Faith Lutheran Church's Faith Aflame 360 Journey
Story Submitted by: Joye McElwee
Congregation: Faith Lutheran Church in Springfield, MO
Faith Aflame Stewardship 360 provided Faith Lutheran Church an incremental process for starting and growing a strong Stewardship understanding among church leaders and the congregation. Through a series of training sessions provided the church’s Stewardship team and monthly work assignments conducted by the team following each training session, Faith has made measurable progress over the past 3 years toward changing the Stewardship culture of the congregation. From the beginning, prayer has been a foundation. Christ provides us the guidance and strength for FA360 at Faith.
Faith Lutheran Church began its journey with Faith Aflame 360 (FA360) in December 2006. Reverend Dr. Stu Brassie and Reverend Wayne Knolhoff (then of the Missouri District) presented a 6 hour class introduction to Faith Aflame 360 (then known as Stewardship 360). Their presentation started Faith Lutheran on a Stewardship journey that continues to this day.
For Faith, FA360 began with a team consisting of church leaders and others. Fifteen attended the December 15, 2006 class. Little did we understand fully on that day what lay ahead for each of us who participated. We entered the room believing we understood what Stewardship meant. By time the class ended, most of us were amazed at how little we truly understood about Stewardship. The Biblical base of the definition of Stewardship, supported by the structure of the presentation, began a transition in our understanding of Stewardship that continues.
We have been honored with two additional FA360 presentations from Reverends Brassie and Knolhoff. These additional presentations have continued to build upon the foundation that was laid that December 2006 Saturday.
No, Faith did not simply have three presentations that our team sat through in developing our journey in Stewardship at Faith. There has been much dedicated discussion, focus, and implementation of what we learned from each visit and each presentation following the visits. Without the action following each presentation, you would lose quickly what each presentation lays as a building block for your congregation to launch from in building a culture of good Stewardship. FA360 offers congregations the essential knowledge that allows each congregation to design its own roadmap for their Stewardship journey. Where you ultimately stop in that journey rests in your hands.
Back to the journey at Faith!
Following the December 2006 class, the team met monthly over the first 2 years to review additional information provided under FA360. The first couple of sessions focused on the collection and review of who Faith is as a congregation. In conducting that collection of information, we looked at many things and at all areas of Stewardship within the church: time, talent, and giving.
We were astonished by our findings. We knew we had many of our members giving of their time and talent, but we soon discovered of the approximately 120 – 134 regular worshipers (most active), about 85 percent were involved in some aspect of service within the church. These individuals were involved and giving of their time and talents. We realized that financial giving was good, but had room for improvement.
As we continued meeting and discussing more and more lessons FA360 offered us, we realized that we needed to develop ways to start communicating and sharing the valuable and wonderful things we were learning about Stewardship with others in the congregation. We realized our journey and the journey that we must begin with the rest of our congregation would not be easy, and more importantly, we realized that once we started that journey it must continue until everyone within our congregation had a solid Biblical understanding of Stewardship and they had at least started the transition to a life of living as Christ wants us to live: joyfully giving of our time, talents, and treasure. The more we discussed and focused on the “how” of accomplishing that goal, the more challenging we realized it would be. We knew that unless we took that first step and started the process, it could never be reached.
We knew the journey would not be a success unless guided and blessed by Christ. Prayer was our first step and remains a foundation to FA360 at Faith Lutheran.
Our second step was identifying a natural, routine pathway and method of starting the congregation to learn about Stewardship. The word Stewardship brings so many different visions to individuals, most of which focus on money, that we knew a blatantly bold approach would probably not be appropriate.
Since our entire worship service is provided in a bulletin, it seemed logical that we needed to begin with changes to our worship service that added Stewardship thoughts and Stewardship prayers. We started that process by August 2007. You always have the concern as to timing for implementation steps. Prayer and sincere levels of discussion told us, the timing was appropriate. Since August 2007, Stewardship is a important part of our worship bulletins. Each week of worship lends some message about Stewardship for the congregation and visitors to ponder, and a Stewardship prayer is usually spoken during the service by everyone.
The third step was really blended with the second. Sermons carried both direct and subliminal messages on Stewardship, and church lay leaders spoke about Stewardship before the congregation.
Other quietly placed messages on Stewardship were added to our communication efforts. Leaders had recognized time and talent contributions in Voters’ meetings, but now they began publicly recognizing contributions of time and talent at some point during worship.
A special Stewardship recognition dinner was held for the members of Faith Lutheran Church in November 2007. Leaders of Faith used the dinner to recognize the contributions of Faith members through the blessings of their time, talent, and treasure. A slide show provided the venue so those in attendance could reflect on all the wonderful gifts received through the time, talents, and treasure of Faith’s members over the past few years. This important event was able to be held thanks to the generous designated gift of one of Faith’s generous stewards.
