Active Stewardship in the Rural Parish

Where I serve, people are conservative. I don’t mean that they watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh (although plenty of them do). I’m talking about the deep-down conservatism that always asks the question, “Pastor, if we’ve been doing it this way for so many years, why would you ask us to change? Is the risk of messing up what’s been working just fine really worth whatever little marginal gain you think your new way of doing things will give us?”

That question may not always be put into so many words, but after 13 years in rural ministry, I’ve learned that that’s what people are thinking pretty much any time I make a suggestion for doing something new or different in our church. And I’ve come to appreciate the question. People are most conservative about the things they know best — and for good reason. Human life is short, and we humans are slow learners. The traditions we’ve been given by previous generations represent the distilled wisdom of the ages. So it’s a good question.

But wisdom, alas, is not the only thing handed down by our fathers, nor is it the only thing we are preparing to hand down to our children. If we’re not careful, we can also pass on our bad ideas, our laziness, and our mistakes.

So, to turn to the topic at hand, how are things in your congregation financially? How’s the stewardship of the people? Do you find yourself running short in the summer months? Do you run bulletin announcements asking people to dig a little deeper and put a little more in the plate to catch up to the budget in October, November, and December? Do you worry about closing the school, cutting a staff position, getting the roof fixed, or even being able to afford your own pastor?

I get around the Synod a lot, and I can tell you that I’ve rarely found a rural parish that doesn’t struggle with things like that. Indeed, that’s how I got into stewardship ministry in the first place: I had to face those challenges in the parishes I still serve.
So if what we’re doing is not working out, maybe it is time to learn and change. Maybe there are deeper, even more conservative traditions to follow when it comes to our stewardship: instructions from God’s Word on how to be active, faithful, generous, Gospel-centered stew¬ards of God’s good and gracious gifts.
I hope you can join me for a webinar on this topic in July. I’ll talk about what really works for stewardship in the rural parish (or any parish, really): putting the Word of God first, finding stewardship’s place in the Christian life and the theo¬logical task of the Lutheran pastor, and teaching generosity and the support of the Lord’s work in a faithful, authentic, natural way.

Contributed through the LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission monthly newsletter by Rev. Heath Curtis, Coordinator of LCMS Stewardship

Upcoming RSTM Events…

Don’t forget that Rural & Small Town Mission provides free monthly webinars on topics relevant to congregations in town and country settings. Up next is “Active Stewardship in the Rural Parish” on July 25, followed by “The No- Casserole Illness and How the Church Can Respond” on Aug. 22. Find past webinars in our archives.
Register for one of our Engaging Your Community (EYC) or Engaging the Wandering (ETW) events at rstm. These partner events offer practical resources and communication skills for reaching out to our wandering members and our communities with Christ’s love. Contact your district office or ours if you are interested in holding an event near you.
Register now for the 2019 National Rural & Small Town Mission Conference, Running With Endurance: Eyes Fixed On Jesus, Nov. 14–16 in Minneapolis.
To see our calendar, visit Contact our office at 888-463-5127 or

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