Since I came to St. Luke’s, I’ve been thinking a lot about stewardship. I don’t mean fundraising, although that’s part of stewardship. I mean being a steward. I’m thinking about what it means to be stewards of our churches.
This month I went to a workshop on stewardship given by Jerry Keucher, a priest who works for the Episcopal Church Foundation and consults with churches around the country. He’s written a book called Remember the Future, about financial management for congregations. I went with a sense of duty. I came away with much more. I came away with a vision I want to share with you.
Keucher reminds us that we receive assets from former generations in trust for future generations. We are stewards of these resources. The first duty of stewards is to remember the future, to manage our assets in such a way that those who come after us receive an institution stronger than the one we inherited.
Stewardship begins with the belief that our church has a future. Keucher says that in the press of tight budgets and smaller numbers, it’s easy to forget that we have a future. When we forget the future, we’re likely living with anxiety. Anxious people focus on details and people’s failures rather than hopes for the long run. We all go there sometimes. But stewardship requires us to believe we have a future, and to act to make that future happen.
Stewardship is inseparable from leadership. Leadership is oriented toward the future, planning the steps toward realizing a vision. It means taking a long view, a view that extends beyond us and our lifetimes.
I came here believing we have a future, and I still believe that. That’s why I talk about newcomers, and hospitality, and communication, and looking at our budgets, and proportional giving. I promise I’ll do more of that. New people will come. We need to be ready for them. When you hear yourself say or think, “We all know who we are,” or something like that, remember: if we have a future, we look forward to a time when we do not know everyone. We need to practice living into that time. Ask yourself what you would want and need as a newcomer, and then think of how you can be a part of making that available to others.
We also remember the future through focusing on our mission. Jesus did not commission the disciples to go and build big buildings and sit in them. He sent them out to preach and heal and bring comfort to the oppressed. He sends us in the same way. Our buildings are our refueling stations, essential but not the end.
This is also why I tell you to pray and discern this summer. The antidote to anxiety is trust in God’s ability to create new life out of old bones. As we pray, our anxiety can give way to hope and joy. Pray to know what God has in mind for us, especially in our ministry and mission. Pray for the strength and courage to pursue that. And when you begin to discern that mission for yourself, share it with others. Let us know what fires you up. Be a light to us all.
God bless you, this week and every day in the future. I’ll see you there!