ELCA Stewardnet Fall 2019

Dear friend in Christ,

The possibilities we enjoy in daily life are profoundly affected by the common good that surrounds us. I’m thinking about all the systems, infrastructure, culture, values, etc. that are not for the sole benefit of anyone exclusively but for all of us collectively. Other concepts we might interchange with the common good are community and neighborhood. One hopes that, while we may take the common good for granted, we have a sense that it is fragile and needs to be cared for, nurtured and protected. When the common good is forgotten or ignored, we soon witness a coarseness, dysfunction and dis-ease that makes everyone and everything worse off in the long run.

I’m intrigued by the idea of stewards and disciples as, among other things, investors and caretakers of the common good. At the heart of the common good is a single, universal connection to all creation, and a loving God who has energized this creation with spirit and generativity. Jesus invites us as his followers to be guardians of the common good. I believe this role is meant to be not a burden but instead a pathway to an abundant life full of meaning and purpose. This issue of stewardNet looks at some ideas making that connection between stewardship and the common good.

We are a church that is energized by lively engagement in our faith and life. Thank you for doing God’s work with a faithful, generous heart!

Faithfully,

Steve Oelschlager
Stewardship Program Coordinator
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Let me know what you are thinking.

The Second MountainWeavers of Social Fabric
A call to be weavers

David Brooks is an opinion columnist for the New York Times and an author of several books. Over his life, he has traveled across the full spectrum of political philosophy. Brooks also has a diverse religious background as a Jew, as well as a person who has had heartfelt spiritual experiences in Christian circles.

In his 2019 New York Times bestseller “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life,” Brooks proposes that our culture has been moving away from one unhealthy extreme only to end up at another. Brooks chronicles our current culture of hyperindividualism, where people no longer trust organized religion, government, family or neighbors, and where loneliness and isolation are epidemics. Brooks points out that, for the first time since 1918, life expectancy is going down as suicides and deaths related to opioids have skyrocketed. In short, the common good seems to be collapsing, and we are paying a visible price evident in a full range of gloomy statistics.

Against this backdrop, Brooks provides stories and examples of people he refers to as “weavers” of the social fabric. Weavers are people, many times inspired by their faith, who move beyond preoccupation with self to invest in others and the common good. As the book continues, Brooks invites everyone to be what he calls a relationalist, not a hyperindividualist, a weaver instead of a ripper. Without overtly theological language, Brooks makes a case for stewardship as a pathway to better lives and a better world.

You may not agree with everything Brooks has ever written or thought. “The Second Mountain” perhaps is helpful as we try to understand the growing disconnect from organized religion while existential dread fuels growing amounts of hurt and pain. “The Second Mountain” also provides a clear rationale for why faith and religion are as important as ever. To contemplate these ideas further, check out “The Second Mountain” as well as this related video and articleSee David Brooks in March 2020 at the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving as he discusses faith, philanthropy and community.


bookArtisans of the Common Good
Meditations from Pope Francis

Entering into 2018, Pope Francis reflected on the previous year and expressed gratitude for all those engaged in the ministry of daily life that benefits the greater good. In particular, Francis praised “artisans of the common good” as “those who respect public places, and report things that aren’t right; those who are attentive to the elderly, and people in difficulty; and so on.” Francis said these artisans engage “without giving speeches, without publicity, but with a style of practical civic education for daily life.”

Here is how one ELCA congregation noticed this message by Francis:

He encouraged all of us to see ourselves as creators, curators, hands-on folks whose job it is on this planet to work for that which is kind and caring, that which is collaborative and welcoming, that place where “We all do better when we all do better.” This is, in fact, the biblical vision for the Kingdom of God.

I’m encouraged that this approach might help to provide a broader, more holistic way of promoting stewardship that resonates and makes sense to more people. To further explore “artisans of the common good,” listen to this podcast from the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.


We declare God's workStories of ELCA Weavers
The ministry of mission interpretation

An unfortunate reality of our world is that most of the stories told through the media are negative, depressing and even overwhelming, as if there were nothing good to talk about. While it’s important to be aware of the actualities of our world, uplifting narratives help us to maintain hope and inspiration that something better is possible and worth pursuing.

