“Yes, Scripture reminds us that God loves a cheerful giver. But how can we become generous, joyful givers?” This is the question that Yvonne Martinez Thorne asks in “A Practical View,” in the just-out 2011 issue of Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine.1
Ah, this is a key question, isn’t it? Most of us can describe very well what it would look like for us all to be generous and joyful. But how do we help ourselves and others in the churches we lead to become more generous in our living and giving?
Thorne suggests five practices to help us grow in practicing generosity:
* First, as church leaders, we need to make sure that we are modeling generous and joyful giving. (My comment: it’s not very powerful if we’re saying “Do as I say, not as I do.” Also we can’t lead where we haven’t been in our own experience.)
* Second, lift up “Christ’s paradoxical teaching that it is better to give than to receive.” This way, we have a chance to experience the mutuality of giving and receiving that God has designed for us. It’s impossible to give without receiving in the process; and in receiving from someone else, we also give that person the gift of gratitude.
* Third, practice giving every day as a means of growing closer to God. We can start by giving small and making a plan to increase our giving over time.
* Fourth, inspire one another to give so that no one is left out of giving. The issue is participation and spiritual growth for us as givers, not the amount of money raised.
* Fifth, invite one another to give, not only from our finances, but also out of our spiritual gifts, talents, and/or time. Stewardship is about managing and using all that God has entrusted to us, including the gospel and life itself.
Becoming more deeply joyful, grateful, and generous is a lifelong process. These five suggestions can help us take a step or two more down the road toward nurturing generous living.
Your partner in ministry,
Written 2/22/2011 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church