October 12, 2011

Now or Later?

Filed under: Financial Commitment — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 3:49 pm

The absolute best part of my ministry as a congregational stewardship consultant is how much I learn from clergy and lay leaders across the diocese. This morning I had a fantastic conversation with a Sr. Warden who is navigating the question of whether her congregation should dive in and “do stewardship” even though they are in transition, or sit tight and wait for the interim or rector to arrive.

For me, there are (at least) three compelling reasons for continuing the normal cycle of financial stewardship during a pastoral transition.

1.      What foot do you want to start off on?

If you decide to hold off on financial stewardship, you are creating a situation in which the new clergy person’s first priority is fundraising. Is that really the right foot to start off on?

I suspect that we, congregation and clergy alike, would prefer a situation that says, “Welcome! We aren’t rolling in it, but we are sufficiently resourced for you to settle in, get to know us pastorally, and work with us to shape mission and ministry. You have a little breathing room.”

2.      It’s a chance to discover the gifts in your midst.

Transition is by nature a time of looking at ourselves in the mirror. From the financial stewardship perspective, it’s a time to ask, “Are we a flock of sheep that huddles together, waiting for someone to come and lead us?” It is also an opportunity to take a deep breath and say, “OK, we’re all baptized members of the Body of Christ; together we surely have the gifts and talents to make this happen.”

Rare is the Warden who steps forward hoping the transition will happen on his or her watch. The same is true of the many mission and ministry teams that comprise the congregation: we don’t ask to fly by the seats of our pants, but by grace we discover gifts in the moment.

One very successful stewardship committee now shares the bond of remembering how scary and freeing it was to be thrust into the situation of making it up as they went. Just by trusting their instincts, they stumbled upon an innovative approach to securing financial stewardship that simultaneously recalibrated the congregation’s understanding of time and talent by “naming” and affirming these gifts as lay ministry. As they prepared to welcome their new rector, the committee realized that they weren’t willing to just hand everything back to the rector—they had undertaken a spiritual journey, found their energy, and really loved shared ministry!

3.      It strengthens the search for new clergy leadership.

Along the way, the newfound energy of this same stewardship committee also created a “vibe” that was picked up by the Search Committee. The idea of shared ministry found its way into conversations with candidates, drawing out those who were most committed to the gifts of all baptized.

It strengthens the search from the other side as well: If you were a priest considering a new cure, would you prefer a congregation that was hunkered down waiting for you or to one that was stepping up and finding its strengths?

I’m sure there are compelling reasons to put a hold on the financial stewardship cycle during a pastoral transition, but I honestly can’t think of any. I believe that we are at our baptismal best when we work together to call out one another’s best gifts and talents. I say, be bold, be prayerful, be discerning, and most importantly, be open to God’s grace in gifts and talents you didn’t expect to discover.


1 Comment »

  1. Thanks, Lisa! I can say, as a priest, that I would be VERY excited about a call to a congregation that takes responsibility for itself in this way.

    Comment by Nancy Moore — October 13, 2011 @ 12:20 am |Reply

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