In 1996, the book Money Matters: Personal Giving in American Churches was published. It shared the results of an extensive study of church giving in five diverse denominations. The study found that generous congregations encourage regular, consistent giving supported by prayerful and thoughtful planning.
More than two decades later, additional research and practices have supported these findings. In the 2008 book Passing the Plate: Why Christians Don’t Give Away More Money, authors Christian Smith and Michael Emerson reached the same conclusion. The Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s Giving magazine volume 14 includes a summary of a study of congregations of the United Church of Canada. The most generous congregations
• Were clear about the congregation’s mission;
• Communicated a compelling case for giving;
• Provided multiple opportunities for people to give;
• Were superb about giving appreciation to givers;
• Integrated stewardship with worship;
• Offered educational opportunities about the spiritual and practical aspects of faithful stewardship and generous giving;
• Had an annual giving campaign.
This year’s issue of Giving magazine offers similar data from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Estimates are that two-thirds of ELCA congregations have some form of stewardship emphasis each year. Congregations asking members to make a financial commitment see a higher level of generosity, both financially and in other ways.
At the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, we believe that:
• Christian stewardship is discipleship: how we live their lives in response to God’s bounteous grace;
• Giving is an essential part of our life as Christian stewards: meant to be practiced generously and joyfully;
• God’s abundance is our opportunity to be channels through which God’s generosity can flow and God’s love can be shared.
Vital congregations understand and act upon these principles, knowing how to make the case for faithful generosity that makes the world a better place. If one or more of these principles is absent, your mission and purpose can be like a three-legged stool with some missing legs: a bit tottery.
Ecumenical Stewardship Center resources are based on these principles:
• In every issue of Giving magazine, you’ll find articles of spiritual depth from stewardship thought leaders and practical ideas from experts in the field to engage all generations in faithful generosity.
• The Companion Resources include materials to integrate stewardship, worship, and study.
• Our biblically-based annual giving campaign materials challenge and encourage church leaders and the faith communities they serve to transform their congregations through generous giving and faithful stewardship.
Wherever your congregation might be in its stewardship journey, the Ecumenical Stewardship Center is ready to help. We would be happy to discuss new and next steps with you. Reach out to us today!