“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” – 1 Chronicles 29:14
A Brief Background
Since the March 2019 announcement about Synodical fundraising announced Kristin Straeuli as the Fundraising Manager, many steps have been taken to continue identifying and clarifying the best way forward. Thankfully, we have been able to learn much from our own history and from fellow Lutherans and avoid reinventing the proverbial wheel. During a visit to the USA in May 2019, Mrs. Straeuli met with the head Mission Advocate for LCMS Mission Advancement, as well as four Advancement Officers in the Advancement Department of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. In between these meetings was a three-day course on planned giving, which was hosted by the LCMS Foundation. All of these people and offices are responsible for regularly engaging with a donor base and handling large contributions that support ongoing mission and ministry in a specifically Lutheran context.
The course focused on intentional giving from one’s assets (estate, will, life insurance, etc.) and was set in the US context, according to their tax laws. While helpful for down the road and on a smaller scale, this emphasis requires a strong team of financial and legal experts. The most beneficial takeaways from this trip and meetings were:
- to not focus on fundraising, as the term itself has a deficit-based, negative connotation that tends to view givers as only those with the money, not people.
- to rather focus on biblical generous giving, acknowledging that everything is given from God and is indeed not ours.
- that any giving in a church context must first be modeled by the pastors and leaders.
Upon returning, this information was presented to the Synodical Council, which agreed to move the focus away from fundraising to the wholistic approach of biblical stewardship, which leads to generous giving, and to first spend time examining what this looks like. As a secondary track of action, we would still investigate what structures the FELSISA has to receive large donations and see what methods of planned giving could be implemented in our context.
What is Biblical Stewardship?
Christian Stewardship is the free and joyous activity of the child of God and God’s family, the church, in managing all of life and life’s resources for God’s purposes.
As one can see, biblical stewardship encapsulates not just finances, but rather managing all that is first and foremost given to us by God. Boiled down, it is the living out of the Christian life, the proper application of Law and Gospel, and fulfilment of vocation. It is nothing extra to what we are daily called to do as redeemed children of God, nor is it anything new! With this new focus, Mrs. Straeuli began researching biblical stewardship and found a wealth of materials from our synod’s past, as well as from the LCMS, which has had a designated stewardship coordinator for many years now.
You may recall various times from the past that this has been emphasized in the FELSISA, such as the 1995 “Year of Tithing,” and Pastor Harry Niebuhr’s second theological exam thesis on Stewardship in 1987. This solid foundation of information is being built upon to establish what biblical stewardship means for us in our FELSISA context.
Such has been the progression from a focus on fundraising to biblical stewardship in this past year. Mrs. Straeuli’s title has changed from the initial “Fundraising Manager” to “Stewardship Coordinator,” to reflect this shift. Moving forward within the Synod, we will implement this deeper look at biblical stewardship in stages: first among the pastors and congregational elders, and then within the congregations and Synod.
Researching how to raise funds for the specific needs of our Synod will remain a secondary track of action. However, a focus on humble learning how to manage all that we are given is our priority now. We ask for God’s grace in these endeavors, that we may glorify His name amongst ourselves and our neighbors.
— Kristin Straeuli, FELSISA Stewardship Coordinator