A Tapestry of Grace

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In a few months I will go to my fiftieth high school reunion. This is a courageous step, since I haven’t attended any of the previous reunion events along the way. But I’ve been curious to see what my classmates have done in their lives ever since graduation. Thankfully the organizers set up a website, so we can fill out profiles and publically respond to one another before the in-person reunion date. The former students now are spread all across the country and even around the world.

Those daily optional online interactions have prompted me to recall long-past memories and friendships, now viewed in a wider context of the decades we’ve lived in between. High school years can be dramatic enough for anyone, and I’m now glimpsing how many people have grown through (or out of) those teenage experiences, into some wonderful vocations of improving people’s lives.

Whether or not I get to see old friends at the reunion, it will be an opportunity to make new ones. As God told Isaiah, “See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare – before they spring forth, I tell you of them!” Reunions are a small reminder that God offers us learnings not only from the past, but also in every new moment, to form what can become a beautiful tapestry of grace.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Millennial Givers

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            Thanks to Gary Hoag at www.generositymonk.com, 1 I learned about some key findings from “The Generosity Project” 2 sponsored by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The report is based on an online survey of 16,800 givers to non-church Christian ministries. Twenty-two percent of those were Millennials, ages eighteen through thirty-four.

I emphasize Millennials’ participation because four of their findings were distinctively related to that group:

  1. They feel hopeful about giving – Millennials are much more likely to feel hopeful after giving to a ministry for the first time – as well as invested, satisfied, confident and generous. In fact, they’re twice as likely to feel generous at that time as Baby Boomers (ages 56 to 76).
  2. They give in traditional ways – While they are more likely to give online or on social media than older generations, Millennials are as like, or more likely, to use traditional channels, as well. Their top way of giving is through monthly support.
  3. They are inquisitive – While 90 percent of all ministry givers research the organization before giving online, 87 percent of Millennials ask other people about the organization, and 73 percent check out a third-party website, as well.
  4. They give because of who they are – Although 33 percent of older groups give because they were asked, only 21 percent of Millennials respond because the ministry asked them. By contrast, 52 percent of Millennials say they give because of who they are, versus 48 percent of older donors.

These numbers bode well for churches and ministries seeking to reach Millennials with their visions of ministry and reports on consequent changed lives for Jesus Christ.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 www.generositymonk.com, April 19, 2017 daily meditation

2www.ecfa.org/PDF/ECFA_Generosity_Report_2017_EXEC_SUMMARY.pdf

Contagious Generosity

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What an act of generosity! Our friends were coming up to this year as their fiftieth anniversary. Having lived in Australia and the United States over the years, they had formed strong friendships with a great number of people. So they decided to spend their special anniversary monturtles on logey, and more, on bringing the two communities together. If their friends could fly to Hawaii, the in-between point, they would host us entirely – all of us – for the five days there: providing lodging and locally-catered food and creating an itinerary for us to explore that part of the Big Island, with multiple opportunities to get to know one another in the process.

Just as they have built connections among people all their lives, now they have brought people together across two continents. No doubt many of these relationships, begun here at their celebration, will flower into lifelong friendships among the rest of us. And both of their adult sons seem to be doing the same thing – connecting people to one another – in different ways, each putting his own spin on the values by which he was raised.

“Generations of Generosity” was the theme of an issue of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s Giving magazine a few years ago. I love that phrase! We can be intentional about teaching acts of graciousness to those around us and in younger generations. But a life of generosity – modeling it in who we are and the decisions we make – is contagious in an exciting, attractive way. We reach out to give because others have given so deeply to us. It’s a joy to receive such generosity, and an invitation to pass it on.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Giving Simply

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“I never carry my checkbook to church. Ninety percent of the time I make financial giving decisions, it’s in front of the computer monitor. How can I even participate in supporting the church financially when you dMoneyon’t have online giving or even automatic transfer?” The young woman looked around at the room filled with stewardship leaders, most of whom could have been her parents. In the substance of her comment and the age of her audience, she could have been speaking to the Finance Committee of most North American churches, as well.

When we don’t make it easy to give electronically, we make it hard for many people – especially young adults – to participate and support the work of the Body of Christ. Those who are used to credit cards and checkbooks may think it’s complicating things to set up an Electronic Fund Transfer, online giving, or a local church giving App. But by not providing it, would-be givers are forced to go through a multistep process just to be able to respond.

