MOUNT HOPE -- Stewardship begins with the understanding everything we have has been gifted to us and it is our responsibility to make sure our children understand the gifts that will pass to them.
"If God gave it to you, it's not for you," leadership coach and author John Stahl-Wert told a packed house at Monday night's Faith and Values in the Marketplace workshop, held at The Gardens at Homestead Furniture and sponsored by the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center and Everence Financial.
"Life is not about doing stuff," Stahl-Wert said. "It's about preparing those who come after us. When we're young, we have this mistaken notion that life is about doing stuff and getting stuff done and keeping stuff. Do we have enough and will it last me?"
But that's not the point. Stahl-Wert said that ideally individuals will be "good passer-on'ers of the things God put in them."
Strong, successful leaders will understand that. "Every enterprise thrives when the leaders understand it's not theirs, the business isn't for them," Stahl-Wert said. "It's placed in my hands so I can understand it as a kingdom treasure."
So, with that in mind, Stahl-Wert told the group, composed largely of Anabaptist business owners, managers and ministers, it is more correct to think that we are a legacy, rather than we have a legacy.
The group also was encouraged to look at their businesses as their ministries, rather than solely a means to make money. Hillcrest Lumber owner and deacon Edward Hershberger looks at his business that way.
Over the years, the Anabaptist community has changed from an agricultural-based culture to a business culture. "And that change has brought new challenges, new businesses, new employers . a whole lot of new things we have to deal with."
More than anything, he said, "It's brought prosperity. (People) had to claw and scratch before. They never had to think about giving back."
It's important, then, to consider the role employees have in a business. "We're not just there for them to be money-making machines for us," Hershberger said. Business owners need to be leaders for their employees and care for them as part of their ministry. "People can tell if you care," he said. "If you listen with one ear and you're thinking production work with the other ear" people will notice. "There are times people need us to listen to them and be there for them."
But that doesn't mean an employer has to be a counselor or a babysitter. It's hard to know where to draw the line and Hershberger said there's no easy formula to determine when to draw the line. Sometimes, listening can become enabling and a good employer will know when the employee needs to move on from the problems that he brings to work with him.
"I would dare to say if we honestly, from our heart, care and make the right decision for that person," Hershberger said, "I really believe we make the right decision for the company."
Hershberger recalled talking to a young man, an up-and-coming business leader who has moved into a leadership role in Hershberger's business. The young man said as the business grew, there was more work, more employees to deal with and more headaches.
He was concerned time spent at work is not time spent away from attending to his faith.
"I said, 'You know, don't ever forget having a business, a good-sized business, is not a sin," Hershberger said. "It's a tremendous opportunity to minister, to have an influence on a world that needs a positive influence. None of us are called to have money as the focal part of our life. Some are called to minister through our business. We are a whole and complete people. Our lives are intertwined. It's not separate. I'm not a different person at work than I am at church."
Reporter Tami Mosser can be reached at 330-287-1655 or email@example.com.