Book Review: Resource for teaching local church stewardship

Committed to Christ: Six Steps to a Generous Life
Bob Crossman
Abingdon Press, 2012

With Committed to Christ, the Rev. Bob Crossman and his co-authors provide a stewardship program to guide churches beyond the yearly financial campaigns and into a lifestyle of giving.

Dr. Crossman, a longtime pastor and director of the Arkansas Conference New Church Leadership Institute, begins his program with a question of basic commitment to Christ. He then outlines six steps to growth, five of which are based on the membership vows of the UMC: prayer, worship attendance, witness, financial giving and service. He also includes regular Bible reading as part of a discipleship commitment.

Each week of the campaign focuses on one of the six steps to a generous life. The small group guide, written by Frank Ramirez, provides resources for discussion, while the program guide offers suggestions for worship, including video introductions and sermon lead-ins. The packet also includes a 40-day personal devotion book, written by Ben Simpson.

The curriculum can’t do it all, though. Dr. Crossman insists that the work done behind the scenes is even more critical to the campaign’s success. The program guide outlines the volunteers needed to make it work (10 to 20 percent of the active congregation). It details the necessary teams and individual leadership positions, complete with a month-by-month outline of essential tasks.

The goal of Committed to Christ is to move the congregation forward in their offerings to God by inviting them into honest reflection on their next discipleship step. Each week, an individual may choose from several levels of commitment, from the most basic to the most devoted. The hope is that every person will use that commitment as a stepping stone toward a fuller, more generous Christian life in the years to come.

Dr. Crossman’s effort to put financial stewardship in a fuller context is commendable. In the adult readings and study book included with the kit, he brings together the wisdom of several church leaders from a variety of backgrounds in an effort to keep the focus on overall discipleship.

He has little to say, though, about the responsibility of the church to be a good steward of the congregants’ offerings. Perhaps it is implied in the overall content, but the package seems to lack tools for self-reflection on the part of church leaders and for communicating the practices of church-level stewardship to individual members.

Committed to Christ is both clear and thorough in its approach, providing church leaders with an easy-to-use resource that can be put into practice right out of the box. However, it allows for little flexibility and creativity; such a programmatic approach could lead to some disconnect between the campaign and the unique congregations that employ it.

Churches looking for a stewardship platform specific to their congregations may not find what they seek in Committed to Christ. But the program may prove quite helpful for busy churches looking for a fresh approach to stewardship, and for those with little time to invest in planning their stewardship campaign.

The Rev. Van Meter serves as campus minister for the Wesley Foundation at Arkansas State University. Reprinted with permission from the Arkansas United Methodist.

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