?
- What is your earliest memory of an instruction about giving money?
- Was money ever a source of anxiety in your family of origin? Subject of an argument within the family? Something that was plentiful or scarce? Something was saved? Spent? Or given away?
- Is money a source of anxiety in your family now? Subject of an argument within the family? Something that was plentiful or scarce? Something was saved? Spent? Or given away?
- What do you think you are teaching your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, other children in your life about a Christian’s relationship to money?