The Stewardship Conundrum

If I polled church leaders to see if they regularly teach about stewardship, most, if not all, would answer yes. However, if they are like me when I was a pastor, that “regular teaching” looks like a yearly sermon series on the foundations of stewardship, giving, and generosity. In thinking through this subject, I wonder how effective that really is. Could it be done better and with a clearer focus?

Church leadership may need to consider seeing stewardship as part of the discipleship process. Discipleship is a journey, and each believer is at a different stage. When it comes to stewardship, the challenge comes in addressing the entire church made up of many people with various financial statuses, circumstances, and levels of maturity in their discipleship journeys.

Not everyone in our churches struggles with debt. Some have six-figure incomes; others have fixed incomes. Some have a surplus to give while others don’t have enough to pay bills. Church leaders must be sensitive to these differences and recognize their churches are comprised of people with all kinds of financial conditions and varying levels of stewardship.

One of the main reasons we need to understand this is because money can be a rival god to anyone, no matter how much or little we have. The writer of Proverbs described it like this in Proverbs 30:8-9: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”

The temptation for the wealthy is to put hope and trust in money. For those without financial resources, the temptation is to worry and fear.

When we stop and think about it, clearly, our stewardship training needs to be more than just an annual sermon campaign that hits the highlights. It needs to be an essential part of our discipleship program, focused on the entire church with its various levels of financial standing and generosity. The conversations are different for those struggling with debt versus those living paycheck to paycheck, the generous versus those who are reluctant to give. If we want our stewardship programs to be effective, we must think through these things and consider how to be relevant to all.

Each church is different. A one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach won’t work. However, some simple thoughts are helpful:

• Commit to stewardship training for all.

• View stewardship through the lens of discipleship.

• Allow room for growth and grace for your people.

• Teach a biblical foundation of stewardship.

• Provide practical tools.

It is required that stewards be faithful. If every believer is a steward, it’s up to the church to help disciple its congregation towards faithful stewardship. May every church do its best to help each person in every situation move forward in their stewardship journeys and be faithful to God.

This article was previously posted in the February/March 2023 edition of ONE Magazine.