News and Resources from the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Tag Archives: director for evangelical mission

Fearless Generosity: of Stewardship and Stuff

By Rev. Judith VanOsdol, Director for Evangelical Mission

“…So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Luke 12:21

Our relationship with money and “stuff” is deeply spiritual. The root of the word miserable is “miser”- one who is unable to give.

The rich man in Jesus’ parable of the “rich fool” (Luke 12: 13-21) speaks only to himself. He has no one with whom to share his own thoughts, not even God, showing a real poverty of relationships. His solution to having “too much stuff” was to tear down his barns to build bigger ones, forgetting that all things, including his own life, belong to God. The parable could’ve ended differently had he prayed: “Hey God, I have a bumper crop this year; do you have any hungry folks around who need some food?”

It is often difficult for us to talk about our anxious and often addictive relationship with money and “stuff.” All that we have is God’s and as stewards of God’s possessions we are called to live out, “embody” fearless generosity. Stewardship is NOT fundraising, but calls us to examine the deeply spiritual aspect of our living and giving, our relationship with God, with one another, with God’s mission in the world and, yes, with God’s stuff!

We give thanks for generous givers who embody fearless generosity with faith grounded in Christ, pure gift of our extravagantly generous God. (Read the full article in this month’s Lutheran Magazine Synod Insert – page “B”.)

Our stewardship team would like to know whether any of the many materials that have been sent to congregations were useful and/or helpful. Can you please take a minute to answer a few questions regarding your congregation’s use of some of these stewardship materials? Thank you!

Take the survey here.

Passionate Jesus Communities

passionatejesuscommunitiesby Rev. Judith VanOsdol, Director for Evangelical Mission

One definition of mission is: “The grassroots mobilization of passionate Jesus communities that are witnesses to Christ’s resurrection for the sake of the world.” God’s Holy Spirit empowers congregations to rediscover their purpose as discipling communities-energizing and equipping disciples to live out their faith in Christ for the sake of their communities and the wider world. Congregational vitality is a way to understand and describe the congregations’ ability to make disciples who connect with God, with one another and within their context.

Upstate New York Synod is one of five test synods of the ELCA using an instrument called the “Congregation Vitality Assessment” (CVA). Our four Regional Renewal Teams have now been using the CVA for a year, beginning with a “test version” in August, 2013. Around 75 congregations of our synod are somewhere in the process of using Version 2.0 of the CVA. The CVA gives a “snapshot” of congregational health and vitality. The teams chose this instrument as a way to “walk with” congregations to promote processes of renewal across the synod. Leaders who have used the CVA have found it useful to:

  • Recognize strengths and areas for growth to facilitate the conversation around congregational vitality and mission.
  • Identify and implement work for mission planning.
  • Name and begin to address difficult issues such as tension and conflict (if these exist).

Regional Renewal Team members lead the “feedback sessions” to walk with congregations to understand the results of the CVA they have taken. One goal has become that the folks present do as much talking as the team members, because the results belong to them, as does the planning, follow-up, and understanding and identification of the next steps. The CVA has been very helpful for congregations to “listen in” to the many voices of the congregation, in order to evaluate and seek renewal that deepens our walk with our living, loving Lord and our relationship with God, each other and the world. For more information on the CVA, click here or speak to your Dean, DEM or member of your Regional Renewal Team.