By Fr. Paul Kucynda
What’s in a word? Plenty! Each word in our vocabulary should be used as precisely as possible. The precise use of words helps us to communicate information to one another more clearly. The information is successfully received only if the receiver as well as the sender give the same meaning to the word or phrase that is used.
While this may seem self-evident, I’ve made these opening statements because when it comes to the word “stewardship” and various terms related to it, often the same words are being used without first sharing a definition that is understood similarly by both the sender and the receiver of the message.
It almost seems that it’s the “in” thing today to use the word “stewardship” in churchly conversation. At the same time, a look at HOW this word and terms related to it are used within Church circles reveals the variety of meanings attributed to it. This is particularly true when the word “stewardship” is used in fact as the equivalent of “financial stewardship.”
Because the word “stewardship” is quite often used to justify just about everything, particularly when it relates to the Church and financial matters. I’d like to share a few definitions of key terms related to the whole matter of CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP in our lives. The following terms are taken from three study booklets published by our Department that can be used by your parish for an eight-week teen or adult study program. The remaining text of this article is taken from “Growth Through Commitment” which is the workshop booklet presently being used in parish and deanery conferences aimed at improving the awareness of Orthodox Christians in regard to parish financial stewardship.
1. What does the term “CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP” mean to you?
“CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP” is nothing less than God’s call for us as His people to assist in managing the affairs of this earth with Him. We are called to be “friends of the bridegroom” and “co-workers with the Lord.” Our Stewardship consists of making responsible decisions about our time, health, talents, relationships, property, and all that makes up our lives.
2. In your opinion, what does the word “FUNDRAISING” mean to you?
“FUNDRAISING” is simply the raising of money.
3. In the context of “Christian Stewardship” what does the term “FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP” mean to you?
“FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP” means the responsible making of decisions about the money we have, in the light of our high calling to “do God’s will in our lives.” “FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP” requires that we return part of our money to God in support of the work of His Church, and then that we manage the rest wisely.
4. In your opinion, is there a difference between “FUNDRAISING” and “CHRISTIAN FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP?”
“FUNDRAISING” has as its primary goal the raising of money. “CHRISTIAN FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP” has as its primary goal the giving of opportunities for making financial decisions and commitments. The actual raising of money is a secondary goal!
5. In the context of “Christian Financial Stewardship,” what does the term “FIRST-PORTION GIVING” mean to you?
“FIRST PORTION GIVING” means just that: to consciously return a first part of our income to God, in a systematic way, in support of the work of His church as an act of gratitude, and then to consciously make wise decisions in regard to how we should manage the remainder of our income.
6. In the context of “Christian Financial Stewardship,” what does the term “PERCENTAGE GIVING” mean to you?
“PERCENTAGE GIVING” means to determine what part of our total income we will give as our “First Portion Gift” to God in support of the work of His church, as an act of gratitude and thanks for all He has done and continues to do for us and for the life of the world.
7. In the context of “Christian Financial Stewardship,” what does the term “PLEDGING” mean to you?
“PLEDGING” is the making of a Commitment in regard to our “First Portion” “Percentage” Gift.