Contagious Generosity

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Contagious Generosity: Creating a Culture of Giving in Your Church is a treasure chest of ideas that get us out of the old assumptions and expectations related to giving to church. It’s filled with high-impact examples of actual practices by top congregations in The Leadership Network. Written by Chris Willard and Jim Sheppard, it addresses building a church generosity strategy; developing generous leaders and givers; showcasing changed lives; leveraging worship experiences; embracing the ministries of asking and thanking; and measuring and celebrating acts of generosity as an ongoing process.

My copy of the book is filled with tags on pages and notes in the margins for ideas on which I want to follow-up. The book sets all of its recommendations in the context of generosity as fundamental to the spiritual formation of every Christ follower. “We cannot separate our acceptance of God’s grace from the practice of generosity,” the authors say. “Generosity is the fullest expression of the life of a steward, one who has been given a gift that must be used wisely and for a purpose, bringing glory to God.”

Each chapter ends with a list of key ideas and discussion questions, making it perfect for either personal study or use in small groups. It’s a book well worth working with in both your personal life and congregation.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

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Generosity Rising book review

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Generosity Rising bk cvrBook Review by The Rev. Rosanna Anderson

From http://www.umcdiscipleship.org, July 3, 2016

 

Generosity Rising: Lead a Stewardship

Revolution in Your Church by Scott McKenzie Abingdon Press, 2016 Available from Cokesbury

What is a “stewardship revolution”?

A revolution in giving comes from renewed stewardship commitment by a leadership team filled with people whose hearts and lives reflect financially-dedicated discipleship. Pastors and committee chairs must courageously insist that all who seek to be leaders demonstrate their faith as stewards (11-12). Be prepared for some pushback, but stay steady. As Scott McKenzie explains, “Jesus didn’t go running after the rich young man… [or] say ‘Wait, I didn’t really mean all that stuff about giving.’ Jesus let him go” (16). McKenzie provides step-by-step guidance to make serious changes for the better. Church leaders should increase expectations of themselves and others to result in rising generosity now and in the future. The goal is enthusiastic support for your church’s ministries through giving.

Key strategies include implementing a “Generosity Boot Camp” or retreat for church leaders and staff (23-42). Together, this group will create a “Generosity Declaration” for the church. They should display it on a banner and invite people to sign on during worship as the culmination of a four-week generosity campaign (40-42). A “21-Day Challenge” daily devotional is included, with permission for you to use or adapt for your context (89-117).

McKenzie provides guidance about ways to move beyond secrecy about who is on “the giving list” and open up healthy conversations about money (14-18). He offers inspiring ideas in a detailed “Yearlong Plan” for stewardship (65-84). Churches should continuously educate and engage children and youth in various forms of giving (20). McKenzie knows the importance of contributions of all ages and suggests a visible witness through creating a display of individual “gratitude cards” on which people write or draw what they are most thankful for (83).

Generosity Rising is a guidebook that provides coaching for more effective stewardship. McKenzie presents sound advice and resources from his two decades of experience as a stewardship consultant, including his current work with Horizons Stewardship. Many churches have benefitted from his previous books, co-authored with Kristine Miller: Bounty: Ten Ways to Increase Giving at Your Church and Climb Higher: Reaching New Heights in Giving and Discipleship.

Contemporary examples from committee chairs, pastors, and church members ring true. McKenzie discusses what doesn’t work and why in the typical stewardship efforts that maintain the status quo, but have become increasingly less effective today. Most important, he understands what measures to take to bring lasting change for increased financial health and energy to fulfill your church’s mission.

Propel: Involvement and Generosity

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I just wrote a book review for next year’s Giving magazine on Clayton Smith’s new book, Propel: Good Stewardship, Greater Generosity. The theme of that issue of Giving is “Living Generously,” and I hope you’ll order it online at www.stewardshipresources.org this fall. But there are a lot more ideas from Propel than I could pack into that review, and one is the connection between involvement and generous giving.

“Involvement is a vital indicator of generosity,” Smith says. “Those who are active members of smallPropel Clayton Smith groups, classes, and leadership groups donate eight to ten times more to our church than those who do not get involved.” While his numbers are dramatic I think that’s no surprise, since generosity is generous-hearted living, not just financial giving. For example, when people give their skills and in-kind gifts to helping others, their time and concern to neighbors, or their advocacy and care to strangers, it all comes from the same generous heart. Generosity is not about giving money to a church; it’s about trying to follow Jesus in every dimension of our living.

“Generous living is more often a measure of one’s soul than of one’s pocketbook,” Smith says, quoting Gordon MacDonald’s Secrets of a Generous Life. MacDonald goes on:

People who live generously share a firm conviction that a generous portion (that’s the generosity part) of what they have must be strategically given (that’s the stewardship part) for the betterment of others and for the advancement of God’s kingdom. . . . Stewardship is at the heart of the discipline of generous giving.

When we’re grateful to God for God’s love and the gift of Jesus Christ, our desire to be generous in return pervades every part of who we are, not just the money part.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Simple Rules for Money: John Wesley on Earning, Saving, & Giving

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James A. Harnish, Abingdon Press, 2009Simple Rules for Money cvr

Written for the “Live Simply” (2016) issue of

Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation

published with permission

In Simple Rules for Money, James Harnish offers Methodist founder John Wesley’s guidelines for financial living, still strikingly appropriate for us today. “Wesley’s rules are not about fund-raising for the church,” he states. “They are about practicing the spiritual discipline of generosity so that we become generous people whose lives are shaped in the likeness of an extravagantly generous God.”

In this small book, individuals or study groups can delve into Wesley’s admonition to “gain [or earn] all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” With help from the book’s discussion questions, it prompts readers to realign their daily habits.

