Elaine Hagele, Vice President for Finance, Mid-America Union Conference

Lincoln, Nebraska

Summary: Leaders have a duty of transparency. Our stewardship programs are important, but it is much more important how we live stewardship.

Long before text messaging was even dreamed of, I learned a valuable string of letters that my sisters and I used frequently to remind each other of an important principle. I was five or six years old—not yet in school. I could already read a lot of words, but spelling was not yet included in my pre-school activities. In our cold attic bedroom, where we three little girls huddled under warm blankets, my big sister taught us the magic letters, P.W.Y.P and the valuable concept they represented.

Even as little children we understood the principle, “Practice what you preach.” We codified it to P.W.Y.P. When I urged my little sister to share more willingly, her reply was, “P.W.Y.P.” When big sister told me to hurry up and help with the dishes, my reply was, “P.W.Y.P.” As we dealt with broader family issues and our lives expanded to extended society issues, we often used the mantra among ourselves, “P.W.Y. P.” In committees and conversations these letters still flash in my mind and I use them to evaluate personal and corporate actions.

Church Leaders as Stewards

Our stewardship as church leaders is so much more than our faithfulness in tithes and our generosity in offerings. Regularly we pray in boardrooms for the Holy Spirit to speak to us and to guide our decisions and how often instead of listening to the Spirit’s promptings we listen to the voices of special interest groups. Too often we let what others might think of us, or how others might react to our decisions control our decisions, rather than being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Our church members are influenced more by what they see in our use of God’s assets than by all our thoughtful and powerful stewardship programs.

Now I get personal. Sometimes I have even wondered how some church leaders will handle God’s final review of their workers’ expense reports. Even though the expenses may be allowable by policy, I have wondered if they were the most prudent use of God’s money. Thankfully, I am neither the Judge nor the Holy Spirit, but each of us as God’s stewards will have a day of accounting for our use of His assets.

Accountability

Besides considering how God sees our stewardship, we also need to consider our duty to our givers. Our first accountability is to God. Then we are also accountability to those who have entrusted their means to our stewardship. We, as leaders have a duty of transparency. In the United States, leaders are controlled by the “Uniform Prudent Investor Act.” Though other countries may have different laws, the general concept is universal. In the global church our leaders have an even higher responsibility?to be prudent users of God’s means entrusted to us. Prudent users have to think wisely and consider their responsibility to others. We need to discriminate between what may be good uses and what are the best uses of that for which we are accountable.

Our stewardship programs are important, but it is much more important how we live stewardship.

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January–March, 2011

Steward Leader