I recently attended the Lake Institute’s “Congregations Learning and Practicing Abundance” class at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Over the course of two days, we examined how congregations learn, scarcity as an invisible norm, and how to move to a mindset and practice of abundance. Using Tim Shapiro’s book, “How Your Congregation Learns” (which I highly recommend!), we looked at the challenges for our churches as a whole, and stewardship in particular, when we rush to change without taking the time to educate, or when we resist learning something new and keep doing things the same way.
Here are a few takeaways from the class that may provide you with food for thought in your ministry context:
- How does scarcity show up in your congregation? It’s not always financially; perhaps there’s a shortage of people to fill existing roles or able to commit time.
- What is abundance NOT? It’s not necessarily wealth or having everything you want or just about numbers. Where do you see abundance in your congregation?
- Do you train or educate people? In his book, Shapiro shares that training gives people information and leaves their world view the same, whereas educating changes the nature of who we are and leads us from one construct of life to another. Do you educate people on stewardship?
- Do you define challenges or solve problems? Defining challenges is the first step in a learning journey, and helps clarify the next step. Try using this sentence to address a challenge in your congregation: “We seek to learn _________ in order to/so that we can __________________.”
- What is your congregation’s understanding of stewardship? A narrow understanding leads to narrow practices; however, if you change people’s thinking, their behavior will change as well. How can you better teach stewardship so that people experience the joy that comes with it?
Finally, I’ll share two quotes from the class that really gave me a lot to think about:
“The topic ‘How can we grow?’ took up all the energy in the room. And the question ‘In what way are we as a congregation alive?’ didn’t occur to us.” Rev. Mike Mather
“Sometimes we have to doggedly, determinedly believe what God promised: There will always be enough.”
If you would like to talk about how your congregation learns, and what that can mean for stewardship beliefs and practices, I’d love to hear from you.
(Laura can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-725-2589)