Why: We form a stewardship team for three reasons:
An effective team will raise more money to fund the church’s mission. Other factors play into people’s decision to fund or not to fund a congregation’s work. But, after the congregation’s relationship with the priest, a strong stewardship team presenting a compelling program is the single most important factor.
The stewardship program engenders support and appreciation for all the other parish ministries.
The project of developing and presenting a stewardship program is a chance for the members of the team to form or deepen relationships that are the lifeblood of the congregation.
How: The priest, ideally in consultation with the wardens, identifies the
best people for the project and personally -- phone is ok but not
email – asks the person to serve. Do not send out a general
solicitation: “who wants to be on the stewardship team?” Call
someone up or take them to lunch and say, “I need you to do this.”
When: I blundered by trial and error into this mystery of
stewardship back in my parish priest days. If the stewardship
team is formed and meets by March, you will have a strong
campaign. Otherwise, you are behind the 8-ball. It does not work
to panic on September 15 and nab someone to “write the letter.”
If a core group is meeting and thinking about stewardship early,
the vibe changes. Maybe it’s telepathic. Even if they don’t roll
anything out until October, they need to start meeting by March.
Size: Usually, stewardship team members give more money to the
church than they would if they were not on the team. So if you want
more money, it will help to have more people on the team. The
friends of team members are also more likely to give. So having
more people on the team tends to mean more friends giving.
Who: The basic Heifetz principle applies. You need “the right people on the
bus.” So who are the right people? There are exceptions and a
congregation may want to do something special for a year. But
generally, these principles apply:
People who know people: The team’s strongest influence
will be on their friends. So you need people who are connected.
This is why it is important to diversify the team, as different
people have different friends. You want diversity according
demographics like age and race, but especially if the
congregation has more than one worship service, it is good
to include people from the different worship services on the team.
People who love the parish. The stewardship team represents
the congregation to the congregation. How they feel about the
congregation and its leadership, both lay and clergy, will come
across. Their attitude is absolutely crucial.
People with a heart for stewardship. A lot of folks (including many
clergy) have emotional issues about money. Others have such
issues about God. Put money and God in the same conversation
and it is not easy to find people with a healthy attitude. So look for
them diligently. They are the key.
People who know stewardship. You need at least one, preferably
two or so, members who have been to The Episcopal Network for
Stewardship (TENS), Stewardship University, Project Resource,
or some such training so they will have a sense of the best
practices today. The Church had a long period of decline. That’s
when we learned that a lot of our old stewardship practices
do not work. But people using TENS, Stew U, and Project
Resource today are getting a very different result.
People with skills. Most of all, you need someone with
organizational skills to get the job done – like running a
meeting, ending with action steps, prescribing deadlines,
and setting up accountability. Artistic skills, language skills,
drama skills, etc. may all come into play depending on the
kind of program the team plans.
People with credibility. Who you appoint to the team tells
the congregation whether this is important or not. You need
someone on the team who has the respect of the congregation.
People with time. Of course, no one has time. But you don’t
want to overburden anyone with church work. So choose
someone who can be freed up from some of their other church
work for a year. Do not choose your wardens, your treasurer,
or your finance committee. Counting money and raising it are
usually incompatible. So look a bit farther.
People who can give themselves. These do not have to be
your wealthiest members, but the team needs to be able
to set an example of generosity.
No one person will have all traits we need in the stewardship team. That is fine. Just try to get all the traits represented by the team collectively. That just builds the value of the relationship-building component.
A well formed – and early formed! – stewardship team becomes a microcosm of the congregation. Its energy and vitality vibrate out into the congregation, enlivening worship, formation, evangelism, fellowship, and every aspect of parish life.