How will God use YOUR church in the coming year?
Every church has the ability to build a thriving, sustainable stewardship ministry by attending first to two key foundational areas: 1. Architecture: the structures of sustainability and 2. Atmosphere: the culture, climate, and ethos that sustains the health of the congregation. So why do countless congregations, across the country, struggle with finding willing bodies to fill their finance and stewardship committees? It might have something to do with this infamous, anonymous definition of the (oft) dreaded B-word: “Budget: A method of worrying before you spend, instead of afterward!”
Ever wonder how to clear a room full of well-intentioned lay leaders in your congregation? One sure fire way is to ask them to discuss, out loud, their relationship with money, their personal finances, and their family’s budgeting and spending practices!
Money tends to be a topic full of peril and pitfalls, giant “caution” signs, family systems drama, and the ability to both stifle vision and encourage vision. And not just for congregational leaders, but “talking about money” for pastors can be as highly charged as talking about politics with your relatives over a Thanksgiving meal! Is it any wonder, then, that we often can’t seem to find a solid group of volunteers tasked with, some might say, the most important work of the Church: Evaluating how God will use them in the coming year via their church’s operating budget.
Laying the budgetary groundwork to accomplish the work of the church is no easy task! Did you know that Ministry Architects has an in-house financial coach who has been helping churches, non-profits, and missional entrepreneurs wade through the myriad of denominational, secular, and charitable financial resources to connect their mission and ministry dreams to their budgets, all within the context of breeding a culture of generosity? We do! She is busier than ever these days as many of our partner churches find themselves stuck between the best of intentions and some of the lowest levels of congregational engagement in finance and stewardship work that we’ve ever seen.
So where do you start? Building a sustainable stewardship ministry in a congregation, similar to how we evaluate any (specific) ministry area’s long-term sustainability, begins with doing the hard work of evaluating, refining, and/or building guidelines to clarify roles and help establish procedures that will meet the objectives of the ministry area. This architecture, so to speak, must be both foundational and innovative. It must be adaptively strategic as well in order to offer the means to celebrate the financial vision of the church while narrating, not simply by the overly complex, “decades in the making” excel spreadsheet alone, the financial realities of that vision.
Relevant, practical advice for congregations struggling with tremendous shifts in giving and financial engagement can be found in dozens of places and yet how many reading this could actually raise their hands to describe the deliberate process of their congregation’s creation, prioritization, approval, sharing, and celebration of what God is doing in and among them via their operating budget?
This speaks to the “atmosphere” aspect of stewardship ministries: Doing the (even harder) work of evaluating an operating budget within the context of income (from all sources), expenses, ministry priorities, and vision casting assumes your committee members begin this task from the vantage point of a healthy culture, climate, and ethos. There is nothing more stifling to generosity than fuzzy vision! Dramatic, sustainable stewardship ministries happen only when we’ve invited the entire congregation to join in a shared vision with their time, talents, and treasure. As Ministry Architects’ founder, Mark DeVries, eloquently says: “Sustainable change happens when leaders recognize the power of incremental revolution, the power of one small change after another, until the incremental changes result in exponential change.” Imagine the power of religiously celebrating how God uses YOUR church to make a difference in the lives of the congregation and in the greater community. An unstoppable force for sure!
So what’s next for your church or your stewardship ministry? We want to help your church find clear direction and sustained momentum! Ministry Architects’ innovative approach may very well be your solution to moving beyond the unruly stewardship and budgetary challenges that have kept your church “stuck” or “plateaued”, sharing the load as you strengthen the culture of generosity, giving, and gratitude in your congregation. What do you have to lose?
-Aly Eaton, email@example.com