One of my roles in a very large church was Pastor of Administration and Stewardship. The congregation had experienced remarkable growth and was becoming too large for its facilities. They knew they would need a capital campaign to care for the growth. (They had not begun to plant extension sites during this season in their history.)
They also knew that there was a discipleship gap in the church. Many attendees were new enough in the faith that giving regularly to Christ through the church was a foreign concept. While the church required regular giving as part of the membership vow, there were twice as many attendees as members. Somehow, the church needed to accelerate the mature practice of financial stewardship across the entire congregation.
My job was to create stewardship systems that discipled people into generosity. As the congregation showed signs of robust discipleship in all areas (personal spiritual disciplines, life in a small group, using one’s gifts in ministry and financial generosity), we would proceed with designing and building additional facilities.
Three themes emerged as we discipled people into faithful stewardship.
- Tithing Time and Money
As odd as it may seem today, some families felt it intrusive that the church` would expect discipleship to include how we use our time as well as our money. A respectable record of attending worship at least twice a month and giving $50 a week seemed sufficient. Adding a small group or ministry engagement felt onerous. (Using the June 2014 data for the median household in the United States, $53,891, $100 a month nearly matches the national average of charitable giving. Churchleaders.com suggests the national church attendance average is closer to three Sundays out of every eight. No wonder additional hours per week in a small group or ministry team was daunting in the minds of our parishioners.)As attendees went deeper in their journey in the Scriptures and heard the life stories of others in the congregation, they witnessed disciples of Jesus who were seeking to be faithful in every arena. Real tensions existed as they worked out how to realign priorities to the Gospel, but they were discovering joy and freedom along the way. Their generosity in time and energy, as well as giving, inspired us all.
- Workplace Support
Many business people wished their pastor would visit them at their place of employment. While they appreciated the attention given to their business acumen when they were placed on certain committees, businesswomen and men hoped pastors would care as much about the other five or six days of their existence. As a result, I began to do pastoral calling at the workplace.A good resource on this issue can be found at oikonomianetwork.org. One is a presentation from Amy Sherman on faith at work. See also Greg Forster’s presentation on faith and work on Seedbed.
- Bridging the Economic Differences
We learned to speak into the lives of people across the economic spectrum. Whether they were unemployed, among the most affluent, or middle class, we learned how to pastor all of our congregation, not just those at our own economic level. To be wealthy was no less spiritual than to be in financial need. In fact, by bridging relationships between economic differences, we were able to demonstrate a mutuality reminiscent of Acts 2:42-47.Whole-life discipleship lived out seven days a week leavens communities. Our people taught us how to steward our weekdays as well as our Sundays, connecting faith, work and koinonia. The Church showed up in the workplace and the sanctuary. The contagion of generosity accomplished more than a successful capital campaign. It built up neighborhoods and companies as Christ followers gave themselves to oikonomia (divine economy).