That dreaded time for most mainline churches is just around the corner. I’m referring to the fall stewardship drive. If your church is like 90 percent of mainline churches everything in October revolves around securing enough pledges to support next years budget. And for these churches the critical question is “What program do we use this year?” We know from experience that most programs have an effective lifetime of two to three years. So there is a constant search for the next silver bullet.

And that’s one of the problems – there are no silver bullets. It’s impossible to develop good stewards, much less tithers, just doing a month of emphasis on raising the budget.

Let me suggest a more productive way to not only raise funds but also to develop good stewards of their money. You can use this method whether or not you are doing a stewardship drive.

Don’t focus your efforts on raising money. Focus your efforts of raising up disciples who have learned to master their money rather than funding a budget or fulfilling a pledge. Stewardship isn’t about

  • Raising the budget
  • Developing tithers
  • Funding projects

Stewardship is about developing authentic disciples who allow Jesus into every corner of their lives, including their pocketbook.

We all know that the love of money is the root of all evils. What many of us don’t realize is we don’t become fully devoted disciples as long as we haven’t mastered our money. I’ve always put it this way: “ Our standard of giving shouldn’t be determined by our standard of living; our standard of living should be determined by our standard of giving. In other words disciples don’t give out of the money that is left over after paying the bills; they give first to God and then themselves.

Don’t tie your stewardship efforts to your budget. Doing so always limits your results. Instead, tie your efforts to God’s claim on our lives.

While I was a pastor one of the members of the church who happened to be a physician came to me seeking council. He told me that as hard as he tried he didn’t feel fulfilled as a Christian and wanted to know what he should do. We talked for awhile and I learned in addition to attending worship regularly he was in a small group, took part in Habitat for Humanity, and a number of other missional events. And since I knew what all the members gave financially, I knew that he was lacking one more thing – his standard of giving was far below his standard of living.

Finally I said to him, “There seems to be one thing lacking in your spiritual development that is keeping you from finding any lasting fulfillment. You haven’t mastered your money. It is mastering you.” I even said to him that it didn’t matter if he gave more money to the church or to Habitat of just burned it, he wouldn’t find what he was looking for until he became the master of his money. We went on to discuss this issue and he found one excuse after the other for not being able to give away any more of his wealth.

Later as I was reliving the conversation, I was reminded of the story of the Rich Young Ruler who asked Jesus “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18)?” And Jesus didn’t let him off the hook; he asked for everything the man had. And we balk today at being asked to tithe!

So, you will be more on track with Jesus, who said more about money than any other subject, if you weave stewardship into your messages all through the year. Better yet, you will be wise to live the Jesus kind of stewardship throughout the year. Show your people that you have mastered your money rather than it mastering you. And above all make sure that your standard of giving is well above the average giving in your church, because God honors those who do what they ask their people to do.

Those churches still doing annual stewardship drives may want to look at:

Stewardship: The Missing Piece to Maturity