I hear a fearful refrain coming from church leaders, from every denominational level. They twist their fingers into knots as they say: If we don’t have our endowment, we will die. It’s our job to protect the endowment for future generations. Our future depends on a healthy endowment.
There is a prevalent idea in culture that pastors are money-grubbers. I think I have met one of those. Maybe. But, for the most part, we hate asking for money. The majority of church budgets go to salaries, and we feel bad about that, even if we make less than a third of the average person in our congregation. So we can get embarrassed during stewardship time.
I recently spoke at a stewardship conference. I always learn a tremendous amount when I speak, and that conference in particular was full of insightful people who inspired me to think theologically and practically about stewardship.
We know about all of the shifts in communication and technology, but there are also huge changes when it comes to giving money. Younger generations often think much differently when it comes to finances and budgeting, and we should think differently as a church as well.
The passage (Mark 12:41–44) about the poor widow who put “everything she had” in the temple treasury was among the lectionary readings a few weeks ago, and it’s a frequent text for stewardship sermons. The example of the widow’s generosity seems clear enough, and it’s part of the church’s standard repertoire about sacrificial giving.
But Fergus Kerr suggests that the story is about not generosity but exploitation.