How Many More Stewardship Campaigns to Go?

For five years I served as an associate pastor of First Plymouth Congregational Church in Englewood, Colorado. The senior minister of the church was the Rev. Stuart Haskins. During the time I was there Stu was beginning to plan for his retirement. At one point I asked him how long until he retired. He answered, “It’s only three stewardship campaigns away.”

Stewardship is the church word for fundraising. It is a good word for the activity. To be a steward is to care for others and the land. As stewards, church people give money so that we may all care for God’s creation. To be a steward is to nurture God’s world through the gifts of our “time, talent, and treasure” (as preachers like to say it).

What we are really talking about is money. The green stuff—“dead presidents” as the old blues song puts it. This is not a topic with which many of us are comfortable. My mentor Stu was counting down the number of stewardship campaigns because the end of doing them was one of the best parts of retiring.

I may be the worst for discussing this thing to which I am referring. I once tried to find out why in therapy. Between my denials and what appeared to be my therapist’s own discomfort we didn’t get very far.

I bring up the negative feelings associated with money to point out that this is a common response for many of us. These feelings are not to be discounted. In fact, they are one of the reasons that good stewardship is so important.

Spirituality is about living the good life—a life based on positive values, in which we “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” An essential part of the spiritual journey is gaining control over our finances and not letting them dictate our lives.

One of the best ways to do this is to begin to budget by your values. Spend money on what you value, not just what happens to come along. A good spiritual practice to make this happen is to commit early to what you will give away—to “pledge” in our church language. Make it a percentage of your total income. Make the donation checks the first ones you write each month. To give of our “first fruits” (another Biblical term) we first do what we are called to do. This makes paying the rest of the bills that much more pleasant (not necessarily easier).

Now that I have been a pastor for 25 years since my early service at First Plymouth I think I have learned a few things about stewardship. I’ll be sharing my recent thoughts on this in Sunday’s sermon, including a true confession.

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