On Stewardship “The Big Give”
As we consider the topic of congregational stewardship the question is often "How can we ..."
- Give congregants ownership of their own giving?
- Transfer the leadership of stewardship from the pastor, or a committee, to the congregation as a whole?
- Shift the way the congregation thinks about stewardship?
- Transform stewardship into a joyful, worshipful and participatory duty that enlivens and unifies thcongregation?
Deb Stehlin, pastor of Light of the World (LOTW), has taken up these questions as she considers how to get the whole community involved in stewardship.
Annually, LOTW gives ten percent of its funds away. Five percent goes to the ELCA for the wider church and the other five percent goes to community organizations during a congregational stewardship activity called The Big Give.
Prior to The Big Give, a small group of congregants will develop a list of three to four organizations that the congregation has had a relationship with during the past year. This group also welcomes suggestions from the entire congregation.
"We tend to have passion for giving to organizations that we work with, know well and believe in. Giving money is just one more way for us to be in relationship with (our) community partners," Stehlin said.
In the midst of The Big Give, which takes place over the course of two weeks, the congregation determines what portion of the allocated five percent of the LOTW's funds goes to each of these community organizations. On a given Sunday at the time of the event, everyone, including toddlers and preschoolers, receives four LOTW bucks.
During the offering they have a chance to give their money away. In the front of the church there are three or four buckets, each labeled with a different community organization chosen by the small group. The congregation is invited to come forward and place their bucks in the buckets in any way they choose.
Stewardship is transformed from passive giving in the offering plate to an exuberant act of worship.
"There is something about doing it with your own body ... as an act of worship, (that makes it) a joyful thing," Stehlin said.
Through this joyful act of worship, the congregants choose in what proportion the designated five percent of the church funds goes to the chosen community partners because these funds are divided among the organizations in proportion to the number of bucks that are placed in each bucket after both Sundays.
Stehlin believes The Big Give exemplifies the values of LOTW. The church's mission statement is "The power of community to follow Jesus, act in the world and pass on the faith" and The Big Give enables the congregation to embody this statement about the power of community.
"We decide things as a community and make them happen as a community, rather than isolated individuals," said Stehlin.
In The Big Give, the congregation receives the opportunity to "follow Jesus in giving life away." The congregation also acts in the world by "shining the light into dark places" and realizing that their "money has the power to change things in the world."
Lastly, the congregation passes on the faith because the whole activity is about trust. "We trust that even if we give 10 percent away, God will still provide all we need for our mission. And they can start to see how that works at their house, too," said Stehlin.
Stewardship is not just for adults, but for people of all ages. Stewardship is an act of worship that the entire congregation participates in together. Every person, no matter their giving record or financial situation, is invited to take equal part in the congregation's dispensation of its giving. This inspires and challenges every congregant to realize the duty and joy of stewardship.
How does this work for Martin Luther? Would you consider it in your giving?