“This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”
This is a sign posted in one of the buildings where I work and it struck me that it also applies to much of our stewardship efforts. Everybody is on board with the idea that stewardship is a good thing and that somebody should do it. Anybody can, but so often nobody does.
However, the truth is, it is a team effort requiring commitment from us all. Stewardship begins within each of us, the starting block for all meaningful change, yet cannot be successful in a vacuum. It must be shared, discussed, nurtured and grown to bear real fruit.
At a recent presentation I was involved in, approximately 125 people were invited to attend, over coffee where they always go, at the end of the Sunday service. Interestingly the crowd scattered and skipped coffee that morning, generally speaking. Barely 20 made it to the hall. I guess everybody thought somebody else would go and my co-host and I were grateful that anybody did. In spite of this setback a good session was had and nobody left.
Yet it struck me as a perfect example of disengagement when the topic of stewardship comes up. Raising awareness surrounding stewardship issues and promoting a lifestyle approach, as opposed to simply fundraising, is indeed an uphill climb. While recognition of stewardship as an ongoing activity is not a new concept, it is not a weekly highlight of parish life either. The Gospel of giving is certainly variously interpreted. Nor, oddly enough, as the coffee get-together showed, is it universally welcome.
Resistance, for a variety of reasons is there, what with worries about the future, energy levels of aging parishioners, shrinking congregations, and disagreement over same sex issues and indeed the general direction of the church as a whole all being expressed to varying degrees.
Such concerns do form barriers to giving and need to be pastorally addressed. The conversation needs to include reassurance that the Church is still here, going to be here, and is worth, oh so worth, continued support as a positive force in changing times – whether it be at the parish, diocesan or national level. It is a challenge to take up!.
Stewardship education is a slow process, in spite of all the wonderful resources at our disposal. Resources that are growing steadily in number and quality yet are still under-utilised, and in many cases unknown. Nobody has heard of them yet they should be shared with everybody. Anybody can do it and for sure somebody has to.
Will you be that somebody?