DISCIPLESHIP IN THE NEW NORMAL
In a recent article on year-round stewardship, Bill Cruse, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey, wrote:
“In the beginning God created everything. And God saw that it all was good. And it is good! It is stunning that God created it all ‘ex nihlo’ – out of nothing. For those who have chaired or co-chaired the annual stewardship campaign, it can really feel as if we are trying to create something out of nothing.
We struggle with stewardship campaigns, and many see the fall as ‘that dreaded time of year.’ No one wants to lead the campaign. Few of us dance and sing like Miriam after crossing the Red Sea when we receive the letter, phone call, or personal visit that invites us to pledge. Most of us probably feel we are giving all we can and cannot create any more.”
A&HT, like most parishes, strives for increased stewardship results every year – more pledges, more money, or more increased pledges. The focus tends to be on the money. After all, isn’t that what stewardship is all about? Money? In a word, “NO!”
A Biblical definition of stewardship is “having dominion over the works of God.” The works of God include all the material things and creatures of the Earth. We, as stewards, are not the owners of these things, but we are the stewards who have dominion over these things, and we have a responsibility for their care and nurturing. Our new framework is one of “Stewardship Formation.” That is, how we manage our gifts of Time, Talent, and Treasure to the glory of God. Said differently, God has blessed each of us with an array of gifts in the form of time, talents, and treasure. How do we demonstrate our thanks for these gifts? How do we give back to the Lord from that which God has given to us?
Vestry aspires to re-cast the way we think about stewardship with this notion of Stewardship Formation. What does this look like?
First, we have re-framed stewardship as an identity (i.e., a form of discipleship to be followed), rather than as a task to be accomplished. Stewardship Formation is the thread of identity that sews together the fabric of our faith, uniting the elements of worship, ministry, and Christian education to help us grow in Christ as individuals.
Second, we are approaching “giving” as a spiritual practice - a form of discipleship - and embracing it under Stewardship Formation. As faithful stewards, we naturally “give” our Time, Talent, and Treasure. All three are important elements of Stewardship Formation. All three must be solicited and celebrated!
Third, we are distinguishing our annual pledge campaign (where we ask for money) from the notion of Stewardship Formation. The annual pledge is merely one component (the Treasure component) of Stewardship Formation.
Stewardship Formation is a year-round activity where we practice our faith as good stewards of God’s gifts of Time, Talent, and Treasure.