|Chick Lane probably is not a name a lot of United Methodists are familiar with, but he’s a favorite read of mine. Chick is the Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary, a Lutheran school in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He has just retired and on his way out he posted the following to his own blog. I thought it was worth repeating.
|The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned
By Chick Lane
In this email, I have decided to reflect on my 3+ years at Luther Seminary and share with you the one thing that rises to the level of “The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned” in those years. That is a difficult task.
From my work with students, I could talk about how impressed I am with them, and how I anticipate looking around in twenty years and seeing how they have changed the church. From my work with student debt, I could talk about the growing conviction that student debt is driven far more by institutional issues than it is driven by students’ making bad financial decisions. From my work with congregations, I could talk about all I’ve learned about involving adults under 40 in the congregation’s stewardship life, or the importance of inviting potential users of a service or program into conversations about the service/program at the earliest stages.
What I have chosen to talk about is the importance of congregations talking about money when they aren’t asking for any. Historically, churches haven’t done this. Money talk has mostly been limited to a week or two in the fall when next year’s giving is the topic. People in the pews have come to expect this. Their assumption is that whenever money is talked about, the church is asking for some. Another even more problematic assumption is that beyond giving to the church, the Christian faith has little if anything to say about how one acquires and uses money. Put most simply, the attitude is, “Once I’ve given to the church, my faith should butt out of my financial decisions.”
Obviously, this is hugely problematic. When Jesus talks about money, his topic is never about giving. It is always about the important intersection of faith and finances. We have totally ignored the biblical witness in the interest of getting the congregation’s bills paid. No part of a Christian’s life can be safely put in a box and insulated from one’s faith.
So what can we do? First, we can be intentional. Talking about money when we aren’t asking for any is such a radical departure from the norm in most congregations that developing a plan of action is important. As we begin the new year, you could develop a plan entitled, “How we will talk about money and faith at First Lutheran Church in 2014.”
Second, you need to be clear about what you are doing. Since most churches have only talked about money when asking for some, you will probably need to announce to people, “We are going to talk about money today, and we aren’t asking for any.” You will probably need to do that many times before it will begin to sink in. Old tapes have a way of continuing to play.
Third, you will probably be well served to have a variety of voices speaking this new message. Pastors will certainly need to be some of the voices, but not the only voice. Every congregation has a number of lay leaders who have figured out how their faith in Jesus impacts how they earn, care for and spend money. Let those people tell their stories as an inspiration to others who aren’t as far along on the journey.
Talk about money when you aren’t asking for any. That, I think, is the most important thing I’ve learned in the last three years.