Our recent Sabbath School quarterly spent 13 weeks teaching about stewardship, mostly focused on giving. I’m thankful for the opportunity to lead and steward a truly great ministry serving the entire Seventh-day Adventist Church. Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) has been around in one form or another since 1936. I did not create it, and I have had very little time to influence its success. I am, however, currently a steward of this precious enterprise, and this is a tremendous, often complicated, undertaking.
One of the first biblical instances of stewardship is in Genesis 2:15: “The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” My stewardship is focused on nurturing the good that I inherited while exploring new and better service to the Adventist Church. Elders, deaconesses, pastors, teachers, conferences administrators, and other levels of church leadership also find themselves between predecessors and successors. From this perspective, the primary job of every church leader is that of a steward. Perhaps you too can see yourself in a place of stewardship.
As our ministries face new and old threats, it is critical to understand what stewardship means in the context of risk management. In this article, I’d like to talk about the types of stewardship, the challenges facing us today, and how we can care for and cultivate our ministries.
The Types of Stewardship
Of what are we stewards? We are stewards of assets—sometimes enormous assets. The total insured value of North American entities covered by ARM is over $13 billion. You are responsible as a steward for some portion of that. Keeping these offices, churches, schools, and other ministry assets is a significant undertaking all by itself. However, inside of these properties, buildings, and other assets are ministries.
All of us are stewards of ministries: ongoing activities and exercises designed to enlarge God’s kingdom and to advance toward resolving this sinful world. The stewardship of ministries can be much more complicated than the stewardship of your property and building. This stewardship typically requires collaboration, communication, innovation, and interpersonal trust.
Another category of stewardship is the stewardship of people. Many of us have volunteers or employees for whom we are responsible. These responsibilities include direction, counsel, support, and motivation.
Finally, as church members, we are all stewards of one another. Our stewardship extends to every other member of the church to the extent we have influence or contact. It also extends to visitors, guests, students of the Bible, and others who look to the Adventist Church or its ministries for support, guidance, or any other benefit.
Protecting the Vulnerable
At ARM, we want to remind members of Paul's inspired counsel in Romans: “But we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbor for his good, for the purpose of edification. For even Christ did not please himself, but just as it is written, The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Romans 15:1–3).
In this passage, Paul suggested that we serve in ministries which include vulnerable people—people who are susceptible to inappropriate teachings and behaviors. This vulnerability also extends to people who cannot otherwise defend themselves from predators and abusers. We are stewards of every member of the Adventist Church as well as the strangers within our communities. We must therefore protect them from harm while they are within our influence. While there is no perfect protection, and protective actions have costs, our goal is always to make the safest path for our people.
Awareness and Prevention
There are at least as many protective behaviors as there are threats to the vulnerable. Women, children, and the marginalized have a history of being vulnerable to abuse since long before Christianity or Judaism. The abuse of these vulnerable people appears in myriad forms. So, as stewards we should have myriad defenses on their behalf.
At the outset, every Christian steward needs awareness of the forms abuse can take. Women are subject to discrimination, deprecation, unwanted advances, and violence. The marginalized are routinely treated with disdain and antipathy, oppression, persecution, ridicule, and shunning. Children are routinely groomed, exposed to premature sexualization, molestation, bullying, violence, and every form of disrespect.
Every steward should take seriously our responsibility to God's kingdom and our opportunity to enlarge it by our stewardship, destroying the power of the enemy over our vulnerable populations.
As stewards, we can help to protect and deliver vulnerable individuals from these perils by awareness, watchcare, and interventions. You can access training materials on best practices for protecting vulnerable people on our website: adventistrisk.org/en-us/Safety-Resources/Topics/Child-Protection.
Image Credit: Катерина Євтехова-stock.adobe.com