“What do you think of when you think about stewardship?”
This question was posed by Taylor Mills, who helped lead the breakout session ‘Full Life Stewardship’. The answers were varied – time, money, talents, and communications. Four presenters – Taylor Mills, Tyler Williams, LaNella Smith, and Lynn Benson – each led a discussion on the various aspects of stewardship, lived through the life of the church and the congregation.
Mills helped the group think of stewardship in broad terms – being about much more than money. Planning, education, spiritual gifts, taking care of one another – these and many more examples were shared as ways we put stewardship into practice. The group was asked about their calendar, and their ways of tracking money – through a checkbook register, wallet, or banking app. These are the things that reveal our true stewardship.
A discussion of time and talents revolved around gifts discernment, and using God’s generosity of gifts as we better understand how those gifts can be used. The local church can encourage people to use their gifts to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, both as a church and as a congregation. Examples offered included a Spiritual Gifts Assessment offered without charge from the conference office (contact Christine Harmon) and a congressional day of service. A congregational day of service builds excitement and community, and can often serve as an entry point for service.
“God’s first gift of a planet on which to live requires us to take care of it.” Williams led a discussion of creation care, referencing Psalm 24:1 and Colossians 1:15-16. Caring for God’s creation brings glory to God and expresses gratitude for his provision. Some examples discussed were preaching, teaching, and understanding the impact of basic changes in our lifestyle on our environment. We can also incorporate creation care into our missional activities of the church, with activities such as a community garden and community or neighborhood cleanup. We can also model creation care in our daily lives.
Smith asked “Who is our neighbor?” This question opened a discussion of the parable of the Good Samaritan, noting that loving neighbor is both social and economic. This parable reminds us who our neighbor is, and poses the question of “Who am I?” along with “Who is my neighbor”. Smith shared a quote from Tracy Earl Welliver, “Stewardship is a decision to love and it takes intentional work to keep the flame going”. We are called to steward many things – on of them is our relationship with God with out hearts, our minds, and our souls. To maximize love in stewarding our relationships, we are encouraged to invest in people, know ourselves, pray for our relationships, and pursue Jesus to pursue others.
Benson led a lively discussion of finances and generosity, suggesting that this is where our priorities show up in tangible ways. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” Growing generosity is a year-round practice of growing faith and trust in God, and practicing discipleship through stewardship. Benson shared a model for church budgets by showing a tricycle. The front wheel is the pulling wheel – this is the mission wheel that ‘pulls’ and propels forward motion. The other two wheels are support items – one for staff and training, and one for maintaining mission space, such as buildings and utilities.
Several resources were offered to assist with discussions of full life stewardship, and the group was reminded that many times the best resource for leading conversations is a person within the local congregation who is passionate about stewardship.