As leaders in ministry, what can we do to plant seeds that will lead to abundant fruit? In other words, how can we lead disciples of Christ to generative ministry – ministry that creates growth and vitality in our congregations? It starts with an intentional plan of action.
Consider the example of Rev. Jenny Williams, who serves as lead pastor at Avery United Methodist Church in the MonValley district. Two years ago, Jenny enthusiastically accepted an invitation from United Methodist Foundation of West Virginia to attend the Lakeside Chautauqua Generosity and Stewardship Conference. It turns out the timing was perfect. She wrote, “Amazingly, your invitation is another way that God has been working in my life. Our church is undertaking a stewardship emphasis this year… so this fits perfectly.”
After the educational event, Jenny went back to her church and continued working with her finance team to develop a new stewardship ministry. The finance team designed its own stewardship program with letters targeted to groups based on their giving patterns. They sent separate letters to those who give regularly, those who give occasionally, and those who have not given. They developed and distributed a stewardship brochure with information about the church’s giving patterns, budget, and programs to the congregation. The church began providing quarterly giving statements for the first time along with letters of gratitude for giving.
The ministry continued to grow as the finance team started reading books together about church generosity and discussing ways to enhance their ministry. New practices were approved, including the idea of the pastor being aware of donors’ giving. The pastor now writes personal thank you notes on giving statements and has become aware of giving patterns and their implications for pastoral ministry. Jenny told us:
We are heading into our pledge campaign for the year, and I’m excited. We’ve got two people on our Stewardship committee who have non-profit Board experience and are very supportive of the new ways we are approaching our campaign. I say “campaign” but it really is a transitional effort this year to highlight our ministries and launch year-round awareness of how our ministries are carrying out our vision.
This isn’t only a story about how a stewardship ministry was built and continues to grow, but is an example of how intentional actions, such as attending an educational conference and working with a committed church team can lead to positive results. In the case of Jenny’s church, the increased congregational involvement is changing the culture of the church and expanding and enhancing their ministries.
You have an opportunity next month to begin the steps toward a generative ministry in your congregation. The Foundation is sponsoring our second Foundation Academy of Faith and Generosity at Canaan Valley Resort on March 18-20. The event is designed for both clergy and lay participation. To learn more, go to www.umfwv.org/academy, call The Foundation at 304-342-2113, or email email@example.com. Please register by February 16.