stewardNet – Winter 2016

Dear friend in Christ,
Supply and demand are fundamental concepts of economic theory straight from Econ 101. Such theory can be useful to consider since balancing supply and demand is another way of talking about meeting needs. As we in the church continue to ponder how to support our ministries and infrastructure, and as we continue to look at stewardship as our go-to strategy, it occurred to me that there is a supply of, and demand for, generosity in all its various forms: service, commitment, passion, leadership and, of course, finances.

On the demand side of things, no doubt the aggregate demand for generosity has never been greater. With 1.5 million non-profits in the United States looking to expand their missions, each is embracing more sophisticated ways to reach out, tell the story of why they exist, gather support, and grow their movement. We know the needs of this world are enormous, and the good news is that lots of organizations are creatively working to make a difference.

How might we better understand the overall supply of generosity? One idea is what I think of as capacity. A 2013 study concluded the United States was the most generous country in the world. To me this reflects our nation’s greater capacity of wealth and leisure as opposed to broad-based sacrificial giving by our citizens. A reservoir to give from however is also influenced by how we manage outflows. If my time and finances are continually tapped out, my capacity to serve, love and be generous will be adversely affected. It seems one way the church can be an agent in growing this capacity to be generous is by promoting practical resource management skills for time, finances, health and relationships.

My sense is that a much bigger factor driving the supply of generosity has to do with motivation, meaning and purpose. Our culture effectively socializes us to embrace the “me first” conventional wisdom of the world, not the subversive “last shall be first” wisdom of Jesus. The resulting dis-ease we experience from living this way looks very different than the world desired by God. Moving people from “me to we” then is the hard counter-cultural work of growing stewards.

Ultimately, I think Jesus integrates the supply and demand of generosity by connecting stewardship and personal transformation on the supply side with social transformation on the demand side. Is it fair to say the church is at its best at this intersection? The reward is not just about addressing the needs of the world but also helping people know a way of life that many times proves to be the best way to live. This is the place where salvation becomes more than a theological concept we believe in. It is also something we experience in daily living.

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

In Christ’s service,

Steve Oelschlager
Stewardship Program Coordinator
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Congregational vitality
Creating capacity for mission

Just as individuals are encouraged to get an annual physical with a blood test to identify areas of health and concern, congregations can also periodically check into their own health and vitality. There are a variety of ways that congregations can get such a reading through survey tools including the new Congregational Vitality Survey, available to every ELCA congregation for free.

Once you know your vital signs, church consultants can help you go deeper through more detailed survey tools, interpretation, training and coaching. Some options include Kairos, Holy Cow, GSB, You can also check with your synod office and director of evangelical mission for referrals.

For ideas on how to foster vitality in your congregation, watch this ELCA webinar to you hear how a Baptist pastor in Elgin, Ill., nurtures his growing congregation.

Bishop Eaton on setting directions and priorities
Managing the capacity of our church

It has been just more than two years since I began this call. I’m often asked what has been the greatest surprise. Certainly the amount of travel has been a surprise, but the greatest has been the complexity and scope of the ELCA. As bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, I had a pretty good grasp of the ministries in its 20 counties, but now my territory includes all of the counties in all of the states and the Caribbean, along with international partnerships.

This church does a lot. All over the world. All of the time. At your churchwide office, spreadsheets track the progress of the six goals we set for ourselves in the 2013-2016 operational plan. This just tracks the work of churchwide staff, not that of congregations, synods, social ministry organizations, colleges and universities, seminaries, conciliar relationships, camps, campus ministries, separately incorporated ministries, federal chaplaincies and missionary personnel.Read more.


Wellness reformation
Building capacity through better physical and emotional health

Jesus came that we would have abundant lives, and I believe that it is time for us to stop walking away from that promise in the way that we live.” Jeff Thiemann, Portico’s president and CEO, delivered this message to the ELCA Conference of Bishops in October 2015, calling for a renewed commitment to physical and emotional health. Through a wellness reformation, he said, we can reduce health care claims and raise up leaders who embrace life’s abundance and model it for their people.

