I think that much work needs to be done in the area of complete stewardship. That is to think of Stewardship besides just in the financial aspect. I have found the very word stewardship is still very uncomfortable for many Christians, especially Episcopalians. We do not like to talk about money. If Stewardship is only viewed from a financial lens then naturally the word will take time getting used to hearing and embracing with a broader view, thus moving beyond only a money context. Yet data, including money, reveals an indication of any progress being made by a congregation in “Being Good Stewards in Every Aspect of Our Community.” This project integrates over the year, a broader understanding of stewardship in a parish.
I have spent the past year implementing a year round Stewardship program in my current church. The progress of the project has been steady. We have completed seven months to cover Stewardship through seven commission areas. During each month the congregation was exposed through teaching moments from both the leadership of the Vestry and a sermon by me. In addition, special events were often held to help further enhance the definition of what it means to be a good steward in one commission area at a time. Our church is organized with seven umbrella areas of ministry referred to as commissions. The seven commissions are: Service (Outreach), Worship, Evangelism, Education, Pastoral Care, Administration and Structures.
The first five commissions of Service, Worship, Evangelism, Education, and Pastoral Care, tie us closely to our Baptismal Covenant, thus holding us accountable, both individually and collectively, to living out those faithful vows we routinely make to God and each other. The last two commissions, Administration and Structure, focus on the realities of being an actual church, thus ensuring that the first five commissions are supported through the effective and responsible management of time, personnel, structures and money of the church. This S.W.E.E.P. model of Service, Worship, Evangelism, Education, and Pastoral Care is commonly used in churches.
The first section of this project will cover my strategy. The second section reflects the research of theological views of stewardship as a way to discern further what stewardship means through written resources of scholarship. This will be a chance to reflect even further on a broader view of stewardship to be developed in a parish. The third section will be examples of each month’s commission area offering and summary. I’ll provide excerpts from my sermons, Vestry members’ teaching blurbs in the monthly meetings, Vestry newsletter articles, and when relevant, a description of a corresponding special event. In the fourth section, I will describe my congregational context and a chance to examine the data to see if there is a change in actual sharing one’s gifts from one pledge campaign to the next and results from a survey following this project’s work. In the fifth and final section, I will analyze the project as presented in a broader definition to the congregation and how I plan to continue to use this concept in our future ministry.