Mission interpreters are people who share the stories of weavers in our midst, individuals, congregations and denominational ministries that are all about investing in the social fabric. Watch this video with ELCA mission interpreter ministry coordinator Karen Kaufman as we discuss the ministry of mission interpretation and weaving social fabric. Mission interpreter coordinators in the synod assist congregational mission interpreters in identifying and sharing these stories. Click here to learn more about mission interpretation or contact Karen Kaufman.


Other items of interest
Resources, events and more

  • Check out the new sermon series “More Than Enough” from Church of the Resurrection and its pastor, Adam Hamilton. The series explores how to find the wisdom and courage to manage financial resources and experience serenity, contentment and hope. With these free resources, you can help your congregation examine what it means to live wisely and what courageous changes may be needed to live as God would have us live. In the end, we often find God has already given us more than enough.
  • Most research on charitable giving, particularly faith-based giving, has focused on individuals (the givers) rather than institutions (the recipients of the giving). Thanks to the National Study of Congregations’ Economic Practices (NSCEP), we can now provide an overview of how congregations receive, manage and spend their financial resources. Delving underneath the numbers, we begin to show how congregations regard financial resources: how their theological, cultural and practical orientations toward money relate to finances and economic practices. Download this new research here.
  • Bishop Kevin Strickland of the Southeastern Synod discusses the changing nature of the offering in worship in this new stewardship video from the South Carolina Synod.
  • What’s really causing church decline … and what we can do about it? Watch the insightful keynote address from Luther Seminary’s Faithful Innovation Summit this past summer.
  • Become a TechSoup member and your congregation can get access to donations and discounts from more than 60 donor partners, including Intuit, Microsoft and Adobe (eligibility requirements apply). For example, QuickBooks Online is available for $50/year compared to the regular price of $600/year. You’ll also get access to our community forums, blog and free learning resources. Get more information here.
  • The Generosity Project is an intergenerational, household-focused approach to stewardship. Its goals are to connect generations, create centers for the faith practice of generosity and help people grow in God’s grace from generation to generation. Join the Facebook group or visit the new website to download resources and learn more.
  • “Can We Afford a Pastor: A Step-by-Step Handbook With Ten Key Indicators of Your Church’s Ability to Afford a Full-Time Pastor” is a practical handbook that guides local church leaders through 10 financial indicators so they can better understand their ability to afford a full-time pastor. Church leaders that use the easy-to-understand calculations in this handbook will develop a sound foundation for making crucial financial decisions. The book can be ordered here.
  • The coaching movement in the ELCA began 15 years ago in an attempt to empower and equip congregational mission developers in their work. Today, the movement is working to actively raise up and deploy coaches in synods across the ELCA to empower the vitality of leaders and congregations everywhere. Learn more here.
  • The Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC) has released Generosity 365 for 2019. Developed by a team of practitioners and writers from several denominations, this annual collection of resources provides congregations and synods with a year-round approach, theme materials for a financial response and access to a digital library of past stewardship publications and resources. Using this link, individual congregations and synods can access a limited number of Generosity 365 resources available from the ELCA at no cost.
  • Check out two new webinars from ELCA preferred vendors Vanco and Tithe.ly that highlight their latest ideas and technologies. Learn about “Inspiring Year-end Generosity With the ELCA and GivePlus” from Vanco. Or take in this webinar from Tithe.ly on “The Digital Church Tools for 2019 and Beyond.”

Sayings, quotes, thoughts
Søren Kierkegaard

“What I really need to be clear about is what am I to do, not about what I must know. … It is a question of finding a truth that is truth for me, of finding the idea for which I am willing to live and die. … It is for this my soul thirsts, as the deserts of Africa thirst for water.”


Biblical foundations
Philippians 2:3-4

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

Upcoming events (watch the calendar file for details)

November 7, 3 p.m
stewardTalk with Linda Staats discussing the Generosity Project.
Connect via Zoom using this link or call in at 646-876-9923 and use the meeting ID number 826-381-169.
Contact Neil Bullock for more information.

November 20-21
Atlanta, GA
Generosity Next Conference: Spirited Generosity … Offering Vitality in the 21st Century

Full calendar


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