What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “stewardship”? Budgets and spreadsheets? Money? Pledge cards?

Instead of thinking of stewardship as facts and figures and annual campaigns, what if we thought of stewardship as an extension of mission? What if we thought about it as a way to help do God’s work in the world? In Matthew 22:37b-39, Jesus says, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

It’s this love — the love God has for us, the love we have for God and the love we are called to have for one another — that pastors and stewardship leaders across the ELCA are using as a lens to develop a new way of thinking about the ministry of stewardship. “Relationships are what stewardship is all about,” says Trixie Richter, the congregational life director at Redeemer Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Winter Park, Fla. “There are times of scarcity and abundance in all of our lives, and stewardship calls us to creatively use God’s gifts to follow Jesus’ command to love God and our neighbor.

Rather than simply seeing stewardship as a way to raise money, Trixie sees stewardship as a way to give back.

A new mindset

Grace Duddy, assistant director for the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary, an ELCA seminary in St. Paul, Minn., has been talking with stewardship leaders from across this church about how they are inspiring their congregations to see stewardship through the lens of love.

“It’s our goal that people would see stewardship with a wider lens, through our relationship with God, not our relationship with the church,” Grace says. “Stewardship should be a part of our lives as a whole. Our hope is people will see that what they do with their money, their time and all of their life relates to God.”

Grace is the author of a new ELCA resource called “Stewards of God’s Love: a year-round guide to stewardship in your congregation.”

“This resource is helpful for not only leaders,” Grace says. “It offers a new perspective that can help people in this church who have a bad taste in their mouth when they hear the word stewardship.” “This isn’t about our money or our relationship with this church,” Grace continues. “It’s about all of our life.”

A resource for everyone

Whether you’re new to stewardship or have been leading a committee for years, whether you lead a large congregation or a small worshiping community in your home, this resource is full of ideas that will change the way your leaders think about their gifts of time, talent and money. You can use this guide to renew your congregation’s stewardship program or simply to find a few new insights. Broken into sections based on Jesus’ first and second commandments, “Stewards of God’s Love” provides practical examples for congregations to be faithful stewards in all of the areas of our lives.

“The practice of stewardship invites us to look in three different directions: DOWN, IN and OUT,” Grace writes in the introduction. “We begin by looking at how God has come down to us. We then look in to discover all that God has entrusted to our care. We end by looking out to understand the needs of our neighbors. While these three actions may not always happen in this order, the practice of stewardship always invites all three.” When we practice stewardship in this way we are making the sign of the cross.

The guide also features real-world examples of congregations and leaders from around the country who live out faithful stewardship not only in their worship but in all aspects of their lives.

A print copy of “Stewards of God’s Love” was mailed to all congregations in early 2013. To order additional copies or to sign up for a new ELCA email newsletter providing insights to enhance stewardship ministry in your congregation.

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