The concept of stewardship often gets lost in the program for fund raising. If we are to see stewardship as what it truly is, we must see that it is God asking us, What are you doing with My things? If we begin by allowing that all things belong to God, and that includes us, we can look at more than money. We also look at Gods Self Revelation in Scripture, Prayer and our time of communion with Him, Ministry and our becoming His presence for those to whom He sends us, and finally Money which is the abstract of our lives. Our check is what our lives become when we have spent them at some particular vocation.
This approach to stewardship consists in taking four weeks in the fall to consider the different aspects of stewardship on four consecutive Sundays, and giving people a time to try out that particular aspect in their own lives.
The first Sunday there is a sermon on Bible Reading and seeking to learn more about what God has revealed to us about His Being. The second Sunday is on our stewardship of Prayer and intentional intercession for others in the Body of Christ. The third is about ministry to others on an intentional basis. (It parallels the concept of Apostolic Action in Cursillo reunion groups.)
There is a sermon written and preached on the stewardship of regular Bible reading as a means of getting a grip on Christian revelation so that we might knowingly share God in the world where He has called us to be His. At the close of the service that Sunday material is made available to those who are willing to adopt a discipline of reading the Bible daily for four weeks. There is also a sheet of Bible references with 28 assignments, followed by two or three questions to ponder as a result of the particular lesson.
When we first tried the program, we purchased copies of Marks Gospel for the congregation with the breakdown into lessons and including the daily questions. The following year, we broke down Pauls Epistle to the Romans, and wrote our own questions. In subsequent years we would pick another bit of Scripture, and make the study outline available to the people who wanted to participate.
The following Sunday, the sermon was on daily prayer, particularly our task of intercession as the Body of the One who is the Intercessor for the world. Those who were interested in participating in the prayer stewardship adventure were asked to put their names in an alms basin so that others who were also participating could draw one of the names as their assignment for the period of four weeks that we experienced the stewardship of prayer. For all who drew a name it was suggested that they call the person to ask if there was some particular prayer need in their life at the moment. We did not have the definition of intercession that I have heard since, but I believe it is a good one. Intercession is laying down our lives so that God might walk over us to get to the person or situation for which we are interceding. That adventure was shared for the four weeks.
third week everyone was urged to pray for the Lord to lead them to a ministry to one other
person for four weeks. The sermon was on our
role as Christian ministers. I would address
the situation as our role as the flesh that Jesus puts on to minister to His people. For those familiar with the Cursillo disciplines,
we would fashion it in terms of Apostolic Action. It
was a commitment to ask God to whom they were to minister, and how they were to minister
to others. They were to plan what they were
going to do for others. For some it was a
periodic visit or a regular phone call. For
others it was some other way of letting their person know that they were loved by God and
by someone else in response to Gods love.
The fourth Sunday the sermon was on tithing as a Biblical standard for giving; but the necessity for asking God what He wanted us to do with His funds. It is pointed out that no one can have the experience of tithing unless they try it. The adventure is to try tithing for four weeks. (I used to tell them that if they tried it and didnt like it, they would not have given much more than they planned to give anyway. It got a laugh, and took some of the pressure off.)
Each one of the adventures began with a sermon on Sunday, and was followed by a pledge card to try it for four weeks. Each one of the sermons was written or taped to make it available to those who did not hear it in the church. Four weeks after the last adventure, there was Commitment Sunday. Every person who was intending to make a pledge to support the church was urged to fill out their pledge card that included Bible reading, Prayer, Ministry and Money with an indication of whether they were working toward a tithe if not already there.
Two weeks before Commitment Sunday a hand written letter was sent to each person inviting them to come to the Commitment Sunday and offer their pledge cards by laying it on the altar with the oblations to be used for the Eucharist. There was no high pressure. It was invitation to offer our selves, our souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto the Lord. In my parish, I wrote all of the letters myself. We had about 400 households. It took a little time, but it was my stewardship of the time and the energy to get the task done. It was not fund raising. It was stewardship at its simplest. It did yield enough funds for us to be able to comfortably do what the Lord asked of that parish.
If this is not enough, drop me an email with the unanswered questions and I will get them back to you insofar as I am able to do so. One of the neat things about Stewardship Adventure is that it had no canvass, and no social pressure to give. It did have some instruction and reason behind the whole thing. It was not a matter of financing the churchs life. It was a matter of using Gods things in accord with His will for us.