Successful Executive Stewardship
Stewardship is not for the faint of heart. In the simplest form, good stewardship is about responsibility for all that God has entrusted in our care. For those who lead and steward teams, initiatives, programs, and expansive mission; effective stewardship can be the difference between life and death.
Stewarding resources, people and processes well can lead to life for our organizations.
Stewarding resources, people and processes well can lead to life for our organizations. But, losing sight of stewardship can lead to irresponsible leadership that threatens to destroy everything we’ve been charged to build.
This realization can be daunting. It certainly was for me when I first began following God into positions of leadership. But the good news for all who seek to steward God’s resources well is that God wants us to be successful. Through the life-changing Word of God, we have the keys we need to unlock greatness and succeed in the journey of stewarding what we’ve been given.
- Clarify the vision…repeatedly – Good stewardship starts with good vision. When we provide our teams and organizations with vision that is clear and compelling, we must be ready to repeat it until it sticks. If you cannot make the vision plain so that others can run with it, the vision may not come to pass. (Hab. 2:2)
- Keep the beneficiary in heart and mind – Successful stewards never lose sight of who they serve. Visit beneficiaries frequently. Immerse yourself in their stories. Never be so far away that you can’t picture the face and name of someone your mission serves. Pray for them. Post their pictures. Keep them close as a reminder of the weight and significance of this stewardship calling. (Eph. 1:16)
- Train your team for the marathon – Effective stewards will prepare team members to fail, learn, and try again. This is the foundation for becoming a long-term learning organization. Allow easy on-ramps, and off-ramps. Become a learning organization. Don’t be afraid to start again. (Heb. 10:36)
- Turn competition into collaboration – Of course we know there is no such thing as competition in God’s kingdom…except when human nature steps in. We can steward competition by collaborating for mutual gains. Consider cross-promotion of other organizations, prayer for those engaged in the same work, or even referrals to similar ministries as reminders that God’s kingdom is big enough for us all. (2 Cor. 9:6-8)
- Prioritize partnership with donors – Strong stewards know that the pathway to generosity is through the heart. Many nonprofit donors want to give more than just money and gain more than just an impact report. Steward financial partners by extending them an invitation to participate in big vision that ensures frequent returns. Encourage transparency in strategy and invite their thoughts and even their critiques as means of partnering effectively for God’s mission. (Phil. 4:19)
- Take care of your soul – Stewarding significant mission can be exhausting. It calls us to project an outward confidence that doesn’t always match what we feel inside. Attend to your own spiritual disciplines. Make room to hear the voice of God. Take time away from the work so that you can see the bigger picture. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with God when things become daunting. Let God be your strength. Teach others to care for themselves the way you care for yourself. (Matt. 11:29)
- Nurture those who come next – Successorship may be one of the most important aspects of proper stewardship. Allow leadership development to become a natural part of your journey. You don’t have to wait until retirement to nurture the talent that blooms around you. Who innovates with passion? Whose network expands beyond your own? Who demonstrates a desire to learn and grow? Whether inside or outside of your organization, God may be preparing someone who will succeed you. Resist the urge to look for those who look like you. The next season of leadership will likely require someone with different skills and gifts. Steward the mission of today by strengthening the leaders of tomorrow. (1 Sam. 16:7)
Yes, executive stewardship can be overwhelming. Taking responsibility for the gifts and resources we’ve been given is no easy task. Yet, God has given us everything we need in his Word. May we consistently listen for God’s voice and lead with courage for such a time as this.
Rev. Dr. Nicole Martin is Vice President of Church Engagement for American Bible Society. She teaches Ministry and Leadership Development at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is author of two books: Made to Lead: Empowering Women for Leadership (CBP, 2016) and Leaning In, Letting Go: A Lenten Devotional (Chalice Press, 2019). She earned her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and her Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She serves on Boards of the National Association of Evangelicals and Gordon College in New England.