By Rickey Letson
A dear friend shared a box of books with me recently. He is at the end of his professional career and had been doing some cleaning and down-sizing. In the process, he had gathered some items from his library that he thought I might like to have.
As I thumbed through the box, one book stood out to me. It was an old book published by Broadman Press about 30 years ago. In a day long before Dave Ramsey was a household name, the focus was on personal finances from a Christian perspective. As I thumbed through the book, the first key suggestion from the writer caught my attention. It was simple, straightforward and yet very wise. The author of the book said that the first step to personal financial management is to have a plan. If you don’t have goals, and thus ideas, about how to accomplish those goals, it is easy to live with a significant degree of aimlessness.
The importance of planning is equally true when it comes to church finances. For pastors, the tasks of preaching, pastoral care, staff leadership and other duties quickly and easily crowd out our focus on tending to the financial health of the church. In turn, it is easy for stewardship matters to be addressed here and there as the need arises rather than as a result of a clear focused plan. Yet, the very fact that it is so easy for other things to crowd out stewardship should be reason enough to have a plan.
Along with vacations, camps, mission trips and Bible school, summer is often a time when pastors step back and do some planning for the rest of the fall. I advocate that stewardship planning be a part of this discipline. To support this, the following are three important elements of creating a basic stewardship plan for the rest of 2022.
First, when will you preach or teach about stewardship this fall? A good, balanced approach seems to be to focus on stewardship in a direct way at least once a quarter. With this idea in mind, set aside two key dates for the second half of the year where generosity and stewardship will be your focus.
Second, what are some of your goals for your church’s next ministry budget? Late summer and early fall are the times of year when the majority of churches begin working intensely on the next year’s budget. What changes would you like to see? Where does new money need to be allocated to expand ministry. Which mission partners deserve stronger support? Which key leaders do you need to meet with in advance of budget work getting underway?
Third, who do you need to foster a relationship with as a way of encouraging deeper generosity? Pastors often don’t think about donor development. But, a key part of pastoral work is fostering the belief that stewardship is a spiritual discipline. It is also critical that lead donors know clearly which mission and ministries your church is trying to fund and carry out. A worthy plan would be to create a list of one person a month for the rest of the year that you would like to have a meal or coffee with to have these conversations. Planning is imperative to financial success. How will you prepare for the rest of 2022 to be a strong season for your church from a stewardship perspective?
Rickey Letson is CBF’s Congregational Stewardship Officer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.