It’s Not Just About $
by Kathye Hamm
When I became interim Director for Evangelical Mission in the Sierra Pacific Synod I knew working part-time I could not also do the work of developing stewardship education in the Synod, while focusing on new and renewing congregation development. But, I also knew there is a group of passionate and gifted persons who are, among the Stewardship Discipling Team and others always lifting up this ministry for the sake of the church.
I have to confess, I was not always excited about stewardship. In parish ministry, I always dreaded the fall season when we would be confronted again with how to ask members to give more for the ministry of the church. I especially disliked the programs that focused on giving each council member a certain number of people to contact and ask for their pledge for coming year. Some did this really well, sharing their own stories and providing a good theological basis for asking a response from our members. Others often didn’t even make the contact visits. I will always remember another member who was gung ho about tithing, but made it so legalistic that most members ran the other way when he started telling them what they had to do.
So, when I heard the word “STEWARDSHIP”, I ducked, hoping to avoid it until I had to deal with it. Well, this attitude finally caught up with me when I began work as Director for Evangelical Mission in the Northeastern Ohio Synod. My role was both in development and redevelopment of congregations, but stewardship education was later added. Suddenly I had to confront my own lack of enthusiasm for this ministry of stewardship. (Actually, this when I first begin to see it as a ministry, and a blessing to me personally, rather than a thing I was “required” to do.
I then began to dream about all of what stewardship really was. And I started to think of all those who have blessed my life because of the many gifts they had given me. As difficult as it was to think about, I realized the greatest gift of all was my birth, and a mother who sacrificed her life, dying two days after I was born from heart issues. I also thought of my grandmother and aunt who raised me and my brother, taking over to make sure we had a good life, and bringing us from cold Minnesota to sunny California when I was three years old!
As I continue to think over the years, I think of many who helped shaped my ministry today. I think of my campus pastor Jim Carr, and my internship supervisor and later colleague, Floyd Lawson who taught me his passion for urban ministry. I could go on and on identifying people who provided the gifts of themselves in influencing my life. I now realize this is stewardship just as giving faithfully and generously is, spending time being a coach and being an advocate for others. Giving of our gifts to God through the church, and other places, and giving of our time in our community and with others is not a chore, but a blessing that enriches us the most. And, it always brings us back to a God who has given us the greatest gift of all, Jesus, for our lives and our world. Even in the midst of the struggles so many are going through because of weather and other causes, together we are blessed by the Holy Spirit to experience the gifts we are given and the opportunities to give to others in the name of Jesus.
Recently in the awful destruction from hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and many other communities in our country, I was struck by how many people rushed to help. Despite our deep political divisions, people came together to offer what they could for the sake of all people. Perhaps they didn’t know it, but I believe stewardship…of all our God given resources were shared, without strings or conditions. Hopefully, we will not have to have a disaster in order for that to happen. Could we learn from this that being a faithful steward of our resources happens because we respond to opportunities that reach beyond ourselves for the sake of the other, and ultimately, I believe this is led by the Holy Spirit.
Giving to our church, and our community of our time, talent, and money as well as the stewardship of our world and all God has given us is a blessing beyond all measure.
Peace, Ron Zoesch
December 12, 2017
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