Tis the Season…to talk about stewardship. If you haven’t already started talking about giving and stewardship in your congregation yet, my guess is you are about to soon. In most Anglican churches, Fall is the time to talk about money because vestries are thinking about budgets for the next year. It’s not exactly one of the liturgical seasons on the church calendar, however it might as well be! I’m sure you’ve noticed that the assigned readings even start lending themselves to talk about giving in the Fall. Maybe we should just own it and make the last three Sundays before Advent, The Season of Stewardship! I kid.
But seriously, the Fall is a time when churches talk about this important subject. If your church is already in or is preparing for some sort of stewardship focus, below are some thoughts to consider.
Seven Thoughts on Stewardship
- The God who created the entire universe from nothing and who owns everything can provide for your church. He pays for what he orders. So, know what he has ordered your church to do, do it, and he’ll provide. Be positive and hopeful!
- People give more to vision than need. In line with thought #1, have a clear and compelling vision from God of where the church in going in the new year. Share that vision and explain why giving money toward it will transform people’s lives and expand God’s Kingdom. That is much more appealing than asking people to help pay the electric or insurance bill!
- Do a three-week sermon series on giving in the Fall. I once heard a prominent preacher explain that you need to say something over the course of three weeks for all the church members to cycle through. If you only address giving for one or two Sundays, you likely won’t connect with everyone. However, preaching for more than three weeks on the subject feels too long. Three weeks seems to be the sweet spot on talking about money.
- Teach and preach the tithe as the Biblical standard for giving. As Anglicans, one of our core values is that the Bible is true. It’s not just true on human sexuality issues, it’s all true. And that means it’s true on tithing too! We can’t pick and choose which parts we want to obey! In my own preaching, I developed a process of challenging people to tithe. My initial sermon would challenge people to “work their way to the tithe.” I’d then challenge them to go from not giving to giving “something,” or from giving something to giving a percentage amount, or if they are giving a percentage to increase it by a percentage or two toward 10%, or if they were already giving 10% to prayerfully start giving beyond the tithe. Holding parishioners to the standard, and graciously giving them a process seemed to work.
- Encourage people to become “generous people.” God doesn’t want us to give just out of a sense of obligation but from the heart. He’s a generous God and he wants us to be like him. I tithed for over 20 years mostly out of obedience to the Bible. In the last few years, I began giving beyond the tithe (originally at my wife’s steady nudging) and I have found myself to be a much more generous person. The statement that you “can’t out give God” is true. There is a real joy in becoming generous and we don’t want to deny people that opportunity to experience it.
- Don’t undercut asking for money by using the “time, treasure, talent” language. Although it is true that stewardship addresses all three, many preachers have used that language to kind of “slide in” talk about money without being offensive. I certainly did that before I became more comfortable with just talking straight about money. People know the church needs money. Yes, we need to talk about it wisely and persuasively, but we don’t need to hint around about it.
- Talk about giving throughout the year. Because we have this sort of unofficial “Season of Stewardship” in the Fall, and since money is not something many of us like to talk about, the Fall is often the only time it comes up. It is important to sprinkle in messages about giving and stewardship throughout the year. It is an important part of being a mature disciple of Jesus and as we talk about it more it will become more normalized.
These are my thoughts on how to encourage your congregation to give/tithe. They helped me and I hope they will help you.
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching for the American Anglican Council.