Friday, November 09, 2007

What Is Stewardship, Anyway?

Responding to a comment of Wyld's, it does occur to me that not everyone who reads this blog is either a pastor or someone intimately familiar with the concept. I offer my definition. Other churchy-types, feel free to chime in.

Stewardship is a concept that has its roots, I think, in the first creation story of Genesis.

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
~ Genesis 1:27-30

That idea of "having dominion" over the earth is often interpreted as being equivalent with "dominating." But my understanding is that it is really about being good stewards... being caretakers of these astounding gifts that God has gives us.

Translated into the life of the church, it has to do with how we care for the assets of the church: buildings, grounds, staff, programs. To be good stewards means that we have to care for these gifts, whether by giving of our time, our talents, and /or our cold, hard cash (often called "treasure," for those who love alliteration).

There are other ways to care for our gifts as well. Sometimes we do that in more unexpected, radical ways... like the dying church not too far from me that decided they didn't want to end their time as a congregation spending all their money to care for an aging building. Rather, they decided to spread their assets around: they sold the building, gave the money to a youth program in the city, and rented space to worship. Oddly, they ended up being completely re-vitalized by their decision. Their act of generosity attracted people to them, gave them a new sense of mission. They considered themselves "stewards" not just of a building, but of the gospel. And that made all the difference.

6 comments:

steve said...

Thanks for an interesting reflection. I found myself thinking about environmentalism -- about how we best can be "stewards" of our world.

Magdalene6127 said...

Steve, I think environmentalism absolutely falls into the category of stewardship... as does the care of our bodies. It's all very far-reaching once we start to take it seriously.

Wyldth1ng said...

I am honored to have received an answer via a post. Makes sense, but why did you refer to it as a time frame? Shouldn't this happen all the time?

(Maybe I am not phrasing the question right.)

Thank you for your time in writing this. :)

Magdalene6127 said...

Wyld, you are absolutely right: this should happen all the time. However, owing to the fact that a lot of churches prepare their budgets in the fall for the following calendar year, and adding to that the fact that the real run-up to Christmas starts the first Sunday in Advent (Dec. 2 this year), it is pretty common for churches to have a "Stewardship Campaign" that runs, roughly, now-ish.

Ours started last Sunday with a "minute for stewardship" by a member. It continued this week with our mailing (including my spiffy brochure); and it continues Sunday with a "stewardship sermon" (as yet unwritten, despite my enthusiasm). We conclude on Sunday the 18th with our "Dedication of Pledges", (aka "Show Me the Money" Sunday-- my own name for it, not the church's. Alas.).

So that's what I was referring to.

Wyldth1ng said...

oh.

Wyldth1ng said...

Good luck on your "Show me the Money" sunday. I hope for a good turn out.