Gordon Botting, Stewardship Director, Pacific Union Conference, Westlake Village, California
Summary: The writer talks about The Stewpot a bulletin insert for the local churches that has become a global resource on stewardship for the local church.
What began fifteen years ago as a bulletin insert for the local churches of the Pacific Union Conference in the North American Division, today, is translated into Spanish and French with Portuguese and Korean being added next year. The Stewpot has become a global resource on stewardship for the local church.
Following is an interview with Dr. Gordon Botting, creator and editor of this helpful monthly stewardship bulletin.
DS: How would you define stewardship?
GB: Stewardship is much more than just about money and possessions, stewardship also extends into every aspect of our lifestyle. It really is all that comes under our management as resources, that is, our health, the environment, relationships, time, and spirituality.
DS: What was the origin of The Stewpot and what goals did you have for this creative resource?
GB: Fifteen years ago, when I was appointed stewardship director for the Pacific Union Conference, there were over 800 local churches in the union. I became aware that if I were to visit each church on Sabbath, it would take me over 15 years to accomplish this task. How could I bring stewardship education to the local church? The idea came to me of providing the local church with a monthly bulletin insert that would bring practical stewardship ideas to each church member.
First, I worked on a catchy title. The name of the bulletin is a combination of two ideas: “stew” is a derivative of stewardship and “pot” is a shorter form of potpourri, depicting a variety of ideas. Therefore, The Stewpot depicts a bulletin containing a potpourri of ideas on the topics of stewardship and also finances.
DS: What review have you received from local church pastors on the benefits of The Stewpot?
GB: On the whole, they are very appreciative to receive this monthly bulletin insert on stewardship.
I have to mention that on occasion we have had to clarify that we do forward The Stewpot to be printed as a church bulletin insert and not only as a resource for the pastor.
DS: What feedback have you received from individual church members?
GB: Speaking at camp meetings, I ask the question, “how many have read The Stewpot?” Always, there is at least fifty percent, of these they share with me that they have found the stewardship information extremely helpful, while others mention that they find it inspirational and look forward to receiving it every month. Others, have also mentioned that they have implemented the financial ideas given and that they have worked, and their financial picture has changed as a result. It is always very rewarding and a blessing to meet church members in whose lives stewardship education makes a difference.
I have an interesting story for you. A while back a conference president contacted me and commented that he did not like The Stewpot issue on the topic of vehicle maintenance. Three months later a car magazine contacted me asking permission to include this issue in their magazine!
DS: That brings up the question, what other suggestions or ideas do you have as to how The Stewpot might be incorporated other than just as a local church bulletin insert?
GB: There are many business people in the church who print it and provide it in their place of business. For example, there is a dentist, who makes it available in his waiting room. Another church member in the church distributes it at hospitals as well. It is also a great sharing tool to extend out to the community.
DS: What topics can we look forward to this coming year?
GB: Over the past 15 years, I have covered a wide spectrum of topics, from Wall Street to gambling, to the prosperity theology. This year, I did an issue for children and next year I intend to create an issue for teenagers as well. My goal every year is to make sure that I include at least one issue on the most serious challenge that we face in the U. S. and that is consumer debt. Therefore, I have addressed ways to get out and stay out of debt. This brings the focus to the importance of savings. It is important to have a broad understanding how saving, debt, and giving are related to tithes and offerings, budgets and financial planning. Good financial planning is like the foundation of a house. If it is solid, it will withstand the elements. If your financial planning is also solid, it will withstand the emergencies, and allow you to plan for the future needs and desires of your family, for example, such as your children’s education or beginning a personal business.
DS: Since, The Stewpot is created with an American context in view, how might our global readership incorporate this practical stewardship resource?
GB: The principles are very much the same wherever you might find yourself in the world in terms of greed and the accumulation of possessions. For example, in our context one might want a newer model car, in another country perhaps it will be a second goat or tin roof to replace the thatch one.
The Stewpot seeks to communicate that stewardship is about balance in our lives. It reminds us that we are stewards and allows for reflection on how well we are managing our resources while living out our life on this earth.
DS: Your passion to bring practical stewardship to the local church is evident. Is there a conviction that plays a part in your commitment to stewardship?
GB: Yes, in my family history my father experienced bankruptcy three times. Needless to say, the family lived through the consequences of financial difficulty. My parents subsequently separated as a result of the financial stress that this brought into the marriage. However, I must mention that my mother after the first major money crisis personally arranged with the town’s creditors and paid back within a two-year period the outstanding debts that my father had incurred. Thus, modeling good money management to her son. It is said that individuals react to their family history, for example, where a child grows up with alcoholism, they will choose to either drink or not drink at all.
In my case, I reacted and opted to become financially disciplined and debt free. It was with much sacrifice that my wife and I contributed to our children graduating from college, debt free. I am most blessed to have married a partner who is an excellent money manager.
Therefore, I feel strongly about what I write. As a child growing up, I experienced the outcomes of financial difficulties in the home. I know today the significance and how important it is for couples to know how to communicate about finances with one another. It is very true that who you marry will make a difference in your finances and overall quality of life.
DS: Thank you, Gordon, not only for the time that you have shared with the DS today, but also for your invaluable contribution of stewardship education for the local church worldwide!