Exciting stewardship is possible — and it doesn’t require a big church, contemporary bands or huge projection screens.
“We can grow stewards out there who are excited about being God’s people and Presbyterians,” said the Rev. Maggie Lauterer in the final plenary speech of the Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference, March 15-17.
Lauterer is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Burnsville, N.C., where she has been for about 10 years. Before she arrived, the church had been struggling: it had experienced two splits in 10 years and the youngest member was 70 years old.
“We were a church that was dying,” Lauterer said.
But the church didn’t want to die. It approached the Presbytery of Western North Carolina and got money from its small church fund to hire a pastor.
At the same time, Lauterer was coming out of seminary and was entering the ministry as a second career. She had previously worked as a television reporter and was the first woman to run for a congressional seat in Western North Carolina.
The presbytery asked Lauterer to visit the church in Burnsville, and even though she didn’t want to, she went. What happened was a surprise.
“I had a holy experience up there, folks,” she said.
Lauterer was walking out of the church when she was blinded and decided to stay.
“I feel like I’ve come home,” she said. “Is that what a call feels like?”
Since then, the church has grown in many ways — both in numbers and in participation. It now encompasses about 250 people, and very few of them are uninvolved.
“We have everybody involved in building up the kingdom,” Lauterer said. “If you’re a kid, you don’t get off just because you’re 4 years old.”
The children of the church operate a store that provides food for a food pantry. And the rest of the congregation is involved in ministries like Habitat for Humanity and making prayer shawls.
That involvement also stretches to stewardship. Putting a 31-year-old mother in charge of the stewardship campaign energized the season, and the church got more pledges and money than ever before in its 112-year history — and that was during a recession.
“And that’s a little mountain church that continues to be gifted by God,” Lauterer said.
Stewardship is really about taking care of someone else’s property, she said, and “in life and death, we belong to God.”