Summary: Six stewardship directors and one vice president for finance share their best practices.
A mong the practical tools that we use here in the SAD, two of these stand out: SES (Spiritual Enrichment Seminar) and the Financial Diagnosis. The SES is a short, medium and long-term program devoted to the promotion of spirituality. It aims to bring every member to develop and solidify the habit of seeking God in the first hour of every morning. We dedicate 40 days to developing the habit and 180 days to solidifying it. Every two years we change the emphasis, in response to feedback, and work toward further deepening the spiritual foundation.
The financial diagnosis is a practical, simple and highly productive project. It aims to educate and pledge those who already have a stable and habitual relationship with God. Churches who have already participated in the SES, make their own diagnosis and based on this experience establish their objectives, goals and strategies aiming to achieve their preferred outcome. All regular members are analyzed by the stewardship committee, seeking to identify the frequency (not numbers) with which they worship God. They are placed in various groups: those who have income and are systematic in their tithes and offerings; those who have income, but are not systematic, those who do not possess revenue, etc. Based on this diagnosis, the objectives and goals are outlined for the next 12 months and the actions will be implemented to reach the expected results.
These work fronts, allied with other actions, have helped us bring the church to experience a larger habitual search for God and a financial growth never before seen in our division: over a 100% average in the last five years. Leading the people of God, resources will come naturally; a consecrated church will be a generous and systematically faithful church.
?Miguel Costa Pinheiro, Stewardship Director, South American Division
Best practices for conducting stewardship ministry seminars/workshops that I have identified, which facilitate transfer of information/knowledge, are drawn from the field of education.
First, we must think about how people think. How do people learn? Based on the work of Anthony Gregorc we know that (a) some prefer concrete examples and objects rather than theories and abstractions—they follow step-by-step directions well; (b) others prefer guidelines with minimal structure, and are not prone to follow directions carefully; (c) yet there are others who prefer to deal with abstractions via models, ideas, concepts, and symbols—they read better and listen to lectures better; and there is a final category who prefer concrete application of ideas through example and practice—they are trial and error learners who dislike step by step-by-step procedures (Gregorc,1982. An Adult’s Guide to Style). Our seminars need to cater to different styles of learners.
Secondly, people do not work alone, so should they be expected to learn alone how to work? In order to ensure effectiveness in transfer of information/knowledge to a field/organization, more than one representative from a field/organization ought to be participants at a seminar.
Thirdly, seminars/workshops need learning structures if learning and subsequent transfer are to take place. There are content free structures associated with cooperative learning that are effective in seminars, such as think-pair-share (or square). Each participant is allowed to think about an idea/concept/method/practice, afterwards the participants are paired, then each pair (or square—four) of participants share their thoughts (William H. Green, Rita Henriquez-Green, Larry Burton, & Tim Green, 2003. Pedagogical Foundations of Education). The participants may be grouped according to the constituent areas they represent to ensure intentional and purposeful transfer of information/knowledge.
This matter of transfer of information/learning needs to be given due attention; if not, our investments in this area will not reap the desired dividends. The best practices highlighted in this document constitute valuable insights for Stewardship seminars and workshops.
?James F. Daniel, Associate Stewardship Director, Inter-American Division
As a stewardship leader of my division, there are at least three best practices that I have incorporated in my role of responsibilities. First, as much as possible, we conduct stewardship meetings in a district level, so more church members can come and receive the lessons that we want to share with them. I also encourage our counterparts in the union, mission and conference to do the same. Second, as a leader, we have to be an example in our faith and practice stewardship in front of our members by sharing our personal testimonies as we hold our seminars. Third, we are also a steward. As we teach our members to be more generous to God’s work and other people around us, we must practice generosity to those with whom we are performing our role of leadership. By being an example, we are following Jesus’ footsteps and the results are wonderful.
?Wendell Mandolang, Stewardship Director, Southern Asia-Pacific Division
A practice that I have followed over the years is to give a biblically based and very spiritual sermon on tithing for the worship service. I conclude with a personal testimony on tithing and how God has blessed our family. Then I make an appeal for each person to consider being financially faithful with God and to be a part of a covenant relationship with Him. Almost every hand goes up! And because of the spiritual focus of the worship hour, most of the worship attendees will come back for the afternoon meetings. We conclude the service by singing #100 in the SDA hymnal, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Many in the audience will have tears in their eyes as they contemplate the sermon and the words of the hymn. Many express appreciation for the message and tell me that they have recommitted themselves to God.
?G. Edward Reid, Former Stewardship Director, North American Division
An African proverb imparts my philosophy of stewardship education. “If you want to go fast, you run alone; if you want to walk far, you go with others.” To implement this philosophy, I embrace John Maxwell’s mentoring model:
I do it?I model
I do it and you are with me?I mentor
You do it and I am with you?I monitor
You do it?you move forward
You do it and someone is with you?we multiply
?Kigundu Ndwiga, Former Stewardship Director, East Central Africa Division
It is called “better practices” when we incorporate business strategies that recognized companies have implemented with proven positive results. The specialists identify these better practices by examining the commercial processes of successful companies, and then extracting the reasons for the good economic performance of the company. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21 we read, “Test all things, hold fast what is good.”
The Christian life is a spiritual enterprise. The main objective is to obtain positive results in terms of spirituality. If businessmen look for economic growth, then we Christians look for spiritual growth. We are speaking of pure stewardship, because spiritual Christians are those who soon become faithful stewards. In other words, spirituality is the foundation of fidelity.
