“A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Eccles. 4:12, NRSV
Is finding leaders for your congregational stewardship ministry more of a chore than a joy? Is lack of leadership limiting your stewardship ministry to your annual funding appeal? Perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at your stewardship ministry team structure. Bruce Barkhauer of the Center for Faith and Giving of for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) suggests that congregations have three teams for stewardship ministry leadership: the Finance Team, the Stewardship Team, and the Legacy Gifts Team.
The Stewardship Team
The Stewardship Team’s responsibilities focus on Christian stewardship as discipleship, giving as an essential part of our life as Christian stewards, and connecting generosity with the church’s mission and ministry. Activities for the Stewardship Team include educating the church on the many facets of stewardship, overseeing the annual stewardship campaign, and regularly communicating about how the congregation’s generosity is supporting its mission and ministry. Creative, visionary, and spiritual persons who are good communicators have important gifts for this team.
The Legacy Gifts Team
Legacy gifts are a unique type of generosity, and persons should have the necessary knowledge, discernment, and trust of the congregation to be members of the Legacy Gifts Team. This team needs to make sure the required policies and relationships with the appropriate supporting financial institutions exist to receive legacy gifts. This team invites legacy gifts, celebrates the gifts and the givers, and upholds donor intent.
The Finance Team
The Finance Team is the manager of the gifts received and how they support the congregation’s mission and ministry, including monitoring income and expenses and generating financial reports. They also should take responsibility for thanking the givers. Persons with accounting and business experience are often good fits for this team. Other important characteristics are the abilities to analyze trends, understand and interpret the church’s vision, and be realistic without being alarmist.
All Year ‘Round
While certain tasks for these teams may take place at certain times of the year, the overall responsibilities are ongoing. Each team should plan a year-long, or perhaps multiple-year, strategy to accomplish its goals. For example, the Legacy Team can develop a plan for inviting legacy gifts and regularly reviewing policies. The Finance Team can create processes for sharing reports, reviewing financial status, and acknowledging the generosity of congregational members. Along with overseeing the annual stewardship campaign, the Stewardship Team can develop educational and communications strategies that uplift the importance of faithful generosity all year long.
Don’t Function in Silos
While each team has specific tasks and responsibilities, they need to see themselves as complementary components of the congregation’s comprehensive stewardship ministry. Teams should regularly communicate with each other to develop shared understandings and to work effectively and efficiently to best serve the church.
Concepts are Key
If your congregation is small, (or maybe not so small!) the idea of maintaining three teams for stewardship ministry may seem overwhelming. Create a structure that fits your situation and encompasses all the responsibilities of the teams suggested. Providing opportunities for people to serve in a way that best matches their gifts, talents, and skills will be a win-win in the long run.
In addition to their task-related responsibilities, make sure your teams understand these key concepts for stewardship ministry:
- claiming Christian stewardship is discipleship: how we live our lives in response to God’s bounteous grace;
- naming giving as an essential part of our life as Christian stewards: meant to be practiced generously and joyfully;
- celebrating God’s abundance as our opportunity to be channels through which God’s generosity can flow and God’s love can be shared.
So don’t wait! Begin building your stewardship ministry teams today, and you’ll be on your way to creating a more effective stewardship ministry that can help your congregation grow and thrive.
Standing at the intersection of faithful stewardship and generous giving, the Pathways to Generosity: Signs of Hope Conference April 3-5, 2018 offers participants the opportunity to explore their paths to faithful generosity, hear messages of hope, and create new paths of generosity in their ministry contexts. In-person and live streaming attendance options. Learn more at https://stewardshipresources.org/pathways
Marcia Shetler has been serving as executive director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center since 2011. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and most recently was director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position.