Stewardship is relationship

August 1st, 2018

The early days of the Methodist movement were often defined by conversations around “The Connection” — friendships, commitments and covenants that were made by lay and clergy alike. Some of these connections were promises, but most were more clearly defined as relationships that people shared in small groups, or societies, that became the centerpiece of the movement itself.

Although Methodists don’t refer to “The Connection” in the same ways as they once did, relationship is still the most important aspect of a person’s commitment to Christ and the church. Without a strong sense of connection, people tend to live on the margins of faith. And when it comes to stewardship (time, talent and treasure) relationship will be the most definitive factor in a person’s commitment.

Consider how these relationships will impact one’s stewardship of time, talent and treasure.

Relationship with Christ

Persons who have a strong sense of relationship with God are far more likely to see the connections between their time, talent and treasure and their day-to-day gifts to God’s work. Growing strong disciples — people who are following Christ on the way — will have the greatest impact on stewardship. Worship, preaching and teaching that fosters a strong relationship with Christ will also have an impact on the people who desire to serve, grow and lead. Strong disciples always give more of their time and resources to God’s work.

Stewardship that focuses on growing in discipleship is centered on helping people to answer questions like:

  • How can I grow in my commitment to Christ and his work? 
  • Where is Christ calling me to give my time and leadership? 
  • How is Christ calling me to give more to God’s work? 

As people consider their relationship with Christ, there is the promise of growth and fruitfulness. Disciples are aware of their blessings and God’s abundance. They understand that they can never outgive God. There is always more to be done.

Strong stewardship first and foremost centers on relationship with Christ.

Relationship with others

How often do pastors meet individuals or families who have become noticeably absent, only to discover that they feel disconnected from the church? People who don’t find connections in the church are far more likely become disaffected or isolated. But those who discover friendship and support in the congregation are eager to support God’s work with their time, talent and treasure.

Leaders who want to impact relationships with others will need to give attention to:

  • Small groups, prayers groups, study groups 
  • A consistent and persistent array of opportunities for people to connect with each other 
  • Lifting up opportunities for people to give and lead out of their relationships with others

These insights can be most helpful when it comes to fostering a strong sense of stewardship of time and talent. Everyone has something to give to the whole. The church is comprised of relationships — of people who are willing to help each other, serve in their community and reach out to meet the unmet needs in the world.

These relationships with others should be a centerpiece of any stewardship campaign, and, in fact, should be an ongoing conversation that allows for many opportunities for people to serve and grow.

Relationship with leadership

Whether serving in a large congregation or smaller, a leader knows that people long to have relationship with the pastor or other congregational leaders. For this reason, the pastor is often the one who can have the greatest impact on a person’s stewardship, or in their growth as a disciple.

While a pastor should not be responsible for everything that happens (or not) in the area of a congregation’s stewardship, pastors know that there are conversations that a pastor can have in small groups and homes that will impact a congregation’s strength of stewardship. Here, some important insights can include:

  • Fostering relationships and expressing gratitude (verbal and written) with major financial contributors. 
  • Making “the ask” for lead gifts to capital campaigns or special mission and ministry needs. 
  • Challenging the entire congregation, by precept and example, to grown in stewardship.

A pastor will also do well in helping individuals to see the connections between their stewardship and Christ’s work. It is important that people not see their gifts as going to a budget, but to God’s work — and that they also see the results of their financial and time commitments. A narrative of God’s shared work can go a long way in helping individuals see the connections between their gifts and ministry: how people are being helped, how community is being impacted and God’s love shared.

By focusing on relationships, stewardship can always be strengthened. 

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