Online Course Redefines Stewardship
Written by: Karla Winham, Stewardship Pilot Project Coordinator
This is an exciting time for me! The online course, “Biblical Stewardship: Living as Stewards of God’s Goodness” is finally available to the public. This is the culmination of several years of research, multiple reboots, covid-induced frustrations, and a tremendous amount of learning for me. The course is my attempt to distill what I’ve learned about Biblical stewardship over the past two years into something that will be helpful and encouraging for individuals and congregations alike.
From the inception of the Stewardship Pilot Project (a partnership between Diaconal Ministries Canada, Christian Stewardship Services, and the Christian Reformed Church in Canada), our work has been based on Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” This means the first thing we need to grasp is that everything we have comes from God. We often say it’s a “gift” from God, but sometimes I think that even that idea can lead us astray a little. When someone gives us a gift, it’s not theirs any more – it is ours to use as we please. But stewardship isn’t like that. God didn’t GIVE us the earth so that we may do what WE please with it. Rather, He made us stewards of all His creation; a steward is a manager, caretaker, or custodian – not an owner.
This shift in thinking is subtle but critical, so here’s an illustration that might help. Right after my husband and I got married, we packed up and moved across the country for his medical residency program. In those days it was a lot harder to search for accommodations from a distance, so we had no apartment to go to when we arrived. One of the local physicians was going on an extended visit to see family in Europe, so they had arranged for us to house-sit for them for a month. For a young couple who had only just finished student life, this was incredible! We had full run of the house. We drove the car. We used the jacuzzi. We played the CDs. We ate the food, watched the TV, and thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful property. You could say “what a gift!” and it certainly was – but that didn’t make it ours. We also watered the plants, took care of the (rather difficult) dog, mowed the lawn, and anything else that needed to be done. We had a responsibility to make sure the home and everything in it were in order upon the owners’ return. When the neighbours came looking for a cup of sugar, we shared it with them, because it’s what the homeowners would have done. We were their representatives and did our best not to ruin their good reputation. If a pipe had burst in the basement, we wouldn’t have left it leaking all over the floor – we would have done what was necessary – maybe call a plumber? – to restore it to working order. We didn’t do any of those things because we thought this “stuff” was ours. The owners were coming back. We were stewards, caring for their stuff in a way that was consistent with their wishes.
God wants His creation (including each one of us) to flourish, and He wants us to be part of that so that everyone can see who He is through the way we live. At its heart, stewardship is discipleship.
I hope that everyone who takes the Biblical Stewardship course can learn to approach their talents, time, treasures and all of creation (‘trees’) with this mindset. Brett Elder, editor of the NIV Stewardship Study Bible, writes: “At no time do we ever read of God relinquishing ownership of anything that He set in motion. The cash in our wallets, the children in our families, our creative capacities, the breath we breathe, and the gospel message itself—tangible and intangible, all belong to God.” But why does God need us to take care of His stuff? Unlike a travelling homeowner, it’s certainly not because He can’t do it Himself! Elder continues: “Stewardship is the path God uses to make us into the people He wants us to be. Our obedience and intentional stewardship of ‘every square inch in the whole domain of our human existence’ provides us with an opportunity to vividly reflect His image.” God wants His creation (including each one of us) to flourish, and He wants us to be part of that so that everyone can see who He is through the way we live. At its heart, stewardship is discipleship.
So, what can you expect from the Biblical Stewardship course? Videos, quizzes, readings, links, and group activities – oh my! But also:
- Expect an asset-based approach. At Diaconal Ministries Canada, we like to focus on God’s abundance rather than our own perception of scarcity. In each toolkit of the Biblical Stewardship course, we start by recognizing what we have – there are activities to help you discover your “assets” when it comes to your talents, time, and physical resources. We invite you to look around – what has God put under your care and influence? You can use these things to bring glory to God and to help His creation flourish.
- Expect practical suggestions, but not a prescription. The answers about “how” to manage your Time, Talent, Trees, and Treasures will be different for every person and every congregation. The course is full of links and suggestions to get you thinking, but not a prescription about how to use what God has given you. That’s why it’s best to do the course along with a group (or even just one friend) so that you can discuss and discover what good stewardship means in your context.
- Expect flexibility. We’re not gonna lie: this course is fairly robust and will take some time to work through. And we know that for many, time can be one of our limited resources. But don’t sweat it! This course can be taken at your own pace and in your own way. Even if you pull a team together and you’re only able to look at one of the four “T’s” of Stewardship this year, that’s a win in my books! Taking your time to really dive deeper into the different ways God calls us to steward everything He’s made will pay off in the long run.
So – what are you waiting for?
Click the button below to sign up for this online, self-guided course today. Oh – did we mention it’s free?! And once you’re done, let us know what you think!