What then are the best practices that other Christians have used to develop their spiritual life? If these practices have worked for them, then they are also good for us. Following are some examples:
John Wesley spent the first three hours of the day in prayer and the study of the Scriptures. What was the result? He wrote more than 230 books; and, who can doubt the power of His ministry?
Adoniram Judson did the same two or three hours daily. What was the result? He took the gospel to pagan Burma, and translated the Bible from English to Burmese.
Martin Luther prayed three hours daily. What was the result? He is the father of the Protestant Reformation, and translator of the Bible into German, turning it into the first most circulated book in history.
Carlos Spurgeon prayed and studied several hours of the day. What was the result? He published 3,561 sermons and for that reason he is called “the prince of preachers.”
Jonathan Edwards prayed five times a day. What was the result? He initiated a spiritual revival that extended to all the colonies of the United States.
John Bunyan, a tinsmith, prayed and studied his Bible several hours of the day. What was the result? In addition to other books, he wrote the Pilgrim’s Progress. The book has the next greatest circulation after the Bible.
The positive results in the lives of these men prove that prayer and study of the Bible works. Persecuted for his preaching, Bunyan was incarcerated for more than twelve years. He was so near to God through prayer and Bible study that he wished for more trials so that the consolation he received from his life of prayer and study of the Word would be increased.
Yes, it works! Test it! And what will be the result in your life?
?Javier Mejia Mejia, StewardshipDirector, Inter-American Division
We are called to be happy in Christ. There are thousands of reasons for this. God has done and still continues to do everything on His part for us that we might be people of hope and happiness. What is our response? God wants our relationships, trust and dedicated service. Everything begins and ends with relationships in family, church, and society. As a people, we need a constant relationship with Him. It will evoke trust in God, change our character, and ennoble our habits.
God reveals His plans concerning everyone of us. He wants to see us involved in a devoted service. He invites us to trust Him when He uses us in the most unusual way. Living in complete freedom, let us not forget that God knows best what we need and what will benefit us. Let us make no resistance to His plan and His purposes.
A man planted an olive tree and started to pray: “Lord, send rain to my little tree." And God sent rain to the earth. The tree got enough water and the man continued to pray. “But now Lord please send a lot of sun because my little tree needs warmth." And God sent the sun. The tree grew up. The man continued to pray: “Lord, send please a light frost to strengthen its roots and branches." God sent frost and. . .the tree died. The man got upset very much. He approached his friend to tell him his story and to share his sorrow. “Look, I also have an olive tree," his friend answered. His tree grew very well. “But I prayed in another way. I said to God that He is the Creator of this little tree and he knows better what it really needs. I just ask God to take care of it and He does it.”
This also relates to us. We often ask for those things which in our opinion we need. But only God knows what we really need. Let us completely trust Him. In this time of materialism, cruelty, betrayal, money-grabbing, loss of interest in God’s service, and self-sacrifice, let us look for a better relationship with Him. Trust God in all circumstances and be involved in a dedicated, continuous service to God. He is waiting. He knows everything and He will make everything work in the best way for you and me.
?Paul Liberansky, StewardshipDirector, Euro-Asia Division
God-centered Living Results in God-centered Giving. Several months ago I was browsing through some stewardship materials and read a phrase that approximates these words. Ever since then, the linkage of God-centered living and God-centered giving has become my “mantra” regarding stewardship. And it’s not just a phrase—I have seen it demonstrated in real life.
A pastor I know came to a new church and said nothing from the pulpit about tithing or stewardship for the first two years. Instead, his sermons focused on commitment to Christ and His power, along with the necessity of allowing our old human nature to die at the foot of the cross. And the truth is, only after we experience this transformation are we able to experience the joy of God-centered Giving. When this pastor finally preached about the various aspects of stewardship, including tithing, it was amazing to observe the response over time from the members. As the conference treasurer, I saw the tithe markedly increase. And the local church budget has remained in the black. The difference? God-centered living results in God-centered giving! Naturally, I tend to think of ways to encourage financial giving.
In September, designated as Stewardship Month, we encourage our pastors to preach at least one sermon on stewardship. This magazine, Dynamic Steward, is shared among our churches, especially those led by lay leaders. The Stewpot, a monthly publication from the Pacific Union, is e-mailed to all our church bulletin secretaries across the conference. The Faith and Finance materials from the Stewardship Ministries of the North American Division have been provided to all our pastors. And a stewardship report is included with each issue of our conference newsletter, The Alyeskan.
As a way of reminding our donors that their funds really do make a difference, we print near the bottom of each tax-deductible receipt a brief “Praise Point,” a little news item about how the Lord is blessing in our conference in terms of outreach into various communities across Alaska. For me, the ultimate value of stewardship is the “God-centered” part of “God-centered giving.” While it is certainly true that every dollar given to God through His church has an impact in terms of outreach into our communities through evangelism, influences for good within our own families through our educational system and so many, many other spiritual benefits, the real deal of giving to our Father through His church is the “God-centered” element.
Even though we frequently read stories of people who were blessed financially because of their returning part of the monetary gifts with which God has entrusted them, stewardship is not some sort of slot machine, dispensing blessings when our proverbial quarters go ka-ching into its innards!
The real blessings, the blessings that remind us that we are His and that He loves us with an everlasting love, is that joyous privilege of sensing, as we open every single area of our life to Him, that we are linked with Him now and forever!
—Sharon Staddon, Vice President for Finance, Alaska Conference