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This past summer, rostered ministers new to service in our church were invited to attend a stewardship retreat, "Love Let(s) Go". Recognizing that generational attitudes toward money and the church have shifted, the retreat discussed the need to re-examine existing models for stewardship. The Rev. Dr. Ryan Brodin from Abiding Savior Lutheran in Mounds View was one of the leaders of the retreat. Here, he reflects on why it's important to congregational life to have leaders with a strong understanding of stewardship.
In their book, “A Field Guide for the Missional Congregation,” Craig Van Gelder and Rick Rouse write:
Healthy, Spirit-led leaders are able to help congregations understand the importance of practicing stewardship and facing their fiscal challenges. …We’ve discovered that this is the key that is often missing as congregational leaders look to move a congregation forward on its missional journey. Practicing stewardship toward building financial viability is an issue that, if not taken seriously, can become a huge obstacle to a congregation seeking to implement a missional plan.
Financial generosity is essential for keeping a congregation going. Finances are essential for paying light bills and salaries and for capital improvements and even Sunday School materials. Finances are also needed to fund outreach ministries into the community to carry out the mission of God beyond the walls of the congregation. In short, financial resources are a necessity if the church is to maintain a building, nurture faith in adults and children, care for the sick, feed the hungry, provide quality worship services, and retain trained and professional clergy and staff.
Congregations that have poor financial stewardship practices often have trouble taking care of the ongoing day-to-day expenses of ministry. They regularly spend a lot of time and energy worrying about money. These congregations frequently create an environment of scarcity instead of participating actively in God’s mission.
When congregations are not constantly scrambling for money, they are able to instead look for ways to grow God’s Kingdom. They are able to say “yes” to God as they are called into new ministries and partnerships, trusting that God will provide and has provided. Through sharing, lives are changed with the love of God and congregations are better able to look beyond their walls to participate in God’s work done in their neighborhoods, homes, workplaces, and out into the world. Whether a church is worshipping thousands or only a few, better stewardship practices will lead to more life changing ministries done in the name of God.
Pastors are often the key to creating an atmosphere of generosity in their congregations. Unfortunately, many pastors do not feel equipped to lead in the area of stewardship. In all areas of ministry, pastors should seek new knowledge from classes, mentors, and practice. The Love Let(s) Go cohort was an opportunity for pastors to seek guidance and to hone their understanding of generosity and creating a culture of generosity in their own congregations. What a pleasure to meet with the pastors who participated in this retreat and to see their eagerness to be leaders of generosity.
By equipping pastors to be leaders of generosity, congregations will have the funding needed to carry out their mission in the world. When a congregation’s finances are in order and generosity is practiced, the potential to touch even more lives with the love and grace of God exists. Encourage your pastor to continue growing their knowledge of how to teach and preach generosity as they live out their calling as leaders of stewardship.
The Rev. Dr. Ryan Brodin
Abiding Savior Lutheran, Mounds View