STEWARDSHIP SEASON? The season of Fall officially arrived in Central Florida on Saturday, September 22, at 9:54 p.m. Knowledge of that left me wondering whether there is a less meaningful event in all of Florida, as we continue to enjoy summer-like temperatures. With the coming of Fall comes another season, at least within the church: stewardship season. Cheryl Carson and I read a book recently that was the groundwork for the FISH stewardship workshop that we presented in August, Generosity Rising: Lead A Stewardship Revolution In Your Church by Scott McKenzie. McKenzie argues that for a stewardship program to be effective within a church it needs to include these factors:
It needs to be led by experienced givers in the church (including the pastor).
It needs to be targeted and taught to all ages.
It needs to communicate stories of how people are blessed and helped by the church’s ministry more than it communicates numbers with a bottom line on a budget (as necessary as that may be for the church to manage its funds appropriately).
It needs to have a year-round focus, not just four to six weeks in the Fall.
This is not an exhaustive list. I encourage you to check out this book, which is available from the Presbytery’s Resource Center (as are a host of other stewardship resources, including ones by Clif Christopher that have been quite popular in recent years).
Like many aspects of life within the church, stewardship is a shared responsibility. One of the responsibilities of the session is to nurture the covenant community of disciples of Christ by “encouraging the graces of generosity and faithful stewardship of personal and financial resources (G-3.0201c). The presbytery is called to support “congregations in developing the graces of generosity, stewardship, and service” (G-3.0301c). Thus, the recent FISH workshop and other offerings at the annual COLE event and a Presbyterian Foundation stewardship seminar featuring Clif Christopher that CFP hosted several years ago.
Both that seminar and McKenzie’s book stressed telling stories of how the church (or presbytery) impacts the lives of people. People want to give to meaningful causes. As Clark Simmons of the Board of Pensions likes to say, “Good Presbyterians give good dollars to good programs.” We should tell those stories regularly, in newsletter articles, minutes for mission, a narrative budget, and even to introduce the Sunday offering. (Christopher argues that nothing can be less effective for motivating giving than only asking the ushers to come forward for the morning’s offering.)
What does the presbytery do that blesses the lives of people and its congregations? Here are just a few things:
We provide four Presbyterian Answer To Hunger (PATH) partners in the fight against hunger, two locally in Florida (Second Harvest Food Bank and Society of St. Andrew) and two which are more global (AIR-Guatemala and supporting the Turks in Madagascar).
CFP maintains the already-mentioned Resource Center, with materials for worship and educational ministries at minimal or no cost, particularly to congregations that might not otherwise be able to afford them.
Leadership Development Committee sponsors two major educational events each year -- Church Officer Leadership Education (COLE) and Fresh Ideas Start Here (FISH) – and various events throughout the year for education, support, and fellowship for children, youth, adults, and Christian Educators.
Thee Presbytery Youth Council sponsors events throughout the year for fellowship and service, participates in the national Youth Triennium, and (most importantly) develops leaders from the young people who serve on the Council.
CFP provides support to our congregations that are in times of transition and are seeking a new pastor (Committee on Ministry and Executive Presbyter), and support to our Inquirers and Candidates and others preparing for ministry including commissioned pastors, certified educators, musicians, and administrators (Committee on Preparation for Ministry/COM and Associate Executive Presbyter)).
Support for 30 congregations ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for recovery after last year’s Hurricane Irma, and similar support to 22 congregations following 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.
Mission Development Committee has sponsored a Compassion, Peace and Justice Symposium in 2016 and 2018, and oversees our Cuba partnership. At least nine CFP congregations have entered into partnerships with congregations in El Centro Presbytery in Cuba, and visitors that have traveled in both directions over the past six years.
Church Development Committee provides leadership enrichment through the Barnabas Leadership cohorts, church transformation resourcing and grants for congregations, and oversees our two new church development projects and six New Worshiping Communities and fellowship groups.
CFP has helped support a women-in-ministry retreat in the past two springs.
CFP provides legal assistance to congregations dealing with property or immigration issues.
And our four stated meetings each year are more than merely business meetings but also provide worship, education (plenaries and Open Spaces), inspiration, and fellowship. The five staff who serve the Presbytery – Cheryl, Barbara, Christina, Nina and myself – are involved in all of the above, and more.
This is just scratching the surface of the ministries in which your Presbytery is involved!
We should be educating and encouraging our members about stewardship throughout the year and not just during the Fall. A special focus on stewardship at this time of the year is inevitable, however. With that in mind, may I suggest a thought that might be planted in the minds of our members during this season.
It comes from G-1.0304, which talks about membership in the Church of Jesus Christ. Membership is described as both a joy and a privilege that includes our commitment to participate responsibly in Christ’s mission. An impressive list of examples of responsible participation follows, which is concluded with the following challenge which the session ought to periodically place before the congregation, the responsibility of “reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.”
Imagine what the impact this would have on our congregations and presbytery – in stewardship and other ministries of the church -- if we became really serious in answering this challenge!
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk