This past week I had the opportunity to fly to Dallas, Texas to attend the Christian Stewardship Network Forum. I was blessed by the trip. The forum was truly that, a forum. We had terrific small group table talk, corporate worship, breakout sessions, fantastic Texas BBQ and we were all able to share and learn best practices to minister to our city in the best way possible. I would also like to use this post to share with you the 3 main takeaways that highlight the WHY you and your church should attend next year.
Relationships trump programming
There are many stewardship programs built on the host of curriculums available. Tools like Howard Dayton’s Compass, Andy Stanley’s Balanced bible study, Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and many others.
I have been leading stewardship ministry at Grace Family Church in Tampa, Florida for nine years. At first, I didn’t have a clue about how to build and lead a ministry. I simply applied my relationship-building acumen to grow the ministry. Since 2007, our #1 curriculum has been Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). Our first class had eighteen people and it was also the first time I was learning the material. Since that time, we have had over 2,000 people attend through on-campus and off-campus offerings.
I am gifted to make people laugh as well as encourage and challenge them to put all their skills to work to achieve their goals. For the last nine years, I have had the privilege to serve God, through stewardship ministry, with some amazing folks! Younger and older, employees and business owners as well as retirees. These people have lived all over the world and come from and live with different socioeconomic statuses. I have been abundantly blessed with the riches of relationship.
Over the years, the church has grown rapidly. When I started, we had one campus and in 2016, we will have launched our 5th multi-site. Our church staff has grown and many a volunteer has come and gone. It has been quite the ride! I do have a confession to make; however. As the ministry has grown, I have lost some touch with my relationships. I have let program-building supersede relationship-building. I have siloed myself and the ministry. I have thought my ways were the best ways. I have become somewhat of a program narcissist. Yes, the numbers of people that enter and grow through our ministry are important. Those numbers do represent souls; however, I let programs trump relationships.
God has created us to love Him and love others. Programs are a great way to reach and grow people. However, as ministry leaders, we should beware the temptation to allow that to take over our relational efforts. I once heard someone say that we are called human beings, not “human doings” for a reason. Let’s be intentional with our relationships to really drive the ministry forward! Let us use programs to grow people, not people to grow programs. That’s the win-win scenario!
Steward the time of senior leadership well
I was reminded this week that the senior pastor’s time is not all for me. Darn! Sounds pretty simple, yet I have seen and felt my passion for stewardship ministry overtake me in that area.
The CSN Forum provided a great environment of encouragement, wisdom and challenge. I had the chance to spend time with stewardship leaders and pastors who love the topic and the life change that comes with its application. I was reminded that we all have struggles with access to senior leadership at the church. It is not because the ministry is some “add-on” or because churches should have it (many don’t have a formal ministry). On the contrary, it’s just that they have many competing forces competing for their time.
With vision-casting lunches, elder meetings, programs, events and oh yeah, weekend services, life can be hectic. So, when we approach my leadership with ideas, I’d better be prepared. As stewardship leaders, it’s kind of expected from us! We must have our processes streamlined, be ready to answer questions in advance and provided one-page bulleted outlines and meeting notes. The key is to add value, not steal their time in pontification mode. At CSN, through presentations, conversations and quiet time, I was reminded of how I used to do these things much better than I do today. The whole “keep it simple, stupid idea” does work.
One other golden nugget I learned — help the senior pastor make any of our ideas his own really quick!
If ministry is to grow, I must grow first.
Subconsciously, I buried this point last in the post because you might not have read any further had it been first. This week, the darn John Maxwell Leadership Law, “The Law of the Lid” reared its ugly head once again. This law says, “Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness.”
During my quiet time and in sessions this past week, I repeatedly heard that it is time for the Grace Family Church Stewardship Ministry (we call it Purpose)to grow up! Yeah, I said it! It’s time to go from formula to whole foods and it starts NOW! The other piece of what I heard is that it starts with ME! Ahhhhh!!!! If the ministry is to grow up, I must grow up!
As much as I would like to stay the same, have people cater to me, I took away that it’s time to be real, look in the mirror and change my leadership for the better. I have been working on that in a much more intentional way since the later part of 2015.
I am seeking to understand more of the Bible, meeting with a life coach and have plans to rejoin my men’s small group. I am also reading Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy’s new book, Living Forward, to help me write my Life Plan.
As stewardship leaders, we address time, talent and treasure all day long, yet as my first bullet mentioned, if we focus on programming before relationships with people, we may also miss out on our relationship with our Creator.
These were my three big takeaways at this year’s CSN forum. I am not sure why I waited three years to attend. I am eager to connect with my CSN brothers and sisters to remain accountable and encouraged in my learnings.
If you are interested in attending the CSN Forum 2017, start by saving the dates of Feb 27 – March 1. You can be reminded of when registration is live by signing up for the mailing list.
You can become familiar with CSN using the links below: