Church stewards have been around since the 18th century when John Wesley recognised that ministers, who because of the itinerant nature of their role, are often unable to oversee every matter in church life. And so, the role is tightly woven into the DNA of the Connexion.

Across a dispersed church, there are many nuances in how the church steward role is exercised, and the role will vary according to context, cultural setting, local arrangements and ways of working. The experience, gifts and graces that a team of stewards bring will also influence how the roles are carried out. The Standing Orders that govern church stewards provide a framework within which the role can be exercised in a way that best fits the local context and enables the work of God to be accomplished.

While church stewards are responsible for practical things, such as looking after local preachers who are visiting their church, making sure the offering is taken and announcements are made that's not where it ends! There are also responsibilities which have more of an overarching reach and involve being part of the church's leadership.

For example, church stewards focus on fostering unity within the church and 'talent spotting' those with potential, encouraging them to become involved in leadership roles. They also make sure that any new policies which are made by District Synod, Circuit Meeting and the Church Council are communicated to their congregation, ensuring that decisions are upheld and acted upon.

With other church stewards, you will hold the ‘general responsibilities of a steward’ (SO 633 in CPD). These can be broken down into four key areas:

  • exercise pastoral care and leadership with the minister
  • hold together in unity the variety of concerns within the Church
  • uphold and act upon the decisions of the Church Council
  • draw others into leadership, where appropriate.

Alongside the general duties of a church steward are the particular duties (SO 634 in CPD). These can also be found in The Church Stewards' Handbook. As a team of stewards, you will arrange how best these responsibilities are exercised. Your role might not always be to do the task, but rather to use the gifts of other church members to ensure that it happens – and happens to the glory of God in that place.

All members of the Church Council, including church stewards, perform the role of managing and charity trustees for the local church, with responsibilities under the Charities Act. Further information on this can be found in The Role of a Trustee in the Methodist Church on the Managing Trustees page.

Responsibilities of church stewards include the following:

A more detailed description of these responsibilities can be found in The Church Stewards' Handbook.
Stewards work as a team and so these responsibilities are shared among the stewards and other appropriate people.

  • Supporting the minister
  • Worship
    • Communicating and collaborating with worship leaders and preachers
    • Ensuring everything is prepared for worship
    • Helping set the right atmosphere before worship
    • Welcoming people to worship
    • Ensuring expenses are covered for the travel of preachers, and hospitality offered if they have travelled a long distance
    • Ensuring local arrangements happen or an alternative service if the person preaching or leading worship does not attend
    • Arranging notices and collections
  • Keeping up to date with Safeguarding matters
  • Assisting with preparations for baptisms
  • Sharing learning from other places
  • Offering encouragement and feedback to local preachers on trial
  • Attending church meetings

Church stewards and the Sunday experience

The practical duties church stewards carry out are crucial to creating a positive experience both for the visiting local preacher or minister and the congregation when a worship service happens.

For many people the main service, rather than housegroups or interest groups, is where they find their main point of connection with the church. More churches are also finding that a growing percentage of their congregations feel a strong sense of belonging but are unable to attend every week. For churchgoers, and for the regulars, there is an even greater need for continuity and quality in the church service.

Church stewards have a key role to play in enabling a worship service which expresses Kingdom values of grace, love and unity.