Sunday, October 21, 2007

Membership is down - give more?

No sooner had I posted about Christian Stewardship being cheapened by equating with money than I noticed (on this blog) the news item from UM Reported, "Changing demographics impacts funds".

The article has several interesting facts and figures. One negative action popped out at me, though. The GCFA governing board, in response to the decline in giving, has penned legislation that, "among other things, the legislation aims to hold leaders at all levels of the church accountable in their responsibility to promote, support and model Christian giving."

Whoa! So let me get this straight. The denomination is seeing a decline in membership and a decline in giving. The solution is to give more? It sounds like the old semi-joke about some office managers, "Management has observed that morale is low. Beatings will commence until morale improves." Maybe we are getting more concerned with funding than with meeting the spiritual needs of the least, the lost, and the last.

Perhaps if we focused our actions on them, as Luke shows us Jesus did, we'd be getting more members, who would want to contribute to the great spiritual work being done. Are we putting the cart before the horse? Are we failing to see the spiritual forest for the financial trees?

Stop demeaning Christian stewardship!

It's fall and the most common time for "Stewardship campaigns" a phrase that makes me cringe. Christian stewardship encompasses a very broad area. As Clarence Stoughton said, "Stewardship is everything you do after you say yes to Jesus Christ.". Churches demean stewardship and ignore the many needed actions areas of Christian Stewardship when they make it all about money.

What churches usually really mean is "annual financial campaign". Using the word "stewardship" makes some people feel better about asking for money, but it seems disingenuous. Sometimes churches add little "talent" cards to justify calling it a Stewardship campaign. But that too barely scratches the surface of Christian stewardship. And it's tacit admission that the campaign is a financial campaign running under cover of the term "stewardship".

Churches do need financial support. There's nothing wrong with a financial campaign. Let's be more honest about the process and call it just that. Doing so may also defuse criticism by unchurched people that churches are sly, world-like, or hypocritical.

And let's have true Stewardship campaigns in our churches. Ones where we inform members about all aspects of stewardship and encourage their daily involvement as stewards for Christ.

Let's stop equating Christian stewardship with asking for financial support, needed though it is. Let's be up front and honest when we conduct our annual financial campaigns.

[cross-posted from Open Mind Dave blog]