(Thank you to the Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, M.Div., Interim Minister, First Unitarian Church of Alton, IL, for bringing the topic of the New Consecration Sunday concept to the UU-Money Leaders for an energetic discussion.)
“How does my giving shape what is of greatest worth?”
“What level of giving would be most meaningful and powerful to me?”
These are two of the questions that Rev. Thomas Perchlik, minister of the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, uses in crafting worship services that celebrate generosity and abundance.
“I have enjoyed using the New Consecration Sunday model as the inspiration for planning services,” Rev. Perchlik reports. “The people love it. After almost a decade of struggling to get a complicated Canvass process together each year, this seems easy, fun and deeply meaningful.”
The New Consecration Sunday celebration model that Thomas refers to is an integral part of the Christian stewardship program described by Herb Miller, a prolific author and recognized authority in realms of congregational health and effectiveness.
In a nutshell, Miller’s New Consecration Sunday stewardship program design addresses several key issues that some congregations find challenging:
- Lay volunteer involvement in asking fellow congregants for pledges.
- Lax organization and planning of stewardship campaigns.
- Anxiety and stress about raising enough money to fund the congregation’s budget.
- Negative feelings and reactions to annual stewardship campaigns.
- Lack of clarity about the teachings and expectations about stewardship within a particular faith community.
- The minister’s role as stewardship leader in the congregation.
The New Consecration Sunday stewardship program focus is on the religious beliefs, mission, and values of the faith community as a source of inspiration for giving rather than the obligation of funding the budget to pay the bills. Miller’s question to the giver is, What is God calling me to do?
The Rev. Keith Goheen, a member of the UU Church of Mill Creek and JPD Board of Trustees, offers an alternative theological perspective for effective stewardship in other religious communities:
Unitarian theologian Henry Nelson Wieman was keenly interested in ‘The Good.’ His theological/ philosophical imperative involved bringing more (an abundance) of the Good into the self, the congregation, and the world.
What then is the congregation’s relationship to The Good?
Said another way,
What is its vision and mission, or raison d’tre?
If the principle relationship is best expressed as a haven defined in opposition to the prevailing culture (such as being defined by what we are not: a church, theistic, etc.), then The Good lies in the maintenance of strong boundaries. These boundaries protect the sanctity of the philosophical center while deepening its sense of differentiation.
If the principle relationship is to bring more Good into the world (in which we are a resource for ethical, non-theistic living to our community), The Good is expressed in relationships with community and the perceived need for Good in its culture.
This identity provides an interface through the idea of mission. The campaign is then designed to build enthusiasm for fully funding and potentially expanding the ethical mission of the congregation. This is accomplished by creating a pool of financial resources supporting the activities that bring more of the envisioned Good into being. Individuals giving from personal abundance generate congregational abundance enabling an abundant expression of mission.
The choice about fundraising approaches must be in sync with the members’ relationship to the congregation and their shared sense of purpose.
Money becomes a tool to empower mission. The focus of the campaign is on impact, not costs.
May it be so~
Miller, Herb. New Consecration Sunday Stewardship Program (with Guest Leader Guide & CD-ROM). 2007. Abingdon Press. Nashville.
Crossman, Bob. Effective Stewardship is Not Budget Driven. 2012. Ministry Matters website: http://bit.ly/180GUlt
Multigenerational Stewardship & Worship Resources on Giving Speaks.com