Stewardship: pledging a set amount of money, budgeted over a year. A group of members - even a small one - pays the bills for a building, clergy and other staff salaries, and the programs and outreach of the community.
The concept of stewardship as church financial support began at the turn of the 20th century, and peaked in the post-World War II mid-century era. For the last few decades, this model has persisted, even as it has become less effective, mostly because people don’t participate in institutional religion the way they once did.
Stewardship conflates two things that are not the same: the Christian practice of giving - setting aside 10% of the fruits of our labor for God, caring for the poor - with the financial support of the institution - buildings, programs, and salaries. As communities become smaller, the per capita cost of supporting everything becomes larger, and the amount of money that is used beyond institutional support is dwindling.
But it's hard to see how to change this system without putting the existence of congregations - and clergy - at risk.
The recent leap into Digital Ministry and online worship has opened up many possibilities for the future of church, including church finances. We are rethinking the concept of church membership itself, and with it, ways to financially support ministry - and encourage the Christian practice of giving.
It’s time to consider church subscriptions as an alternative - or an addition - to traditional stewardship.
The world, and the church, are changing rapidly these days. This brings opportunity - for vision, renewal, and evangelism. The world needs Good News, now more than ever, and we are the ones who have it to share. Reimagining ministry brings more focus to our mission of sharing the love of God with more people.
Free Range Priest can help.