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Does Your Definition of Stewardship Determine Your Leadership Style?

Christian Leadership Allaince: Defining Stewardship

By Dr. John R. Frank

Here is an interesting question concerning the relationship between these two words.  The Steward Leader can be a title, a phrase, a label, and a movement. And yet I have not considered nor read much about the relationship between the two words.

When I have discussed the steward leader concept with leaders in their organizations, it is interesting to hear their definitions.  Even more interesting is how they view and then implement stewardship/fundraising/development strategies that are in relationship to their definition.

Here are a few defining connections that I have found among leaders:

If you define stewardship as a fund raising strategy to take care of the local church budget, your leadership style could be outdated and thought of as old-fashioned.  You might even find yourself viewed as an autocratic dictatorial leader.  You might believe that the buck stops with you and you alone. The idea that donors and gifts are for you as a leader to use for your cause could be based in your belief that you alone are called to lead.

If you define stewardship as a necessary evil to provide revenue for “real ministry” you might find yourself as a “finances are king” leader.  You believe that when you gain extra funds, you put them in the bank and hold on them as long as you can.  Your control of finances is a high priority to you.  The raising of funds from stewards is a process you must endure, and not willingly participate in.

If you define stewardship as something the local church teaches, but our para church ministry uses fund raising strategies, related business income, and now businesses that use profit for your ministry, you may be a “put things in boxes” leader. You may find it’s easier to put ministry in a box, fund raising in another box, philosophy and biblical foundations in another box etc. Another description for you may be the “Silo” leader.  This allows you to keep control of each element and not see a holistic approach to leadership.

If you define stewardship as about the steward and their goals, you may be the holistic leader. You may find that stewards are as much a part of your ministry as finances, buildings, and front line ministry programs. You see stewards and development as key components of a holistic program that God uses to change the world.

While these four comparisons are not scientifically defined or proven (this is just a blog after all) they present some interesting relationship connections to consider.

Does a leader’s view of stewardship affect his or her leadership style?

Does the view the biblical description of the steward and God’s eternal economic plan impact how a leader views staff, resources, giving, and asking?

Does a leader’s view of the role of the steward in the resourcing and visioning of the ministry affect decision-making and the view of God’s provision versus man’s ability to balance a budget?

From my 35 + years in nonprofits I would have to say there is a correlation. There is a connection and it bears investigating and consideration.  When we hire a new CEO or Executive Director do we ask if they can raise the funds for the budget, or do we ask them if they understand and love the stewards who are partners and are generous to the ministry?

Tough questions to ask of our leaders because they were not taught anything about biblical stewardship in their seminary degree programs nor in their MBA programs. And the more I see the courting of  “business leaders” to come to the rescue of our ministries, my concern grows.

Time to ask the tough questions.  What is your definition of stewardship and what type of leader are you as a result of your definition?


Dr. John R. Frank, CFRE is the founder and president of The Frank Group and the Stewardship Summit.

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