Many congregations are in the waning days of their annual stewardship campaign. Are you thinking, “whew, glad that’s done until next year?” Well…not so fast! The annual campaign may be winding down but stewardship is a year round process. The work of educating, building relationship, expressing gratitude and demonstrating generosity is ongoing so the real question is, “what will we do next to keep the conversation going?” In some congregations talking about stewardship (and money in general) is like a visit to the dentist – I know it’s good for me but once a year is enough. The truth is, like most things, the more you talk about it – the more comfortable some folx will become about having “the talk” when the annual canvass rolls around.
How do we do that you wonder? The first thing I encourage you to do is “preach it!” The Sunday sermon packs a punch in the hearts and minds of many congregants and if they begin to hear about stewardship through stories, personal testimony and theological connections, you can move the congregational culture towards one where it is okay (and even normal!) to let these ideas out of the basement, where we store them in-between pledge drives. If some aspect of stewardship is shared four times a year, real change can begin to happen in how the congregation views the financial ministry. Lay-led congregations may be interested to know that the UUA awards an annual “Stewardship Sermon Award” and archived sermons are free to download and share.
You are probably already doing lots of events that demonstrate how much we value our congregation, our faith, and our fragile planet. Recycling, sharing the plate with organizations that share our values, doing hands-on service and planting seeds are all thoughtful examples of stewardship and a great way to include families. We don’t always explicitly say that these events are connected to our overall stewardship program but if we use consistently use the language of stewardship: giving, generosity, gratitude - folx will begin to understand that it is part of our everyday congregational ethos.
It’s healthy to talk about money and the more we do it – the easier it gets. Generous members can be invited to write a newsletter story about why they give or why they have included the congregation in their will. (Don’t have a legacy giving program – let’s work on that!). Staff can incorporate stewardship and generosity in an occasional newsletter column. There are more formal ways to get folks talking about money such as “The Wisdom Path,” a Tapestry of Faith curriculum about money. It can be used for a day long “money” conversation or can be the foundation of a multi-session small group ministry. Children can get in on the learning as well (check out learningtogive.org).
If we don’t talk about money and only talk about our financial story once a year, it can feel like something verboten. That’s not the message any of us aspire to, is it? When we craft a compelling mission for our congregation, the next natural thing is to want to make it come alive through our financial ministry so that we can grow our congregation and grow our beloved UU faith. So, preach it, teach it, name it and claim it! All. Year. Long!