A Living Legacy: Grace upon Grace

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Even the most financially ambitious among us hunger for more than just the money standard in our lives. Somewhere along the way, we want the assurance that our lives have been not only successful, but valuable. Most people want to leave something behind that would be not just a money gift to a cause, but the combination of a life of dedication that ripples out, in some way positively impacting others. We hope to leave a positive influence on our family, for example, or our community, or even the world – something that extends the passion or meaning of our living.

This is what we might call our living legacy. It’s the unspoken witness of our actions, how we have “walked the walk” in the process of getting through life. If we do leave a mark behind, we hope it will reflect our vision and values. And for those of us who are Christian, we hope that legacy will leave a footprint for others to follow, for example, to learn about Jesus Christ, or to be able to follow Him better in their living. Some people decide to leave Ethical Wills1 for their family members or congregations to hear about their values in their own words. Others give to a ministry or cause that lies close to their heart through their will or trust, and tell other people about its importance to them now.

Bishop Robert Schnase reminds us of the context for such efforts. “We have been the recipients of grace upon grace,” he says. “We are the heirs, the beneficiaries of those who came before us who were touched by the generosity of Christ enough to give graciously so that we could experience the truth of Christ for ourselves. We owe the same to generations to come.” 2

May you continue to clarify the living legacy you want to share, and find a way to pass it on to others, both now and after this lifetime.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – An Ethical Will is a personal document meant to communicate your values, experiences and life lessons to the next generation. Rabbis and Jewish laypeople have written Ethical Wills in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In recent years, the practice has been used more widely by the general public. Find out more about Ethical Wills at: https://celebrationsoflife.net/ethicalwills/examples/ or https://www.everplans.com/articles/how-to-write-an-ethical-will.

2 – Robert Schnase, Cultivating Fruitfulness: Five Weeks of Prayer and Practice for Congregations (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008).

Plan Now for September 15 Health Day

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In a delightful move, the North Georgia Conference and the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries have come together to sponsor a United Methodist Health Day this September 15. The in-person event will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. at Dunwoody UMC in Atlanta. Breakout sessions will include cooking demonstrations, health information, fitness fun, HIV testing, and Hulapalooza (that’s right: hula hoops!).

That event will bring together area United Methodist churches, health care coordinators, general-agency representatives, global health partners and their affiliates, to show the work of many people engaged in innovative health-related programs for churches and communities. They will offer tools and resources for congregations to implement new health-care programs and ministries.

So why not create a similar opportunity in your neck of the woods? Think about the particular health challenges in your area, and how they might be addressed. Then check out the Board of Global Ministries’ Abundant Health Initiative, at www.umcabundanthealth.org, to see how you might tap into their resources, as well. What other people or materials might be available to you from your county, state, or regional nonprofit and health groups? Last but not least, what would make it fun and inviting to folks of different ages?

Good stewardship of our bodies doesn’t have to be a dreary obligation. This Health Day idea sounds wonderful!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Seven Attributes of Generous Churches

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            Patrick Johnson has worked with innovative U.S. churches for almost ten years, seeking to answer the question, “What does it take to create a culture of generosity in a local church?” In “Seven Attributes of a Generous Church,”1 he names seven common characteristics he has discovered. The more generous congregations he has encountered:

  1. Are led by generous staff and key lay leaders who give with accountability and promote trusting relationships, personally demonstrating the joy and impact of generous giving.
  2. Communicate a strong vision of why their church exists. The top three places they connect ministry with money given are: during the offering time, in quarterly giving statements, and at an annual Vision Meeting with the congregation.
  3. Focus strongly on making a difference in the community and the world, trusting in their big view of a generous God. Their commitment to local and global outreach moves them toward giving half of their budget to external projects, “because it’s who we are.”
  4. Teach people a holistic theology of stewardship, generosity, and God’s Reign, exploring the connection between giving and grace.
  5. Provide discipleship environments for people to practice stewardship and generosity, reaching out to everyone, whether they are financially struggling, fiscally solid, or seeking to invest and manage their surplus.
  6. Develop an organizational culture that supports the priesthood of all believers, helping them follow God’s call to use their time, abilities and finances outside current church programming, as well as within it.
  7. Steward the church funds effectively by setting budgets and managing the resources of the church, allocating income and assets among buildings, staff and external giving, and communicating their management through Town Hall Meetings, quarterly giving statements, and annual reports.

These best practices are not cookie-cutter activities for us to copy, but rather habits that develop over time, uniquely suited to the congregation’s local context and DNA. They prompt many of us to rethink our habitual actions – and risk some new behaviors.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 www.GenerousChurch.com