Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY
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Christ the King Spiritual Life Center: 575 Burton Road - Greenwich, NY 12834 - (518) 692-9550

Stewardship 24/7

By The Rev. Brad Jones

Having just vacationed with our seven children, we faced again and again the inevitable question, "Are we there yet?" I am certain that when Abraham was taking his only son, Isaac, to be sacrificed in the land of Moriah, Isaac asked him a hundred times, "Are we there yet?" Of course you know, as children of God we ask the same annoying questions as our own children sometimes ask of us: "Can I have this?" "Why do I have to do that?" "Are we there yet?"

Raising children has never been a part-time job. It is 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, and 365 days/year. Parenting is an incredible responsibility that God entrusts to us as stewards of these precious gifts. How simple it might be if we could instruct them once in any given area of responsibility and then just watch them perform it continually from then on. Example:

Parent: "Johnny, you are now old enough to bathe, wash your hair and brush your teeth every night before bed."
Johnny: "Yes, Dad. Everything you say, I will do from this day forth forevermore."
Parent: "That's my boy!"

In reality, it goes more like this:

Parent: "Johnny, this is the fifth time I've had to tell you to take a bath."
Johnny: "OK!!!!"
Parent (after Johnny comes down from a bath): "Did you wash your hair?"
Johnny: "YES!"
Parent: "With shampoo?"
Johnny: "Oh." (A few minutes later coming in with relatively clean hair…)
Parent: "Did you brush your teeth?
Johnny: "Yeah."
Parent: "With toothpaste?"
Johnny: "Oh."
Parent: "That's my boy!"
[The above account is based on actual events. The names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.]

As raising children in ways that are best for their health and vitality is an ongoing year-round job, so too is teaching the children of God the ways of godly stewardship. Over the years I have participated in all sorts of stewardship drives and programs. I have been part of home visitation teams and letter writing campaigns and sermon series, packaged presentations and homegrown stewardship initiatives. There are many wonderful and creative methods for promoting stewardship in the church, many of which have been made available through diocesan resources.

Personally, I have found a year-round approach to work best for a number of reasons. It allows me to emphasize stewardship as an integral part of all our life at all different seasons of life, rather than once a year primarily as a means of bolstering our budgeting process. Having a year-round approach to stewardship gives us the freedom of responding to needs and changing circumstances as they arise. It allows for many different venues and styles of teaching and modeling stewardship throughout the various ministries of the church.

Here are just some of the ways that year-round stewardship can manifest itself in the life of a congregation:
Personal testimonies of God's faithfulness in financial stewardship from vestry members, either in church newsletters or in spoken witness during a Sunday service.

Annual meeting reports in which we are reminded of God's faithfulness for the previous year and challenged with the need for faithful stewardship in the year to come.

Involving the children in opportunities to give of their own resources and having them participate in bringing offerings forward every Sunday.

In the budgeting process, we prayerfully count the cost of what God is calling Christ Church to do in the year to come. We model to the congregation giving of our "first fruits", the first portion of the church's weekly income, to kingdom-building ministries outside the church. We then trust God to provide the rest for what he has called us to do.

"Celebration of Life" Sundays each January, whereby we recognize the stewardship God requires of us for every human life, from the unborn to the aged and infirmed.

2-3 sermons preached at different times each year, reminding the congregation of the great trust that God has placed in each of us for the care of all resources.

Resources such as the Crown Financial Ministries course for small group study and application.

At Christ Church we have been blessed to see God's faithful and increased provision year after year as we integrate the message of God's call to each of us as faithful stewards of his kingdom. I have found that people have responded more favorably to this integrated philosophy of stewardship as part of the fabric of all our life than to an annual drive.

We still ask God a lot of silly, annoying questions along the way and God has not told us we're there yet, but I believe we are growing in our faith and our trust in God's provision. Seems to me, that's the point of stewardship.

Father Jones is Rector of Christ Church, Schenectady, married, and father of seven children

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