CSI: Miami. Maybe you have watched the CSI television drama, crime scene investigators. With obvious authority an investigator steps into a crime scene clearly defined by a boundary of yellow tape. The area is controlled—no one in or out, nothing is to be touched or moved without documentation. Evidence is gathered. With a well-practiced discipline a sophisticated forensic science is applied. A story is unraveled and truth is told. I envy the certainty of it all.
Imagine GSI: Indianapolis or GSI: Gibson City—Giving Scene Investigators. Think what we might discover if we could seal off the area of the funding concerns of many of our congregational, regional and general ministries. Once the scene is secured, we could begin gathering evidence and apply the assumed sciences of actual tithing, every-member canvas, pledge envelopes, balanced budgets, and stewardship education to assess the situation.
Our investigation may reveal a surprise—life. This is a dynamic ever-changing scene with details of generosity, abundance and hope. Throughout the congregational, regional, and general ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) there is evidence of healthy financial stewardship.
The expressions of giving in the congregation may take several forms:
Incidental—occasional giving through events, fees, sponsorships, special offerings;
Ordinary—regular giving in support of an operating fund;
Extraordinary—special giving for capital campaigns, new ministries or outreach efforts;
Legacy—giving of accumulated resources or end-of-life gifts
Each of these provides an opportunity to make connections between the financial fruits of our daily lives and what we value as a people of faith—serving together in local congregations and as a vital part of the wider church of Jesus Christ.
One common characteristic of these healthy environments for financial stewardship is the open and honest talk about money, particularly about faith and money. Silence is broken. While there is an abundance of public talk about money, our private thoughts about faith and money often go unspoken. Sociologist Robert Wuthnow noted that while we would agree "money cannot buy happiness" our silence may allow us to entertain beliefs of a different nature.
There is a wealth of excellent resources offering practical guidance to congregations engaged in faithful financial stewardship. The very best require leaders to do the work of knowing the people and articulating the congregation's mission.
While there are many more, here are several ways healthy congregations have been breaking the silence around money and speaking about it in the context of faith.
Create a climate of gratitude—say thank you, often, to God and to one another;
Preach about connections of faith and money—expand the context of money talk from the meeting room into the sanctuary;
Teach about connections of faith and money—to young Disciples and new members and others;
Acknowledge the place of money in pastoral care issues—birth, death, illness, marriage, divorce, job loss, first job, driver's license;
Provide safe and supportive places in worship and fellowship where persons can tell their "faith and money story" as an act of testimony;
Move the budget or spending plan to its rightful place as a tool for fiscal accountability rather than as a tool to inspire, inform or motivate;
Provide at least one opportunity annually to address specific interests such as retirement planning, wills, or funding college;
Invite people to remember the congregation and wider church in their will or estate planning;
Make a clear connection between congregational giving and the mission of the church, locally and globally;
Be clear about what your congregation expects of its members;
Be open about the financial status and health of the congregation; and
Ask people to give—it really does make a difference.
There are certainly many more ways to address the integrity of financial stewardship in our congregations and in the wider mission we share as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). These simply point to a ministry among us that is vital, dynamic, and growing. May you discover a stewardship alive in hope.
Joiner, Don. Creating a Climate for Giving. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2001.
Wehrheim, Carol A. Giving Together: A Stewardship Guide for Families. Louisville:
Westminster: John Knox Press, 2004.
The Rev. Ed Taylor,
Pastor of First Christian Church,
Gibson City, Illinois,
a congregational ministry in the
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)