The Joy of Year-Round Stewardship
By Timothy Siburg
This article was originally published in Giving Magazine Vol. 22, No. 1 in 2020. You can access the full issue here.
There’s this misconception in the church that stewardship is something that is focused on only part of the time: often in the fall, built around ideas of thanksgiving and gratitude and the traditional timing of harvest in agricultural communities. The problem is, stewardship is not something meant to be practiced and focused on part of the time. It’s always the right time for stewardship.
At its heart, stewardship is all about joy and our response to God’s work for us. Stewardship is a life lived with God, grateful for all that God provides and entrusts. It’s one in which we are excited to share God’s love with the hurting, broken, and yet beautiful world God so loves, which is yearning to hear and see that love. It’s a joy and a gift. It’s also a responsibility and response to living a life as a disciple.
It would be a shame if such joy was reserved for only certain times. Thankfully, it is not. I have the privilege in my current call serving in the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to listen, see, share, invite, tell, and thank. This work is year- round, because God’s work is year-round. The needs of the world are year-round. And God is always present in the midst, walking with God’s people. To see God’s love in action and then to witness and share about it is a gift. To invite others to come and see and participate in it and contribute to it is a great joy. To thank God and God’s people is a natural response, and a mark of year-round stewardship.
As I like to remind congregations, when it comes to stewardship every day, all year round, think about it as an opportunity to daily point to God’s presence. It’s God that makes life possible, and who makes all the ministry that we witness and are a part of happen. If it’s not because of God’s love, why would we even be here? When we remember this, the work of sharing, growing, and serving moves from being work to a deeper thing: living abundantly. This living becomes an embodied life of joy and gratitude—one where stewardship is truly a joyful thing, something we get to do and not have to do.
We get to share. We get to make a difference. We get to tell the story of how we see God active and up to something, and how that connects to God’s promises and ongoing story revealed through the scriptures. What a privilege and joy it is to be able to do this.
Encouraging this joy within the life of the congregation year-round takes a little work, effort, and intentionality. This issue of Giving Magazine will help in this effort. It offers insights into some practical and theological reflections for growing stewardship year-round within your faith community. It connects your weekly Sabbath and gathering for worship with the role of the offering within it.
As we return to God a portion of what God first has entrusted us through our tithes and offerings, we recognize that there are many ways to give, and different points in life with different opportunities to give. To unpack this, key questions and ideas are offered to ponder about how to shape an annual giving program which lasts throughout the year. Thought is given to how capital campaigns can help enhance the annual giving program, and benefit the life and ministry of your church. Those with means to provide major gifts also provide a unique opportunity and gift for the church, so ideas are shared about engaging major gifts and donors. You also will find ideas to grow legacy giving— giving that might culminate a life of generosity and make a long-term impact on ministry. These types of giving and financial responses enable ministry. They also involve financial transactions and processes which are constant matters of importance within the business side of the church. To live faithfully and steward well, best practices about transparency and accountability as a matter of trust are offered within this issue as well.
With gratitude for these gifts, a central part of stewardship ministry is telling the story and saying thank you. To aid in this work, this issue offers a wide picture and example of how congregations can more effectively tell the story of how they are stewarding God’s gifts and doing God’s work in the world through a narrative budget. To put these pieces together, practical tips and ideas are shared about effective stewardship ministry teams, and how great teams lead to great stewardship.
All this work and ministry happens year-round. It takes focus, planning, and intentionality. But it is worth it. Practicing stewardship year-round as a faith community changes lives, grows disciples, and does God’s work. Thank you for your work and stewardship, and please enjoy this issue of Giving Magazine.
Timothy Siburg is Director for Stewardship for the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Giving Magazine was a premier stewardship resource published by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC) from 1999 until 2020. The magazine served Christian faith communities throughout North America, providing thoughtful, practical, and inspirational content on faith and giving from thought leaders and practitioners alike. Giving was published annually from 1999 until 2018 (volumes 1-20), and then quarterly in 2019 and 2020 (volumes 21-28) in digital form only. In 2021 ESC closed its doors and committed its archives to the care of Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. For further information on ESC or its archives, please contact us at email@example.com.
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