Have you thought about how we interpret all the passages of scripture related to giving, tithing, and the essence of being a steward? Do we treat these readings as clear dictates, rightly applicable from their original context to ours and coming from a single, unified voice? Or do we see a process, a more significant trajectory of re-imagining, over thousands of years and varied cultures, what it means to live a life of faith, to multiply love and goodness, and to generously contribute to the common good?

What, if anything, does fundraising have to do with stewardship, and is there a role for fundraising wisdom and practices? For example, fundraising and development professionals talk about “case statements” or “making the case” as the explanation of why an organization deserves philanthropic support. If we want people to be not just stewards but good stewards, making the case is one way we help them discern that supporting our ministries is a better choice than other options they might be considering. Efforts to make the case, articulate how vision leads to impact and clarify the real problems our congregation exists to solve, are all ways of reinforcing that good stewardship is a higher aspiration than merely being a steward.

The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving in Indianapolis has been teaching for years that people are actively re-imagining how God is calling them to make a difference through their resources. Lake Institute refers to this shift in people’s giving paradigms as moving from an institutional focus to being donor centric. Giving is re-imagined not as a duty or obligation to autonomous institutions trusted by default, but as a response to grace, a pathway to spiritual transformation and a means to impact. In the new paradigm, donors and institutions are partners, building trust over time and making a difference by working together.

To further re-imagine stewardship, check out the podcast from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, including the episode titled “Case for Support.” Feel free to also get connected to one of the stewardship seminars happening around the ELCA titled “Cultivating Generous Congregations” based on curricula from the Lake Institute.by Rev. Larry Strenge