Earn all you can, says Harnish, but not by harming your health, hurting your neighbor, or damaging your soul. Work at your livelihood supported by your Christian community and financial counselors, trusting God in the process.

“Save all you can” means not to waste money on things that derail us from our relationship with God. Here the author offers eight real-life steps we can take to counter our instant-gratification, credit card-addicted culture.

“For Christ-followers,” Harnish says, “giving is a defiant act of rebellion against the insatiable power of greed.” Wesley’s phrase “give all you can” is not about giving from our financial leftovers, but “a total reorientation of our financial life around our commitment to Christ.” He then highlights Wesley’s four challenging questions to ask ourselves before we make any expenditure.

Summarizing Wesley’s outlook, Simple Rules for Money affirms that generosity is a non-negotiable Christian practice. It requires planning, motivated by our identity as children of God. And it results in joy, as we see our generosity “touch(ing) the life of this world with the love and grace of God.”

Kids, Money & Values: Creative Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money

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By Patricia Schiff Estess and Irving Barocas, Betterway Books, 1994

Written for the “Live Simply” (2016) issue of

Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation

published with permissionKids, Money & Values

It’s no surprise that Kids, Money & Values is still in print: it gives practical ideas and exercises for parents and other adults to use with children. Authors Estess and Schiff first present a developmental chart of usual interests, skills and abilities of children from preschool to early teens as they relate to arithmetic, money, property, and honesty issues. Next they invite readers to answer a quiz about their own goals for the children they have in mind. Each chapter presents a scenario, then discusses different options for adult response to the child. Topics range from parenting and passing on values, to earning, saving and investing; and from spending, sharing and caring, to making responsible choices.

Allowances can help children learn to manage money, grow in their sense of control, and share in the family’s resources. The authors advise keeping an allowance separate from chores, love, approval, punishment and rewards. While kids are bombarded with “buy” messages every day, Estess and Barocas recommend graduated ways to help them outgrow the “I want what I want when I want it” syndrome.

The book also suggests ways children can make the connection between work and money within the family and in neighborhood involvement. The authors recommend ways to teach children to save on a regular basis, put off satisfaction for a reasonable time, and find other ways to help their savings grow. Most powerfully, children look to their parents to model the behavior they teach.

When it comes to spending, Kids, Money & Values recommends ways for children to discover how to trade items, talk back to television commercials, and learn about sales pitches. The book also gives tips for helping kids become better consumers. Best of all, in each chapter the authors recommend what adults can do when children make mistakes, so they can learn from their experiences and move on.

Top Ten Ways to Increase Giving in Your Church

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fire-heart-2With the New Year upon us, now is an excellent time to look at the overall strategies of your congregation to encourage generous giving. Thankfully we can build on learnings from the Spirituality and Giving Project, 1 which studied 1,157 churches of more than two dozen denominations about what motivates members to give, and what influences them to increase their giving. The churches were rural, urban and suburban from both the U.S. and Canada.

These were the top ten most effective ways to increase giving in a congregation. They are:

  1. Connect individual giving directly to the spiritual life of each person.
  2. Begin practicing stewardship education as a twelve-month process which involves children, youth, and adults.
  3. Encourage tithing or proportionate giving.
  4. Let people make pledges and regular gifts to more than a single fund, encouraging rather than discouraging designated giving.
  5. Provide opportunity for people to give from both checking and savings.
  6. Promote special offerings more effectively.
  7. Encourage the pastor to be actively involved in stewardship education and fund-raising.
  8. Send more frequent financial statements to members and constituents who support the church.
  9. Emphasize the mission and vision of your church rather than the line item budget – and remember that people give to people and God, not budgets.
  10. Help people give through their wills, living trusts, life insurance policies, and similar means.

As you put together your church’s Generosity Plan for this year ahead, you can start with this “Top Ten,” assessing what the leadership does well and what one or more things you can improve, to help grow more generous-hearted givers.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – Study conducted by Christian Community, which published The Desires of Your Heart: Financial Giving and the Spiritual Life (1997: Christian Community, Fort Wayne, Indiana), by Holly Carcione, Steve Clapp, Kristen Leverton and Angela Zimmerman. The authors listed these ten strategies on p. 22 and used them as the subjects of each of the book’s chapters.

SpiritGifts

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This fall is an excellent time to acknowledge and affirm individuals’ spiritual gifts, with church leaders in new positions preparing to serve next year in ministry roles.SpiritGifts Patricia Brown cvr

When it comes to spiritual-gifts resources, the best book I’ve found is Patricia D. Brown’s SpiritGifts. The practical part is that it’s about not only gifts discovery, but also finding a place to use one’s gifts in ministry and to work together as a ministry team. It also defines spiritual gifts as distinct from talents, abilities, works of ministry, and roles.

But what I like best is how Brown describes the gifts and puts them into three categories:

Gifts of word – what we say,

Gifts of deed – what we do, and

Gifts of sign – ways and signs that point to God.

Get her book to read the refreshing gift definitions, but note how she clusters them in a helpful way:

Gifts of word – Apostleship, encouragement, evangelism, knowledge, pastoring, prophecy, teaching, and wisdom.

Gifts of deed – Assisting, compassion, faith, giving, and leadership.

Gifts of sign – Discernment, healing, interpretation, miracles, and tongues.

She also unpacks the meaning of every gifts with a paragraph about someone with that gift in the Bible, and a following paragraph that describes a person with that gift today.

I’ve used SpiritGifts as the basis for an all-church retreat. But Brown suggests multiple ways to use it, including as a class for group leaders and for new members, and as a way of clustering like-gifted people in small-group ministries. A creative approach!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraubv