The Nuts and Bolts of Stewardship, Part 1

The Nuts and Bolts of Stewardship, Part 1

Patrick Vaughn, Pinnacle Affiliate


When I graduated from seminary thirty-two years ago, I abhorred any discussion of faith and money.  I had never explored a theology of stewardship. I had never led an annual stewardship campaign, and I had never developed the spiritual practice of generosity.

Thankfully, patient congregations and wise mentors helped me to embrace stewardship with passion and excitement. In this first of a series of essays, I share some of the key lessons I have gleaned regarding annual stewardship campaigns. 

First, plan and execute your stewardship campaign before you develop your budget. Even when it is necessary to begin working on the budget as early as July,  do not make it a feature of your campaign. While it might be tempting to use the budget as a means of motivating people to increase their giving, it simply does not work. Numbers do not cultivate generosity. A looming deficit does not cultivate generosity. Our members and guests do not give to a budget. We give to a person we trust, a vision we cherish, or a goal we share. 

Second, approach stewardship as a spiritual practice. It is as intrinsic to Christian faith as praying, serving, and worshipping. Even as we learn to pray or learn to forgive, we also learn to give. Giving does not come naturally or easily. It is a habit that must be nurtured. We develop the practice of generosity as we observe and listen to those who give joyfully, sacrificially, and regularly. 

Third, in your campaign focus on what God is doing in the life of the congregation. How is God surprising you and delighting you? How is God stretching you in your faith and ministry? Instead of asking, “How are we going to balance the budget?” ask, “How might we use our financial gifts to join with God in God’s work?” 

 Fourth, in your campaign do not ask your members and guests to make a financial commitment and then put it in their Bible or on a shelf in the back room of their mind. Their commitment should be received and recorded by the treasurer, financial secretary, or Finance Committee. Research indicates that people will give twice as much when the commitment is written down and recorded rather than remaining strictly private.  More importantly, as a spiritual practice, our level of giving is not only very personal, it is inherently communal. What we give or do not give impacts not only our relationship with God, it also impacts our relationship and ministry with our brothers and sisters. 

Many churches approach financial issues with a mixture of fear and apprehension. Give the idolatrous power we give to money and wealth in our culture, this is probably inescapable. Rather than avoid the subject, however,  we are much more faithful when we address stewardship in a spirt of tenacious curiosity and abiding humility. 

Contact Patrick on Stewardship at

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