by Ted Contag, Stewardship Ministry Team
My wife and I have been members at Bethlehem since before my first son was born (he will be nine years old in the fall). Nearly all of that time, I have been on the Bethlehem stewardship team. When I went to my first Tuesday night stewardship meeting, I really had no idea what the group did or even what the word “stewardship” really meant. I remember looking up “financial stewardship” on-line: Financial stewardship is based on the belief that God is the true and ultimate owner of each person's possessions, and that one is accountable to God for the acceptable care and use of those possessions.
Once I started to understand what the word “stewardship” meant, I needed to understand what the stewardship team actually did. Many people think that the role of the stewardship team is to raise money for the church. After spending nearly a decade on the team, I would argue that point. The mission of the stewardship team is to help people “get it.” I had an epiphany at a stewardship meeting several years ago. Someone on the team said,
“We need to figure out how to raise another $80,000 for the church.” At that moment I pushed back from the table and said something like this, “If this team is only about raising money, I am out. I have no interest in that. However, if we are about helping people to understand that by sharing the blessings we have been given (giving money away), we break the stranglehold that money has on us and thereby change our relationship with money and with God, then I am in. I finally “got it.”
It took me years of stewardship meetings but I finally got the true meaning of stewardship. Yes, stewardship is caring for that which God has entrusted us. Yes, it is giving money away. But the real gift of living a life as a good steward is the peace and joy you receive by sharing your gifts. It is the way the rest of your life is changed once your relationship with money is changed. It is realizing that at the table of life, joy does not come from filling up the pitcher, but from pouring out from that pitcher, sharing your abundance with each of your guests. By doing so, you change your relationship with money and you become closer to God.