In my many decades of stewardship ministry, I’ve seen that stewardship ministry too often begins with presumptions regarding great and continuing neediness. You probably know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever had to cajole your congregation into generosity by revealing the overwhelming problems facing the people of God. Here’s another characteristic of this approach: an overwhelmingly depressing logic about the pervasive incapacities of this congregation. (My way of framing this attitude: “If we had some eggs, we could have some ham and eggs—if we had some ham.”)
When you start with neediness, you get trapped into stress and fear. Both of these conditions elicit reactions like fighting, fleeing, and freezing—hardly behaviors for congregations wanting to get God’s work done! And stress chemicals mess up your brain’s capacity for imagination, action, generosity, creativity, and remembering.
A better place to start? What you already have that could be useful. (So, in the ham-and-eggs formula, you’d start with something like, “We have all this ham; what could we do with it?”) The name for this approach is “asset-based planning and thinking,” but don’t let that term scare you. This is a much better approach, mostly because it leapfrogs over negativity.
Right now you may be thinking about how to fund God’s mission or how to ask people to join in that task. Start your thinking and planning with your already-existing assets—God-given gifts that are useful. (Don’t worry about objectives and outcomes; they’ll show up later.) Take a careful look at all the skills, experiences, education, hobbies, and attitudes of your congregation that you might use in getting God’s work done. And then put them together to forge approaches that start with strengths, not weaknesses.
I’ve seen this work in places where the only assets people could think of were their problems—“We’re just a bunch of old people here”—and I’ve seen this approach ignite excitement in places where all the assets seemed odd—“Most of us have lawn tractors.” In almost every setting, the assets are surprising motivators, because they’ve been hiding behind all the presumed neediness! And when they’re exposed to the wind of the Holy Spirit, the assets join together, generating innovation, energy, and a can-do attitude that eventually succeeds. That’s why I encourage you to explore you’re the usefulness of all your gifts.
And by the way, you most likely have both the ham and the eggs.
“A Better Starting Point” is excerpted and adapted from Simple Enough: A Companion Along the Way by Bob Sitze, now available for your e-reader. Copyright ©2013 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.
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In his newest work, simplicity blogger Bob Sitze offers readers a year’s worth of periodic observations into the universe of simple living. Sometimes whimsical, often challenging, and always encouraging, Simple Enough wanders through the landscape of contemporary society, helping readers make sense out of their earnest attempts to find joy in managing their lifestyles. Over 150 short and sturdy entries fill the book, casting the author’s insistent eye on parenting, consumerism, faith-based decision-making, technology, daily-life stewardship, and congregational life. A special bonus section helps church leaders approach annual fund-raising efforts in simple ways .
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Starting Simple: Conversations About the Way We Live
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In today’s complex and busy world, people yearn for simpler lives. Bob Sitze believes conversations change us as individuals and that most important social changes take place through conversation, so in Starting Simple he invites us into heart-to-heart conversations about simple living.
Not Trying Too Hard: New Basics for Sustainable Congregations
by Bob Sitze
In Not Trying Too Hard, Bob Sitze offers a vision releasing congregational leaders from the growing burden of trying harder to invent and implement “better” worship, evangelism, stewardship, small groups, long-range planning, mission statements, and the like. Sitze advocates a “small-step approach” to change and provides the necessary tools to engage what is possible without trying too hard. He points readers toward the congregation of the future and assures them that they have the capacity to reimagine their own congregations.
Your Brain Goes to Church: Neuroscience and Congregational Life
by Bob Sitze
Emerging discoveries in brain science are sparking new areas of research as cutting-edge educators and psychologists are asking, “What can we learn from brain science about how we function in the world?” Bob Sitze joins the conversation with a new question: What does the human brain have to do with the beliefs, practices, and structures of congregations? Weaving together clear, accessible explanations about the workings of the human brain, Sitze shows how a congregation’s identity and behaviors are shaped by the work of individual members’ brains as well as by the “collected brains” of the congregation.
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