In taking on a difficult task of redefining the word stewardship into 5 words for a church, God revealed an even greater message to me in that job. It wasn’t until I started applying the 5 words to my own life, often times stumbling through them as things didn’t quite go the way I expected, that I began to see the bigger meaning behind them. Is this how God works? Knowing exactly how we think and the person we are that it just takes our willingness to open ourselves to the doing that he reveals the mysteries behind his words?
I believe these 5 words, the words of Stewardship, are the keys to unity and growth for our churches, our homes, our relationships, our friendships, our workplaces, and even our communities, if we are each willing to embrace these words into our lives.
The first word, Responsibility, is the foundation for all the other words. It requires that we all understand we have roles we must play to achieve our desires or goals. That we cannot expect others to take on even greater responsibility than what their position (if in leadership) guides them to do or for (non-leadership roles) what they are willing to take on to achieve those goals. I reflect back on the the passage in Acts 6:1-7 with the Apostles and their decision to put the responsibility to solve the complaints of the people, back on the people to come up with a task force to resolve it. To me, that speaks to the personal responsibility that is on all of us to find and take charge of. If leaders or volunteers try to take on too much, or more responsibility then they should, then they will inadvertently drop the ball either with the project or in their own personal lives. Such actions leads to the appearance of disrespect for the team, the people as a whole, the project, and the leaders’ or volunteers’ families and themselves.
This is why the second word, Respect, also makes up the foundation for the other words. Respect has many layers. Respect is about recognizing the value of everyone’s time and managing it so that no one who is giving feels burdened by that giving. Respect is about recognizing the value of people’s opinions and ideas, acknowledging them in a respectful way, even when not agreeing with those opinions and ideas. It’s understanding that everyone has a unique view point and wisdom gained by their experiences is useful if treated with value. Respect is also about realizing that mistakes can happen, especially when doing something new, and giving each other the flexibility to make those mistakes without crushing the spirit of the ones who are trying. And finally respect is recognizing that as much as we want to, and feel that our way is the right way, we cannot force people to make such a choice; that all we can do is give them the tools and guidance and encouragement as they make their own decisions and then respect those decisions that were made.
Which leads right into the next word, Engage. Engage is about making the effort to work with each other, to embrace ideas, to participate, to listen, to speak, and to do. Engage is the action word. Engage is the bonding element that unifies.
The fourth word, Partner, is about resources. It’s the part where we each ask: “What do I want and what of my own resources (time, money, spiritual gifts, talents, supplies, etc) am I willing to invest to make this happen?” When the body of a church, organization, or company is wiling to invest in the things that they want, instead of passing the weight of responsibility onto others to personally makeup this lack of resources, then that church body, organization, or company will have healthier relationships within themselves; see better results; and more continued productively.
And finally, the last word, Commit, is the key that brings continued strength and growth. For these 5 words are only as strong and long-lasting as the willingness of everyone to commit to them.