It’s not the person who collects the money, counts the money or deposits the money. It’s not the person who heads up the annual campaign or chooses a stewardship theme. It’s not the person who tallies or takes the spiritual gifts inventory, or who pledges their time, talents, and treasure to the church. All of this is important. But none of it is the most important stewardship job. In fact, this particular job has nothing to do with money.
Last week I met with the person who has THE job in question. He didn’t know it at the time. Neither did I. But as we plumbed the depths of his job description, it quickly came to light.
There it was in black and white: his job was to be the steward of the vision for the entire region for his denomination. He was to make sure that the vision was kept alive, interpreted, and implemented. That’s the most important stewardship job, ever. Except, of course, for the person who holds that position in your congregation.
What’s this have to do with money, you ask? The prophet is quick to remind us that without a vision the people perish. What the prophet doesn’t mention is even more dire: without a vision, hope and purpose perish, financial support dries up, and the congregation itself withers and dies. That leaves a heartbreaking vacuum in the center of your community. All that you once provided—prayer, love, compassion, acceptance, small group ministry, meeting space, communal worship, friendship, potlucks, a listening ear, help for people far and near—is now gone. People are less likely to give money to support a budget than they are to support a Kingdom-oriented vision. That makes the steward of the vision the most important stewardship job ever.
So who stewards the vision in your congregation? Who is responsible for its existence, interpretation and implementation? Who is making sure that the vision guides all that you do? These are important questions for every congregation to answer. Denominations as whole, regional bodies, and non-profits would be wise to pose this question, too.
If you can’t name a person or a team whose responsibility it is to steward the vision, then consider the following two options. Either vision so naturally arises in your congregation that it doesn’t need a specific home. Or, vision has been long forgotten.
If it’s alive and well, pause to acknowledge the visionaries among you. Then look throughout your structures, meetings, and results to make sure that the vision is actually getting implemented. If it is, celebrate! You are a gifted, focused, and results-oriented bunch. You get things done. It’s probably time for you to come up with your next vision! Keep the momentum going.
If vision has been long forgotten in your setting, it’s time to get to work. Pronto. There’s no time to lose. Likely, your congregation has shrunk, giving has shrunk, and you are more concerned with maintenance than mission, comfort than outreach, and paying the bills than making a real difference in the world. You may not know it, but you’re living on borrowed time. These are the kind of congregations most likely to flounder and close.
How do you start? Decide that it’s time to get off life-support and back into the stream of life. Then, re-establish the most important stewardship job ever. How? Prayerfully task a team with creating a vision. Keep in mind that a vision is uncomfortable. It expands whatpeople think is possible. It pushes you to accomplish something you haven’t yet done. It’s not the re-statement of ministries or activities you are already doing. That means it’s bold, forward-thinking, and probably scary. But it is worth giving your time, talents and treasure to. Be sure to give the visioning team the leadership, time, resources, respect and prayer support they’ll need to begin the process. Lastly, get on board with it. Work together to prayerfully, purposefully communicate and implement the vision. Without it, everything perishes.