by Beryl Jantzi, D. Min.
Everence Director of Stewardship Education
We have invited some of our Lake Institute partners to speak about their experiences with our educational programs beginning with adjunct instructor and Everence leader, Beryl Jantzi.
“Stewardship isn’t the most important work of the church, but it’s far too important to ignore”
I talk a lot about money, a subject many church leaders prefer to ignore. A common way I begin is to say, "Stewardship isn’t the most important work of the church, but it’s far too important to ignore." Every church leader agrees, money is important! However, it becomes all too easy to ignore, with all the other pressing issues faced by pastors. In order to raise the bar on the urgency of this topic I will say, we avoid the biblical emphasis on stewardship at our own peril. Now I have their attention.
In my role as the Everence Director of Stewardship Education, I began serving in 2012 as an adjunct instructor for Lake Institute teaching the Cultivating Generous Congregations (CGC) curriculum. During the last six years we have served 162 congregations and a total of 730 pastors and lay leaders. This curriculum has become our premier offering to congregations seeking assistance with their stewardship ministry.
Everence is a faith-based financial services company related to the Mennonite Church which also serves many other Anabaptist denominations, historic peace church traditions and other groups who embrace similar values. We have found the CGC material to be compatible with our theological tradition and applicable to the congregations that we serve.
The two key strengths of this curriculum are:
- the unapologetic manner in which it integrates faith into the overall conversation about stewardship, and
- the specific strategies and practices for cultivating generous donors. These stewardship tools are rooted in extensive research from a broad base of denominations and faith traditions across the US.
A key component of the CGC curriculum is the research that is highlighted in the “Altered Landscape” section of the curriculum. This material is updated annually which allows us to bring the most current information to our audience. Because the Lake staff does not sit on its laurels and ride the wave of past research, as an adjunct instructor, I cannot rest on my past preparation either. I am required to regularly review the material as annual updates are released and built into the curriculum.
Following are two of many stories that have come to my attention about how church leaders have worked to implement some of what they have learned after participating in CGC:
1. Pastor John, after consulting with his lay leaders, began writing thank you notes to select donors in his congregation. To his surprise, these notes were received with appreciation and led to visits with members of his church. These conversations revealed many interesting insights that he was able to take back to his staff. Among them was the deep level of commitment of these donors to the church and of their own deep spiritual commitment. It also helped this pastor to realize that members of his church are not at all resistant to talking about money and generosity. This was one of several key learnings from this pastor and his team of lay leaders who had felt that this was a taboo subject.
2. In another situation, a pastor along with a group of lay leaders, felt compelled to reach out in a more meaningful way to the needs of their local community. They established a special fund that was to be given away to a non-profit organization in their community. They were convicted to not only tend to their own needs as a church community, but to serve their neighbors in a more tangible way. This pastor shared his dream with a pastor of a local church, who ended up partnering with this project. Over the course of the next six months $60,000 was raised and given to their local volunteer fire department. This gesture has had a significant impact on how the local community now perceives these two congregations.
Many other stories of generosity could be highlighted including: increased giving to the annual budget, the development and use of narrative budgets, having members share their philanthropic autobiography in small groups, and leading planned giving seminars which offered information on how members can include their local congregation in their wills.