The strongman at the circus squeezed the juice from a lemon between his hands. He then said to the audience, “I’ll give $200 to anyone who can come up and squeeze one more drop from this lemon. A thin elderly gentleman quietly rose from his seat, approached the strongman, grabbed the lemon and squeezed with all his might. As he strained hard he managed to squeeze one more drop from the lemon. The strongman was amazed. He paid the man and asked, “What’s the secret of your strength?” “Practice,” the man said. “I’ve been the treasurer of a United Methodist Church for over thirty years.”
The topic of money in the church has gone through a long season where the emphasis has been all about “squeezing out the last drop” either from the yearly budget or out of the church people themselves. There have been two primary catch words that have accompanied stewardship in the church during this season: “Scarcity and Begging.” How much money do we need? Who’s going to give it to us? How can we get it out of them? Talking about money in the church has been all about “squeezing the last drop” and as a result stewardship has become associated with begging and regulated to “necessary evil” status.
Thankfully we have grown out of a theology of scarcity and today stewardship is more about responding to God’s generosity with a glad and generous heart of our own. Stewardship is about being a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ and giving is about being part of the presence and work of God in the world. Giving also blesses the giver far more than it blesses the receiver.
If you’re still struggling with getting out of the scarcity mindset in your church than here are five simple things you can do to move forward in your stewardship ministry.
- Invite God into the mix.
“Stewardship is a journey that is grounded in gratitude, revealed in prayer, and lived in faith.” – Kristine Miller
We must remember and remind people that we are God’s people doing God’s work and giving is not about the church budget or paying bills. Giving is about mission, ministry, and changing lives in the name of Christ.
- Give a word of witness.
“You are not in the business to balance budgets or manage money. You are in the business to change lives for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that’s it!” – J. Clif Christopher
One of the most powerful tools for growing generosity in the church is telling the story of how the church is transforming lives through its ministry. The stories could include personal transformation, spiritual growth, what it means to be part of the church, and what the church has meant in a person’s life.
- Ask the right question.
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Churches are tempted to begin their stewardship work with the question, “How can we raise more money?” I think we should take a step back and ask the most important money-raising question: “Why would someone want to support our ministry?” By focusing on the question why instead of how the mission and vision of the church will be articulated and fulfilled.
- Make stewardship year round.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1
In order to experience healthy giving and generosity don’t limit the focus on stewardship to the fall season or the annual campaign. For hearts to change, connect giving with mission and ministry all year long as well as preach and teach stewardship the entire year.
- Prepare to soar.
“Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth.” – Eugene Peterson
Giving makes no sense unless we believe that we were born to give. Unless we believe each of us was created by God to give then everything about stewardship is simply manipulation, pressure, or gimmicks designed to separate people from their money. The most powerful stewardship scripture in the entire Bible is, “For God so loved the world that God gave…” We are created in the image of God and, through our giving, can grow into God’s likeness.