Is Stewardship About Fundraising or Discipleship?


Generosity affects the entire church at all levels. So, its value should be taught and built into the fabric of our churches. This would include the leadership at all ministry levels, such as small groups, campus events, mission projects, children’s ministry, etc. Every aspect of the church must be impacted by a holistic understanding and discipline of generosity.

Pervasive generosity goes beyond the walls of the church.

The question of the scope of generosity matters in the life of a Christian and in his/her surrounding community.

“Is stewardship about fundraising and development, or is it about discipleship and teaching?” says Larry Powell, president of a private equity investment company in Atlanta and a lay leader at North Point Ministries.

We asked ourselves this question: If we are instructing our people about stewardship and we see that their money is going elsewhere, not just to the church, is that OK? If the answer is yes, then we are approaching this as discipleship and teaching.

If seeing the money go elsewhere isn’t OK, then all we are doing is fundraising. We arrived at the conclusion that we want congregational giving to go up across the board, not just to the church but to other organizations as well. Other totals must rise; that’s when we would be doing our jobs as church leaders.

Sometimes we see that churches place the burden of stewardship and generosity with those tasked to oversee the finances of the church or organization. But doing this restricts the vision for generosity to the area of budgets and operational management.

Such a limitation makes it difficult for other leaders — the children’s pastor, youth pastor, missions’ pastor and spiritual formation pastor — to embrace generosity as a core value in their own ministries.

This deficiency becomes clear when we ask leaders to share how they disciple children in the biblical teaching on generosity. You can almost hear a pin drop. Leaders aren’t prepared to discuss this issue, let alone teach it to the children in their ministry.

Generosity is systemic. This means it’s not a one-time effort or a passing event. It is a thread that runs through the entire organization and may, at times, become the focal point of the congregation, bringing unity and focus to every aspect of church life.

For example, we may notice that a large number of people are participating in new member programs, but it includes a very small number of first-time givers.

In that case, we may need to consider revisiting our new member programming to ensure that we are communicating a church wide commitment to generosity. Perhaps we should clearly establish it as an expectation for new members.

Or what if we notice that the bulk of our core givers peak at age forty and begin to decline and flatline around age fifty-five? In that case, we can learn that we are probably not capturing the hearts of couples who have grown children and beyond.

What is the nature of generosity in your church? I look forward to hearing from you

Excerpted from “Contagious Generosity” by Chris Willard & Jim Sheppard, Zondervan, 2012.

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