ELCA-Primary medical claims are 23 percent higher than Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s average for a national group our size. And what’s worse, our health risks, left unchecked, spell for many of us a future of chronic illness and reduced ministry longevity. Though sobering, our risks aren’t unique. “Clergy suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension at such alarming rates that it’s become a mark of the profession,” reported the Leadership Journal published by Christianity Today. We must change course. Read more.


Inspiring stewardship through the power of stories
Mission interpreters tell how we are church together

Motivational speaker Jim Rohm once said, “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.”

In our ELCA congregations across the country, there are many people who understand this idea that by giving to others, we receive something that enriches our lives. People who have experienced the true joy of giving, those who have experienced that warm, tingling feeling of knowing they walked along side others to improve life.

Mission Interpreters throughout our ELCA tell the stories of how God, through our collective generosity, is changing the lives of so many. Through storytelling, mission interpreters inspire members of congregations to be in relationship with those in local neighborhoods, across the United States and around the globe who might be in need of a little generosity. Mission interpreters tell the stories of how we are the church together, and together we are able to do so much more!

Please consider having a mission interpreter in your congregation who might share a story like this one to inspire the members of your congregation to even greater generosity for the good of others.

Declare God’s work
Building capacity for mission

On recent conference calls, more than 20 mission interpreter coordinators shared what was happening in several synods of our ELCA.

Coordinators across the country have been meeting and planning alongside their director for evangelical mission and bishop on how best to declare God’s work in their synod. There have been presentations with deans, conference leaders, Women of the ELCA groups and Synod Council members. Brochures have been created and resources developed in preparation for making a presence at synod assemblies. We’re hearing more mission interpreter coordinators taking an active role on their synod’s Stewardship Table. Several have offered training events, and the ministry continues to grow! Such great news!!

For more information on the mission interpreter ministry of our ELCA, please contact Denise Ballou.

Stewardship resources from the ELCA
Webcast. Building consultants. Care for creation speakers. Where your offering goes.

  • Join us via the Internet for a free “stewardCast” on Saturday, Feb. 27, starting at 10:30 a.m. CST for a variety of speakers on stewardship topics, including strengthening mission, the collision of faith and finances, ELCA learnings, and the introduction of a new book. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will be one of the keynote presenters. Register by Feb. 16 here.
  • MIF church building consultants (formerly stewardship key leaders) help congregations assess building needs so that facilities effectively support their mission. Church building consultants help ministries develop financial plans for new projects, review drawings and construction contracts, recommend sustainable building practices, and assess in-process construction projects. They are also available to discuss steps in a building project, including funding options such as Mission Investment Fund loans. Look here for a FAQ. Paula Kitt is the new director of Capital Campaign Services.
  • As we prepare for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, Lutherans Restoring Creation is providing resources to incorporate eco-justice ministry into the life of the church. One of these resources is a speakers bureau. This speakers bureau represents a number of informed leaders in the ELCA capable of serving as conference speakers, panel participants and workshop leaders for events sponsored by congregations, synods, seminaries, ministeriums, colleges and other agencies of the church.
  • Mission Support is the portion of offerings that congregations share with synods and the churchwide organization for God’s mission beyond the congregations. See this new infographic to help illustrate and explain how these dollars were put to work on your behalf in 2014.

Sayings, quotes, thoughts

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act but a habit.”

Biblical foundations
John 15:5

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Upcoming events (watch the calendar file for details)

Feb. 21-24
Association of Lutheran Development Executives IGNITE Conference

Feb. 27
stewardCast with ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton (via Internet)

April 27-29
London, Ontario
North American Conference on Christian Philanthropy

Aug. 25-28
Joy Ranch, S.D.
Mission Interpreter Coordinators Conference

Full calendar | Subscribe to Our Calendar File