God’s Managers

Daniel E. Kauffman (left) and Nelson E. Kauffman (right) speak at a workshop (early 1960s) for leaders seeking to implement stewardship initiatives in local congregations.
The stewardship booth at the 1964 Sunday School Convention.

Source: Mennonite Church Secretary of Stewardship Records, 1956-1972. Box 5, Folder 32. I-3-11. Mennonite Church USA Archives. Elkhart, Indiana.

Mennonites have been talking about money for a long time, but questions about its place in the lives of believers loomed especially large in the twentieth century. As Mennonites sought to come to terms with their growing prosperity, stewardship emerged as a concept to promote the responsible management of God-given resources (time, money, talents, possessions, etc.). During the first half of the twentieth century, several leaders in the (old) Mennonite Church began to articulate a theology of Christian stewardship, including J.S. Shoemaker, Christian L. Graber, and Daniel Kauffman. It was not until midcentury, however, when stewardship initiatives became institutionalized in the Mennonite Church with the formal creation of organizations and committees such as Mennonite Mutual Aid, the Mennonite Foundation, the Mennonite Community Association, and the Committee on Economic and Social Relations

Between 1945 and 1960, the Mennonite Research Foundation conducted four separate studies on the topic of Mennonite income and giving patterns and, in 1953, Milo F. Kauffman spoke in over 250 Mennonite congregations on the topic of Christian stewardship. In 1957, the Mennonite Church General Conference passed a resolution approving a churchwide emphasis on Christian stewardship and Daniel E. Kauffman was installed as Secretary of Stewardship in 1961. The secretary worked with a churchwide stewardship council to host conferences, organize training workshops and institutes, track giving statistics, and create curriculum, manuals, and study guides for use in Mennonite congregations. Other people who promoted stewardship initiatives on behalf of the denomination between 1961 and 2000 include Jonathan J. Hostetler, Robert A. Yoder, Ray and Lillian Bair, Everett Thomas, Lynn Miller, Mark Vincent, and Michele Hershberger.1

  1. As part of a larger denominational restructuring process, the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries took over responsibility for churchwide stewardship initiatives in 1971.

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