Stewardship Navigator portal celebrates five years of growth and success

The Stewardship Navigator, which is free to all Presbyterian congregations, has helped small and large churches with their fundraising.

An empty sanctuary in Kansas City, Mo. RNS photo by Kit Doyle

A lot can happen in five years. Babies are born and start kindergarten. White House administrations come and go. We saw the pandemic shut down most of the world and greatly impact the way churches function.

And, this spring marks five years since the launch of Stewardship Navigator, an educational website launched by the Presbyterian Foundation. It’s a free online tool for Presbyterian congregations. You can find it at

While initially designed to help smaller churches of fewer than 100 members, some mid-sized and large churches also are finding the content helpful. The site’s overall goal is to help church leaders create and sustain strong stewardship efforts via a simple-to-use website.

When COVID limited in-person church services and restricted travel to informational conferences, the Stewardship Navigator website found brighter light.

From its opening months when it had about 100 users, the website now has 2,670 registered users among roughly 1,640 congregations, and new users sign up every month.

“It’s really been quite remarkable at how the site took off and people connected with its messages,” said the Rev. Dr. David Loleng, the project’s founder. “It was important to make the website extremely user friendly, with materials even the casual user could download and customize, and I think we’ve succeeded there.

“We like that people can access this resource anytime they need it, from anywhere. It’s very user-centered where you can find what you need without going through a whole tutorial process of Lesson One, Lesson Two and so on,” Loleng said.

The website offers:

  • An annual stewardship calendar, with ideas to share with church members throughout the years to keep generosity a common conversation theme
  • Tips to plan and organize the annual giving campaign including a checklist of key items
  • Templates for the narrative budget to tell the church’s story when it comes to giving
  • And elements each church should incorporate into its stewardship kit.

If the online resources create any confusion, there’s a link to a real person who can offer help, too.

“What we liked about narrative budget is it’s a different approach to get the message across about money,” one church leader said.

“We are used to seeing dollars – we need this many dollars,” he said. “That’s old and probably worn out a bit. The narrative budget puts it in a totally different perspective. It helps wrap it around what’s important to the parish, what do we want to focus on, instead of seeing a list of numbers. It’s such a fresh approach.” 

Another church also pointed to the narrative budget and how it helped guide their ministry conversation, “especially in the post-covid world when we all are trying to figure out who we are … through this (narrative budget) we are having the chance to put our budget into words and focus on the mission that the money supports.”

So far, Pennsylvania and Ohio have the most registered users, followed by New Jersey and Virginia. To date, most sign-ups occur late in the calendar year – 57 in August, 41 in September, and 54 in October.

Funding for the website came from Lilly Endowment Inc. The first grant, awarded in 2015, allowed the Presbyterian Foundation to develop pilot programs that helped a small group of churches find new ways to fund their ministries. The second grant, awarded in 2018, allowed the Foundation to continue the work on a national scale.

Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937. The organization’s religion grantmaking aims to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians.

By John C. Williams, a veteran writer with his own PR firm specializing in helping K-12 education, government and non-profits tell their story. He is a 30-year member at Sea Island Presbyterian Church in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Presbyterian Outlook.