I was blessed to be able to preach yesterday at Orchard Path UMC, one of our new church starts. Reverend David Rittgers is leading a great group in suburban Cleveland and asked if I would talk stewardship with his people.
Having been part of a new church start years ago, I have great empathy for Dave and his wife Beth. It is a ridiculously difficult job and one that you do without much of the church infrastructure (good and bad) that we all rely on in our churches.
And talking stewardship with this congregation was a challenge for me. Many of them were unchurched, some had become dechurched after a negative experience. Others were generous givers and many are tithers. Not exactly a homogenous congregation to plan a message around.
I encouraged them to think about giving to the church the same as they do with everything else in their church relationship: prayer, attendance, volunteer service, advocacy, participation in small groups and dozens of others.
Few of our new professions of faith walk in on a Sunday and by the next week are teaching Sunday School, in the Disciple Study and washing dishes after events. Why do we think they should immediately start giving at the same levels as more established members?
We encourage new members to grow in all areas. Some will jump into some areas with both feet while other areas barely get a toe in. This does not mean that new members should get a free pass, but it does speak to the trend away from once a year stewardship programs. If you’re only talking stewardship in November, what happens to the new member who joins in December? Or the member who is growing spiritually decides to make a commitment in the spring?
Just as you continue to invite your members to deepen their faith through prayer and study, make sure you are inviting to give to the church in a way that is meaningful not ony financially but reflects their growing relationship with the church and with God.
By the way, if you want to hear the whole sermon, it’s on Orchard Path’s website here.