Telling a Story with your Congregation’s Budget

Are you preparing your congregation’s 2024 budget? Do some people’s eyes glaze over when you pull out the spreadsheets? Does the conversation get stuck in numbers talk? Careful line-item budgeting is good stewardship, but alongside the spreadsheets, there’s a way to tell the deeper story of your congregation’s ministry with a narrative budget. Check out this video from Pr. Tim Brown, director of stewardship for the ELCA and the slides here. If you have questions or want some assistance with doing this in your congregation, contact Pr. Steven Wilco, Associate to the Bishop, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Thus says the Lord, the one who created you, O Israel, who formed you, O Jacob: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1
God does wondrous things! God creates each of us with unique gifts and each faith community with unique combinations of gifts. And God lovingly calls us, both individual and faith community, to use those gifts for the sake of the world. Isaiah’s words spoken to people afraid they have lost forever the traditions that held them together in the past. And yet the promise is sure, even then – especially then – “I have called you by name, you are mine.”
               We, too, live in a time in which traditions and foundations are often changing and coming into question in both wonderful and difficult ways. Our congregations are full of gifts to speak and act into this moment. In these resources for inviting financial giving estimates for the coming year, we invite you and your community to consider the gifts they have individually and collectively and ask the question, “How is God calling us to use them for this moment and this place?”
               In order to ask that core question, we invite you to create a display somewhere near the entrance to your worship or gathering space. At the top of a bulletin board or display board (a large trifold board on a table could work well), write the theme “We Are Called.” Provide either slips of paper or post-it notes and pens or markers. Invite anyone in the community to write on a paper or sticky note some way they have seen a person in the congregation using their gifts or the congregation using its gifts for the community. These don’t have to be part of official ministries of the congregation – it’s actually great when people notice the sharing of gifts beyond formal church activities. This helps people build each other up as well as encourage people to look differently at their congregation. As leaders, pay extra attention to people whose gifts may not be as public or who might not be as well-known in the congregation and lift them up as well.
               At the same time, we invite you to include in your Sunday worship a moment of sharing (some congregations call them temple talks, testimonies, or stewardship moments). Have a different member each week share some way they have seen the congregation using their gifts to answer God’s call to serve the community. The pastor or minister may want to consider some of the responses and weave those into the sermons in those weeks, celebrating the gifts of the community.
               We encourage you to set up a period of 4-6 weeks to focus on this effort. There is a sample schedule, congregational letter, estimate of giving cards, ideas for worship and faith formation, and a suggested congregational activity. We invite you to use them as they are or adapt them for your context in any way that works for you. Consider how you will celebrate with people at the end in a way that makes sense for your congregation. A potluck meal might be a particularly appropriate way to celebrate the contributions of each person.
               If you use these materials, we’d love to hear back from you with photos, stories, or ideas that we can share and celebrate with others across the synod. You can email them to Pr. Steven Wilco at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A note of thanks for Ms. Calli Micale, Candidate for Word and Sacrament Ministry in the New England Synod, who co-created these resources with Pr. Steven Wilco.

Sample timeline
 Sample letter
Estimate of giving card
Worship Ideas
Congregational Activity
We are Called graphic


Our Daily Bread Stewardship Campaign


Rooted to Grow Stewardship Campaign
 Encourage One Another Stewardship Campaign Resources
What's Your Story Stewardship Campaign Resources
Stir It Up Stewardship Campaign Resources
Additional Stewardship Resources

Webinar on Electronic Giving from Hartford Seminary -

This webinar will help your stewardship leaders think about the benefits of online giving as well as some other general ideas around financial stewardship and member communication around giving.

ELCA Stewardship Resources -

ELCA StewardNET -

This link will take you to a sign-up page for a monthly newsletter from the ELCA Churchwide StewardNET program with a variety of resources for stewardship.

 Generation to Generation - Click document here (10.52 MB) for powerpoint presentation on giving differences between the generations.