How can you engage more fully in the stewardship process, without overfunctioning or underfunctioning? Remember: the functioning of the leader is more important than any stewardship program.
Some programs may be better than others, yet any program can work if the leader is present and accounted for, has a solid relationship with the congregation and defines him or herself around vision and around giving. The congregation inevitably looks to the pastor for leadership; and the best program can fail if the leader doesn't show up. The people sense the minister's discomfort or hesitancy, and will hold back themselves.
If the pastor is afraid to talk about money or ask people to give in a straightforward way, any stewardship effort will have reduced impact. And a pastor who overcomes that fear and talks with courage about giving and finances can have a profound impact on giving.
Be clear on what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for. In the stewardship process, clergy often underfunction in vision and leadership, and overfunction in administrative tasks. The pastor needs to have a public role in making the case for giving. In addition, to lead stewardship you need key allies, appropriate connections, others to help carry the load. The pastor needs to manage his or her overfunctioning in relation to the nuts and bolts work of the stewardship committee or team. Stay connected to that group, but don't do their work for them. In smaller churches in particular, this can be tempting. Resist taking over. To that end, ask yourself the question, what is functioning and what is overfunctioning as a leader? It's not always easy to tell.
Be clear what it means to be the pastoral leader of your church's stewardship program. What role functions are important? What is yours to carry, and what do you need to share with others? And what does it mean for the lay leaders? What do they need to do in their roles? Asking these questions when planning for stewardship will lead to different choices than if we plunge ahead and take over without thinking about it (overfunctioning), or simply abdicate leadership to others (underfunctioning).
Clergy can delegate many aspects of stewardship, and should. But you cannot delegate the role of chief spokesperson for the importance and value of giving. If you are the pastor, priest or rector, no one else can fill that role. It's simply part of the pastoral job description. If you find this a challenge, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you think you cannot." In addition, if you take it on, you'll get better at it. The more you talk about money, the more comfortable you'll be talking about it.
Rev. Margaret Marcuson works with churches that want to create a ministry that lasts and clergy who want more impact on the people they serve best. She is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry (Seabury, 2009). She served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gardner, Massachusetts for thirteen years.
Gary McIntosh says the first two commonalities among all turnarounds are 1) someone in authority defines reality, and 2) a sense of urgency is created, painting the potential of the church vs. its current, painful reality.