In several conversations with district pastors, the issue of stewardship and financial campaigns has arisen with some concerns about the current medical and financial crisis we are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. One theme that was common to all these discussions is what I would call a pastoral consideration. The gist of this line of reasoning is that we know the needs within our congregations. Some are struggling with the loss of jobs. Some are dealing with illnesses. Others are experiencing decreased earnings. Still others are barely making ends meet. Of course, everyone is under stress because of the changes wrought by COVID-19. Thus, making the “ask” of a stewardship campaign seems especially difficult this year.
The truth is that the virtue of generosity and the discipline of stewardship are strong antidotes to some negative consequences of the pandemic. In a crisis, there is a temptation to contract the horizon of our lives to what immediately affects us and those closest to us. Fear can lead to a mindset of hoarding – keeping our resources of time, talent and treasure to ourselves. Focusing on stewardship can expand our thinking and acting, which leads us to a fuller and more meaningful existence.
On the theological front, we begin with the fact that human beings are formed in the image of God. As such, we find our truest sense of self and fullness of life as we live into the imago dei. Speaking through the filter of stewardship, we are called to imitate and reflect a God who is generous, seeks to enhance the lives of others (indeed all of creation) and reaches out to all with grace so that everyone might experience God’s goodness. Thus, giving is spiritual discipline that opens us to become the persons God creates us to be.
On the practical level, to put it bluntly, churches need financial support to carry out their mission. This is not merely about keeping an institution financially viable. The church is the center of mission. It plays a vital role in caring for the lives of members, strengthening God’s call to faithful discipleship and impacting the wider world with grace, mercy and justice. Especially at times like this, churches are able to model God’s outreaching love and truly impact the lives of many.
Granted, stewardship may look and sound different given the situation of members in our families of faith. However, the stewardship of life is a pastoral concern that is worthy of our attention. Perhaps this year, the emphasis might be on God’s abundant generosity and unlimited resources. An invitation to join in God’s gracious activity makes more sense that simply focusing on budget numbers. It might be a good time to use terms like “estimate of giving” rather than “pledges.”
The Stewardship page on the Treasurer’s Office web page has some wonderful resources. Several suggested themes that caught my attention are “Faith, not Fear,” “Abundance, not Scarcity,” and “Caring not Crisis.” I realize that these are difficult times both for you, as leaders of the church, and for those who are connected to our churches. Please know that you are in my prayers. May God guide you as you consider the issue of stewardship, so that both the people with whom you serve and the church that is your mission station may find the joy of participate in God’s redemptive work in the world.
If you would like to view past editions of Moments with Mike, follow this link: https://corridordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/