Every October our church has a Stewardship Sunday with a sermon about giving money to the church. The deacons always put in a plug for meeting the church budget. Sometimes I think it should be called Fundraising Sunday. I know some people who don’t attend church that Sunday because they dislike the tone and pressure. Should churches be having Stewardship Sundays?
I have been in churches that held an annual Stewardship Sunday, although not all churches do. The first time I led a Stewardship Sunday, I must admit that I did not relish the prospect. I understood the reason—it came near the end of the church’s fiscal year, and the leadership wanted to be sure everyone in the community thoughtfully considered their part in contributing to the work of church and kingdom. But it did feel a little like “Money Sunday,” on which we were doing a fundraising pitch like the local public TV or radio station.
Three things changed the way I thought about Stewardship Sunday. First, I let the deacons talk about budget, giving, church support and kingdom work. I preach on stewardship in its many-splendored forms: of time, of creation, of gifts and talents. The whole scope of the stewardship project opens up as possibility.
Second, I found that the Bible is full of texts that speak about humans responding extravagantly to God’s goodness and grace in different ways. Instead of the dreaded “Let’s be good stewards and meet our pledge” sermons, why not invite listeners to find extravagant responses to God’s grace in their lives?
Finally, I realized that many people, especially young adults, are looking for direction on how to steward their lives, including money. These last 16 years, I’ve pastored a church in a campus ministry setting. Occasional sermons that include the nuts and bolts of stewardly giving frequently result in words of thanks and comments like “I didn’t know that’s how it was done” or “I always wondered how people made those decisions.” Stewardship is a pattern that is passed on from generation to generation; regular attention, whether yearly or not, supports that pattern.