Stewardship is one of those phrases that many people who might have grown up in church recognize, but have a hard time defining. Being a ‘good steward’ is something many Christians strive for, but if you asked ten people to define it, you’d probably get nine different answers. However, most responses would probably have something to do with money, finances, or giving.
Stewardship is about more than money. It’s also about people.
While I believe that stewardship of financial resources is a great thing, I am honestly more inspired by conversations about the stewardship of people. After all, isn’t that the first and most important thing we are called to as church leaders?
1 Peter 5:2–3 calls us to “[b]e shepherds of God’s flock … watching over them … because [we] are willing, as God wants [us] to be.”
One of the things I’m most passionate about is helping church leaders understand that the idea of stewardship applies just as much to people as it does money and resources. When we commit to being good stewards of the people God has entrusted us, we start recognizing faces as people rather than just numbers. This shift is what enables churches to create a multiplying effect in their ministries, and is one of the key reasons that Church Community Builder exists.
Our end game is helping church leaders learn the principles necessary to effectively steward people and equip them with the processes, systems, and tools to do it well.
Compassion International: Taking Stewardship to the Extreme
This is the same passion that drives Compassion International, an organization I personally love and support, which is dedicated to releasing children from poverty. When it comes to stewarding people (in this case children), Compassion does it better than any other organization on the planet. I was recently reminded about their ability to take stewardship to the extreme during a vision trip to Peru I was blessed to attend along with several pastors and Church Community Builder partners.
Here are a few of the things I learned on the trip that blew me away…
- Compassion serves over 1.5 million children all over the globe and knows each one of them at a level that is second to none.
- They monitor four key life components for each child in their care (Physical, Spiritual, Social, and Intellectual).
- Additionally, they know about the unique personal and family situations of each child and meet those needs as best they can.
- 100% of this work happens through partnership with local, indigenous churches and leaders who know their people and their community needs way better than anyone else can. It’s the ultimate expression of a missional strategy!
It’s simply amazing! When you look at the level of intentionality the team at Compassion has for stewarding the kids in their care, it’s also no surprise they have experienced such explosive growth and received Charity Navigator’s highest rating for 13 consecutive years.
What can the local church learn about ‘Extreme Stewardship’ from Compassion?
Throughout the trip, I couldn’t help but ask myself... If our job in the local church is to steward people, shouldn't we develop people, processes, and systems that would help us steward people at the same level as Compassion?
You might be thinking, “There’s no way our church can replicate the results of an organization as large as Compassion. They have way more resources then we could dream of.” But here’s something I was reminded of during my time in Peru.
Compassion accomplishes their stewardship through a combination of paid staff, leaders, and volunteers, and it all happens in the local church!
Those are the same resources we have at our disposal as a local church. The difference is scale, not capability.
Why is Compassion so effective at stewarding people?
Ultimately, I think the key to being able to steward children so effectively and grow exponentially because of it is their attitude toward accountability. They know that they must absolutely be accountable to measurable outcomes if they are to survive. If the lives of the children they support are not changed, donors like me will find another place to give. Most importantly, they see accountability as a fulfillment of their desire to honor Christ by being good stewards.
While my trip to Peru was an incredible reminder of the great work Compassion is doing around the world, it was also a challenging lesson for me and many of the other church leaders on the trip. As church leaders, my hope is that we would uphold the same level of accountability and value as we steward the lives of every person God has put in our care.
What are some systems and processes your church has in place to implement the idea of ‘extreme stewardship’ in your ministry?
If you want to learn more about how your church can get involved with supporting the incredible work of Compassion, here are a few great opportunities.