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How Do Church Leaders Get Clear About Stewardship?

What do you think about financial stewardship? While there are a host of resources for churches on developing their giving, it is important to clarify your own thinking. The clearer you are yourself, the easier it will be for you to offer others a challenge to give.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Don't ask them of others until you have done some thinking for yourself:

  1. Why do you give?
    For most of us, there are a variety of reasons we give: our values, our upbringing, our position of leadership, a sense of obligation, love. See if you can untangle some of these threads for yourself.

  2. Why do you give the amount you give?
    • Do you tithe? Why?
    • Do you and your spouse or partner agree on these matters?
    • How do you make the decisions you do?

  3. Why do you give where you give?
    • Do you give most of your tithe or other charitable giving to the church, or do you divide it up? Why?
    • How do you respond to those phone calls?
    • Do you give to everyone who comes along or not? Why?

  4. What did you learn about giving from your family of origin?
    I can remember getting a dollar allowance and being expected to give a dime. As a young adult, the first time I chose not to tithe, it made me very anxious. I was breaking the family rules. Over time, I had to figure out what I thought about those rules for myself.

As you clarify your own thinking, consider how you want to share it with the congregation. It can help others if you acknowledge the complexity of these matters and that you struggle too. Stand side-by-side with people rather than pointing a finger at them.

Asking these questions will help you get some distance from the understandable anxiety about this year's budget. There is no bad time to ask yourself questions that will lead to greater clarity about stewardship. Step back from your own anxiety about staffing, your salary, and the rocky economy. Figure out what you think. Then, think about what you want to say to the church about what you think. Finally, consider how you can frame your thoughts on financial stewardship in a way that will help others with their thinking, rather than trying to cajole or coax them into thinking and behaving in the way you would like. Growing mature givers (including ourselves) takes time.

Copyright 2001 by the Rev. Margaret Marcuson. Used with permission. The Rev. Marcuson works with churches that want to create a ministry that lasts and clergy who want more impact on the people they serve best. She is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry (Seabury, 2009). She served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Gardner, Massachusetts, for thirteen years. Get the free mini-course, "Five Ways to Avoid Burnout in Ministry" at http://margaretmarcuson.com.

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