Stewardship articles were added to each newsletter via locally written articles and/or those developed for newsletters by LCMS. Bible Studies on Stewardship were presented by both lay leaders and our pastor.
The importance of Stewardship and its true meaning have continued to be sent via consistent message threads in nearly all things we do at Faith Lutheran. When you consider how Stewardship is a part of everyone’s daily life whether they recognize it or not, that message must be recognized especially by Christians. The way Christians live and demonstrate their Stewardship communicates a powerful message to others, and it provides reinforcement to fellow Christians.
The leaders at Faith who have been the seedbed for FA360 with our church know they must demonstrate personally what it is like to be a good steward. Words, without demonstration in fact, send a powerfully wrong message to others. Our leaders cannot just talk the talk, they must also walk the talk. People must see clearly that the actions and words of leaders of the church align.
We discuss Stewardship even during budget meetings, speaking not only of what we see as being contributed by members of the congregation, but also how we as leaders plan to spend those precious gifts. When we conduct fund raising activities, we donate 10 percent of those funds to external missions. If we expect people to tithe, conserve, give of their time and talent, or participate in missions, the leaders of Faith must be seen as role models.
Ultimately, we want to change the Stewardship culture of our church. We realize the many years it may take to make that happen. We have already been on the FA360 journey for nearly 3.5 years, and we are beginning to see some of the changes happening within the congregation that we want to see. Yet, the FA360 team realizes that we are miles (and years) from the point in our Stewardship journey where we can take a holiday. Some say it takes at least 10 years to change culture. Just think we may be able to take that holiday in about 6.5 year! As we say that, we have come to realize, Stewardship is a life-long journey for a Christian, and it is something that must be constantly reinforced as members come and go from a congregation.
Since beginning FA360, we have seen a positive change in the amount of time, talent, and treasure members of Faith are joyfully giving their Lord. Although we could communicate the percentage we have seen, that is not what is most important. The question that is important is whether the attitude in the congregation has changed toward Stewardship: time, talent, and treasure. That is the growth and change that we need to focus upon.
The end of March 2010, Reverends Brassie and Knolhoff returned for additional instruction and discussion regarding Faith’s journey with FA360. We realized from that visit, presentation, and materials provided that we need to refuel and continue to grow more as we continue on our Stewardship journey. That means more prayer, more discussion, more planning, and more approaches in ways to continue growing ourselves and the rest of the congregation in Stewardship understanding that will lead us to living our lives as good stewards.
We are already planning a Consecration Sunday this fall. Just one more opportunity to grow ourselves and those within the congregation in our journey to become better stewards of what Christ has blessed us with in this life.
As we pray for our Lord and Savior’s strength in performing His will, His guidance as to how He wants us to accomplish the tasks, and His blessings of our FA360 journey, we seek your prayers as well. We know it is Christ who is making great things happen along our journey and the journey possible. Without Him on the journey, the trip would be meaningless.
Stewardship has become a natural part of each worship service. People are growing in their understanding of Stewardship. The attitude toward Stewardship has changed. We believe we are beginning to see a change in Stewardship culture. That attitude is seen in greater giving in all areas: time, talents, and treasure. We now enjoy the blessings of new faces involved in leadership, boards, committees, and a myriad of outreach and fund raising events. Hands to renovate and maintain facilities have grown significantly. Whatever the need, people are stepping forward. Financial contributions to missions, assisting the needy, assisting our seminary students, general fund, and many other areas is seeing support like never before. More families and individuals now tithe. Yet, we realize a long journey lies ahead. We have learned that all we have been blessed with belongs to God! We continually communicate that message to ourselves and those who worship at Faith. We depend on the Holy Spirit to grow the message if it pleases the Lord.
Comment submitted by:
yvonne†cordell on 6/1/2010
Excellently done. My testimonial about the progress made because of Faith Aflame 360 will rest in the shadows of Joye McElwee's masterpiece.
|What People Are Saying|
|“Faith Aflame 360 has been a process for our Faith family at 1517 East Valley Water Mill Road in Springfield, MO, to allow us to come alive and do a 360 degree turnabout. We have had visitors tell us what a friendly, close-knit congregation we are, but now we have become culturally relevant to the mission field surrounding us.
Perhaps taking upon the renovation projects of our physical building from the exterior roof to the interior carpeting, realizing the need to involve our own skilled members made us aware of the real reason for our existence. We wanted to be inviting to others, to bring them to know Jesus, as their Lord and Savior as well as be in the Word and sacraments. Building relationships with others with Jesus Christ as the source of all our evangelistic efforts is so central to spiritual growth as well as nurturing our fellow believers.
The involvement of our members, both new and old, was and is now phenomenal. Committees formed and people participated in areas where they felt comfortable. All was done to the glory of God and for the love of others.
I see people, filled with the Holy Spiritís guidance, stepping forward with a servantís heart, to see the need and offer a helping hand. We are still a work of God in progress, but we are sharing the responsibility of our churchís ministry and are open to change.