Handbook for Board of Managers serving through St Johns Papatoetoe.
Presented by Rev Timothy Rose
Welcome to this series of episodes introducing you to your role as a Manager. In this episode we will look at the biblical background to managers as stewards.
But let’s start first with a story.
The minister held up two books at the start of the congregation’s annual meeting. The one in her right hand was black, leather-bound. In her left hand was a binder filled with photocopy print-outs.
The black book is the Bible. It tells us how to live in the world.” She paused for a moment. “The binder is called the Book of Order and it tells us how to get things done in our church. I’ll keep it close at hand to make sure we follow proper procedure. It’s like a road map. It doesn’t tell us our destination, but following it will take us where we want to go.” She then opened the meeting with prayer.
These two books are important to our life in the church. The Bible is our most important book and is treasured daily by many members.
The Book of Order is not something that all members will read but it is necessary reading for those in leadership positions. It has sections for sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly, general rules for church courts, the congregation and its management, and a few other sections.
It also has a some of its pages devoted to the work of the board of managers (7.8; see Appendix 1 in Handbook and find link on webpage). That small part is the basis of our Handbook, along with other wisdom from various sources and people with considerable experience in the work of the board of managers.
The board of managers could also be called the board of stewards. No, not the ones that help you on an airplane! Steward is a biblical term. Students of Greek will point out that either “manager” or “steward” is an acceptable English translation of the original Greek word.
“Steward” carries with it the understanding of caring for someone else’s property or wealth. The word “manager,” however, does not carry that meaning; rather, in our society, it suggests running something like a bank or a sports team.
So while we use the term “managers,” we want to keep in mind that it carries with it the sense of responsibility for someone else’s property or wealth. There are several accounts in the Bible that express the role of stewards.
The brothers of Joseph, who had sold him into slavery (Genesis 37), went to Egypt looking for food some years after because of a great famine. Joseph, by now an adult, had risen to a position of great status (Genesis 39–41). He met his brothers, but they did not recognise him.
The story continues (Genesis 42–47) but, for our purposes, note the role of the steward who acted on Joseph’s behalf (Genesis 43:16–44:4). The role brings with it significant responsibility and trust.
Like the steward in that story, members of the board of managers act on behalf of another—in our case, the congregation they serve, and ultimately, God.
This understanding is spelled out most clearly in the list of 12 people with various responsibilities during the reign of King David (1 Chronicles 27:25–30), which concludes with, “All these were stewards of King David’s property” (v. 31).
The property belongs to the king; the stewards manage it. So the church finances “belong” to the congregation and the board “manages” or “stewards” it.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence…” (Romans 12:6– 8), which brings us to the heart of the work of the board of managers. Members of the board are entrusted with the gifts of money the congregation receives and are to be diligent in overseeing its use.
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it…” The first verse of Psalm 24 reminds us that everything in creation belongs to God; humanity has been entrusted with its care.
This understanding is reflected in one of Jesus’ parables that tells of tenants in a vineyard who thought they could claim it as their own (Luke 20:9–16). In the parable, Jesus clearly suggests that God is the owner and that the task of the tenants is to tend the property on the owner’s behalf.
In the church, stewardship is often used as a catchword for fundraising and to encourage people to increase their offerings. It is not the purpose of our Handbook to present a plan to help congregations increase giving. If, however, the word gets around that stewardship means caring for what God has given us (which is everything!), such thinking may move people toward realising that what they thought they earned is in fact God’s gift.
Holy communion also gives us this simple, yet clear, model for living: we receive from God, we give thanks for the gifts, and we share them. It is a model for how humanity can live together in peace.
So, let’s do our best to take care of God’s gifts.
That’s all for now. Next time, we are going to look at where your role sits in the context of church courts. Until next time, “let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
That’s all for now. Until next time, “let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40).