Good Stewardship - Greater Generosity
It is simple. Help people better manage their financial resources, and they can and will become more grateful, hopeful, and generous! The practice of stewardship can be transformed from an institutional focused approach to a personal and spiritual growth opportunity! Too many times, we tell people they should give rather than teaching them how.
In my book, PROPEL, Good Stewardship, Greater Generosity, I describe several measures that can improve ways to teach and preach good stewardship.
What we want for our people
We want our people to:
Experience financial peace that comes when debt is no longer a burden.
Experience the contentment that can overcome a consumer-driven society that promotes a false and shallow image that more equals better.
Experience the joy of generosity in giving to God.
Be guided by biblical teaching and experience spiritual growth.
Understanding Your People's Financial Needs
Have you surveyed the financial needs of your faith community? Have you asked, what are the financial problems and issues that my people are struggling with right now?
Begin your sermon planning by asking these kinds of questions, and include testimonies of those who testify that good stewardship has granted them opportunities for more exceptional generosity.
Do your research and find relevant financial issues that need attention in your community. Offer some focus groups to discuss their questions. Interview community financial leaders and financial educators. Ask your staff and key leaders for feedback. Send an anonymous survey to your active, non-giving members asking, “what keeps you from giving?” Then:
Discover the most urgent felt financial needs and issues of your community.
Design your sermon series with these needs in mind.
Develop tools and other online resources to support the application of good stewardship practices.
People are asking many financial questions:
• How can we learn to manage our money better?
• How can we save more?
• How can we eliminate personal debt?
• Why is it important to know and practice budgeting?
• How can I be more generous?
• When do I start planning for retirement and legacy giving?
• What are some of the essential biblical teachings about giving?
Change Your Focus and Approach
The key question of any stewardship sermon is, how will it be helpful to the faithful members of your community?
In 2007 in the church that I served, we began talking about how the stewardship message needs a significant paradigm shift. Stewardship is not about what the church wants from its members; it's about what the church wants for its members. In other words, ask the question, “how can the stewardship message help my people better manage money?”
Over the last twelve years, more than 3,500 people attended courses on financial literacy in our church, courses like Financial Peace University. There's a great need for this! People are hungry for practical financial education that incorporates financial coaching and relational support.
Giving is Up – Giving to Religion is Down
There's an alarming trend happening in the area of giving. The recently released 2019 National Study of Congregations' Economic Practices offers essential and timely observations. They report that since the 1980's giving to religion has decreased from over 50% of the total U.S. charitable giving to just under 30% today. I remember when it was 52%, and I lament the declining impact this is having on religion in our country today. This report is the largest and most comprehensive nationally representative study on money and congregational financial practices in over a generation, and it's worth reading.
Strategic Stewardship Planning is Essential
The decline in giving to religion has reached a critical point. Have you audited giving to your local church over the last few years? A three-year audit of total giving and income would be insightful. Is giving declining or increasing? Are your members becoming better financial stewards and more generous? How are age demographics affecting giving? What can you learn about your church's financial needs for the next three years? How can this research help you develop a three-year strategic plan to make possible giving goals for ministry.
The Power of Generosity
Giving is a joy-filled practice of faith. Giving helps us. It's the reason we want our people to grow in their giving because it will increase their joy.
God does not need our money. The act of worship that God desires is giving from a heart fully committed to him. Giving to God helps us affirm our belief in God's goodness, and as a result, we can outwardly express our gratitude to him.
Good stewardship will free people bound by debt and those addicted to the powerful attraction of advertising and consumerism, and release them to be more generous. It is the church leader's responsibility to help people redefine their relationship with money by teaching them God's ways of managing money. Good stewardship teaching and preaching will propel people towards greater generosity!
Rev. Dr. Clayton L. Smith, Retired, United Methodist Church, served as an associate and campus pastor for eight years, lead pastor for 25 years, and executive pastor of generosity for 13 years. His doctor of ministry concentrated on preaching and teaching financial stewardship and generosity. He is the author of three books. The most recent, Growing Through Disaster – Financial and Trauma Recovery Tools in the Faith Community, Abingdon Press, 2019.
PROPEL is available at Amazon.