“Stewardship” is word created by leaders in the Protestant churches of North America in
the late 19 th century. At that time it was a way of talking about money for the church and
especially missions in the West and missionaries abroad. The concept developed in
response to the separation of church and state, which meant churches were no longer
funded by the state. By necessity, the American church had to find a way to raise
money for congregations and missions. Over the last one hundred years, there have
been three periods or stages when stewardship has taken a high profile. By the late 20 th
century, stewardship was commonly used both inside and outside the church.
1. The Beginnings of American Stewardship 1890 - 1918
- This first period linked stewardship with law and connected it with the tithe.
- Churches were not supported by taxes and needed to find their own way
of gathering funds.
- Early methods of fundraising included renting or selling pew space,
subscription lists, church suppers, church socials, raffles and lotteries.
- Special collections were taken in support of missions in the rapidly
expanding West and for other parts of the world.
- At the turn of the century, envelope giving offered privacy.
- Churches began to adopt unified budgets.
- A rising middle class began dealing with the “burden of affluence”.
- The enthusiasm for mission collapsed with the loss of idealism in the
United States. By the 1920’s many congregations took to erecting new
church buildings rather than giving money to benevolences or missions.
2. The Flowering of Stewardship 1945 – 1965
- The second period connected stewardship with the Gospel and began to
see money as only a part of a broader understanding of stewardship.
- During the post World War II period, there was a religious boom. The
United States entered an era of unprecedented and increasing affluence.
- American life was changed by suburbia, the interstate highway system,
better automobiles and television.
- The situation was ripe for the church to respond to the needs of the
- In contrast to the atheism of communist nations, Americans were “God-
believing church goers”.
- Church membership as a percentage of the total population grew from
49% in 1940 to 63% by 1960.
- A renewed interest in stewardship brought forth the three “T’s” – Time,
Talent and Treasure. This elicited a positive response in campaigns.
- Denominational loyalty was strong. In 1957, 96% of Americans cited a
specific religious affiliation.
3. The Globalization of Stewardship 1980 – 200?
- The current period joins stewardship with the care of this world and often
does not mention money.
- A broader definition of stewardship includes a lifestyle of working for the
environment, justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
- The word “stewardship” became more popular in secular circles than it
was within the church.
- Christianity does not play as important a role in the establishment;
secularization is taking over society.
- Focusing stewardship on the finances of the church is not legitimate
because the emphasis should be on the needs of the whole world.
- In the words of Douglas John Hall (1990),
“Now the church can assume its proper place as a servant to the
world, rather than trying to maintain its own power and position
within society. It has an opportunity to act as a steward (servant)
and can now take stewardship seriously.”
Reflections on the History of Stewardship
- We learn that we are not masters living in a world that we own and control,
but we rather are stewards of what has been entrusted to us.
- Christian stewardship is rooted in God’s gift of Jesus Christ to us, and we
are entrusted with sharing this gift.
- Through God’s grace, we freely receive God’s gifts and have permission
to use these gifts.
- Stewardship has to do with every aspect of living out personal faith,
including creation, lifestyle, gifts, finances and callings/vocation.
- Churches are increasingly dependent on lay members to assume their
rightful place of servant leadership, using their gifts to participate in God’s
work in the world today.
(This brief history is summarized from “A History of Stewardship” by Dr. William O.
Avery of Gettysburg Seminary, and was published by the Lutheran Laity Ministries for
Historically the term ‘stewardship’ has been used since the late 1800s. Originally it meant just financial pledges! One concept of stewardship is that it is all that God has given and entrusted to each person, including a spirit of gratitude, time, generosity, skills, spiritual abilities, talents, and finances. All of these elements are part of what stewardship is at Nativity Lutheran.
As is evident there are numerous elements of stewardship. None of us are able to do everything. Each of us has our own way to contribute to the Church. The church appreciates all the ways to contribute.
The financial elements are pledges for the General Fund (day to day costs of operating the church) and the Welcome Campaign (buildings and grounds repair and additions. This is usually a 3 year campaign.) During the year there may be special needs for which additional funds will be necessary. Give when you can, don’t when you can’t. We know we all have different abilities to give monetarily. Also we know finances can change, so adjusting your general fund or building fund pledge amount is acceptable. Please let the office know if you need to make any changes. Both of these funds are crucial in keeping our church functioning and growing.
Current yearly budget - $120,936
Current Welcome campaign (3 year) $75000; $45000 pledge