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.
Know Your Why
How does this faith community strengthen you to live your best self? How is it helping you have the impact you yearn for with your family, work, and community? Is it participating in Morning or Evening Prayer, attending Guided Meditation, providing beautiful refreshments for Fellowship Hour, working on outreach, reading or ushering on Sunday, or teaching or working with our youth?
Many A&HT members shared their "WHYs," as in the reasons WHY they give their Time, Talent, & Treasure throughout the year.
Do you Know YOUR Why?
Understand Your Why
Stewardship Theme: A Continuation
May 22, 2022
Speaker: Jean Panos
My name is Jean Panos, and I am chairing our Stewardship team. We are engaged in year-round stewardship, in considering our gifts of Treasure, Time, and Talent.
Our Stewardship theme for 2022 is “Understand your Why.” If you were with us last year, you may see that it is a continuation of “Know Your Why” – why you are here. We think you can see Understanding your Why as being on a path of spiritual and giving growth.
To start out, you take the big step and come to a service. You are looking for something bigger than yourself, for a prayer connection to God. A&HT offers that to you. You are trying to Know your Why. You are a little unsure of how this will work out. You aren’t thinking about giving.
You decide to come back to church – maybe you enjoyed Father Eric’s sermon, or you met some nice people at coffee hour. Eventually, you see the collection plate being passed, and you decide to put in some money. You pay as you go when you are here. You are like a “Customer.” You still aren’t really listening to stewardship solicitation.
After a time, you find yourself becoming more active in the church. You enroll your kids in Sunday school, or maybe you attend an Adult Formation session. You decide to join the Church community. Now you see it as something you are familiar with in other parts of your life, like being in a club. You understand that you need to pay your dues, so you make your first stewardship pledge. Hooray and welcome!
As you spend more time here, you go deeper into understanding your Why. You become more active, for example participating in an Outreach activity, or volunteering to be a lector. You see the good the church is doing and become more aware of the constraints. You think about giving your “Fair Share,” possibly matching the average gift. You are a patron of the church.
At some point, there are people who experience a big transformation in their spiritual growth and their thinking about giving. They make it over the big wall. It is like a conversion experience. It is going from being a participant in the church and having your giving motivated by external expectations, to saying I know in my heart what I need to do to live out my faith. That need includes a need to serve and to give, to enable the church community to do what it needs. This need is inside you. You assume leadership roles in the church, perhaps serving on Vestry or chairing a church commission. You see and internalize the needs of the church. You think of yourself as a partner.
At this point, some people become interested in tithing or giving 10% of their income. That is a very big number to consider. Realize that this tithe can and should include other charitable institutions in the community. A commitment to tithe is not necessarily to start giving this year but to see a plan continuing along the path to get there eventually.
Progress is not always in the forward direction; there will be fits and starts. Your ability to give in a certain year could be affected by happy things, like having kids in college, or by difficulties such as large medical bills. We want you to see yourself wherever you are on this path and envision a way forward. In the end, we are all part of the church family. We all want to keep walking up into the sunlight, and supporting our church family. Thank you.