In a recent discussion about simple living, I asked how people can “keep it simple” with so many electronic devices. One young woman said that in a way, it is simpler: instead of having a TV for entertainment, a phone for calling people, and a computer for work files, lots of folks have just one thing: a tablet or a phone. It goes to show, it’s all in your perspective.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Compass Young Adult Network

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I was delighted to discover a brandCompass new network of resources especially for young adults, called Compass: Navigating Faith and Finances, at https://www.stewardshipresources.org/COMPASS. It’s designed to engage young adults in conversations about the ways faith can inform their management of money. – Not that they’re the only ones who want help in money management; I’m happy that the rest of us can jump in and learn right along with them, as well!

The Ecumenical Stewardship Center sponsors this initiative and taps into resources from its partner denominations as well as other North American stewardship leaders who provide a slew of practical resources. It’s really more of a network than just a resource, since it includes three avenues: a blog site that deals with specific aspects of faith and finances, a Facebook community, and selected resources with links.

The first issue of Compass shows the vast range from which people can choose. In the first edition, we can get free help to create a monthly budget or a plan for paying off school debts; learn how to save for emergencies and retirement; get a free download from First Things First about finding our financial True North; or catch stories of real people who have radically reshaped their concept of what is enough and what they’ve done with the “extra” money they would have spent. Three videos capture John Wesley’s insights on “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can;” and there’s a link to group training for a personal finances workshop.

And that’s just the first issue! I’m looking forward to some serious – and fun – connecting with others who want to join their faith and finances more closely in their daily lives. See what you think and spread the word!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Talking with Children about Stewardship

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Children can both learn and teach about faithful stewardship.

All that we have belongs to God, and we get to share, manage, and use it on God’s behalf. Stewardship is caring the way God cares for the earth; our minds and bodies; our abilities, money and things; and our choices, time and relationships, all in grateful response to God’s love. We communicate this joyful message with children when we:

Tell stories with the senses. Stories help children understand God’s love and activity and describe ways in which we can respond with gifts that have first come from God. When we tell stories to children, we invite them to meet God in the story. When they act out the stories, the lessons move from their heads to their hearts. The more senses we use in relating each story, the more they remember it.

Focus on play. Play is children’s work. Carol Carter, Godly Play director, says that play becomes spiritual work whenever children act out their relationship with what is greater than themselves. God is already present in their lives, and play gives them the opportunity to incorporate learnings and express their experiences.

Connect with life events. There are stewardship elements in all aspects of living, particularly when children deal with life transitions or new situations. For example, we can reinforce stewardship learnings when children are:
* Learning to share, going to the grocery store, or caring for pets;
* Cleaning up their rooms; watching television ads, or doing a community project;
* Receiving an allowance, earning money for the first time, or getting their first bank account.

They can start early learning about tithing and sharing with people who have less than they do. In each of these situations, we can identify a stewardship lesson and then plan how best to communicate it.

Teach stewardship to match children’s growing abilities. When we are aware of children’s capacity for understanding and activity at different age levels, we can encourage them to grow as God’s stewards. For example, Delia Halverson’s book Let the Children Give lists natural stewardship learning goals for children through grade six. We can incorporate stories and experiences not only through Sunday school but also with children in worship, in groups with parents of young children, and in after-school programs.

Include children in stewardship programs. Children are not the future of the Church; they are the Church now. Include stewardship in Children’s Time. Let a child bring forward the family offering. Make giving a celebration. Teach Raising Financially Freed-Up Kids to parents. Have special offerings that engage children. Host hands-on projects. Pray for and involve the children in your church and community.

Think About It:
* At what events or occasions could you teach and learn stewardship with children?
* How do the church’s policies and practices model good stewardship of finance and Creation?
* What can the younger members of the congregation teach the church about stewardship? Have they been invited to do so?

Betsy Schwarzentraub is Director of Stewardship at the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, TN.

Written 2/2011 for iTeach newsletter for UM Christian educators

Resources

Let the Children Give: Time, Talents, Love, and Money by Delia Halverson. Available at http://www.cokesbury.com

Raising Financially Freed-Up Kids by David Briggs. Available at http://www.Goodsenseministry.com

Wrapped in God’s Love: Stewardship Education for Children and Youth by the Canadian Interchurch Stewardship Committee. Available at http://www.stewardshipresources.org

God’s Gifts, My Gifts by the United Church of Christ. Order from 1-800-537-3394.

Afire With God: Becoming Spirited Stewards by Betsy Schwarzentraub. Available at http://www.cokesbury.com

Stewardship Nuggets and other resources at http://www.gbod.org/stewardship

Children’s books on Stewardship http://www.luthersem.edu/stewardship