Assets and Liabilities

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“Generosity is a spiritual disposition, not a quantifiable percentage of income,” said author James Hudnut-Beumler in Generous Saints. Generous people are grateful to God, affirming that “they know their worth comes from God, and not from money – not from money earned, hoarded, spent to purchase things, or used to exercise power.” 1

As I re-read these words, I’m struck by the powerful impact of such knowledge: that our worth has absolutely nothing to do with what we do or don’t have in assets and possessions. I think of the people I’ve known personally who are truly homeless, those who have routinely eked out the rest of the month after the end of the paycheck, and those who have plenty of money to go on trips abroad or buy the latest versions of cars or electronics.

Maybe this is a good time to do the related exercise Hudnut-Beumler proposes: to construct a statement of one’s worth – apart from the things we possess, not according to financial assets and liabilities. Draw a line down the middle of the paper, he says. On one side, list what you have and value: relationships, skills, knowledge, habits, and practices that help define who you are and what you have to offer other people. On the other side, list the debts you owe other people and God, including how you acquired or received the “assets” on the other side of the line. Discuss your statement of worth with someone else who has also completed the exercise. What have you learned?

In this process, did you have any “residuals:” items of value that did not come without incurring a debt in some way to someone else?

I didn’t think so, either.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1Generous Saints: Congregations Rethinking Ethics and Money (Alban Institute, 1999), pp. 9-13

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Generosity Heroes

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           Generosity isn’t about what we do with things; it’s about the heart. A generous heart gives quality time to listen to another person, gives follow-through compassion to act on concern for far-away people, gives personal involvement and practical resources to people in need and creatures in danger. And there are plenty of people who demonstrate generosity just by being who they are.

I love what Rebekah Basinger said once on generousmatters.com: “Forget the trope about the left hand knowing what the right is up to. It’s time to celebrate lives lived generously, to make heroes of those who share selflessly, to sing the praises of folks who embody the Golden Rule.”

So who are these generosity heroes for you? They may be people in the headlines, or those who are always behind the scenes, local folks who make good things happen, or those who work on our behalf on the world scale. Let’s forget the left hand / right hand business, and sing their praises!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Resurrection Generosity

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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

On this Easter Day, I was thrilled to read today’s meditation from www.generositymonk.com. He cited Franklin Brookhart about “Resurrection Gratitude and Generosity.”

“The resurrection of our Lord is the paradigm of the way God works,” says Brookhart. “Resurrection means fullness and abundance of life – all of life. . . .” This statement aligns with what I see in the world these days, as well as within us human beings: God entering into deadly places and transforming them into opportunities for new life. Whether it’s an addict’s turnaround to claim a new beginning, or people saving lives in the midst of the devastation of war, in all sorts of places God inspires and empowers us to choose life and give and receive generously out of who we are.

Brookfield continues, “I am convinced that resurrection gratitude is a key component to maturity in the spiritual life . . . – the resurrection generosity of God.” Resurrection generosity, yes! It’s the deep generosity of God, Who loves us so much that God shocks and invites us into new life. And it’s that quality of generous-hearted living to which we are called, in turn – receiving little resurrections time and again, and gratefully responding in the all the daily ways we can.

A joyous Easter to you!

Betsy Schwarzentraub

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

A Generous Eye

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DREAM 2 NIGHTMARE 1Jesus’ parable about the eye as the lamp of the body (Mt. 6:22-24) contrasts a healthy eye with an unhealthy one. The healthy eye illuminates the whole person, he says, whereas (as one commentator puts it) the unhealthy eye creates double vision, making the entire person “full of darkness.”

Double vision – that’s a powerful metaphor. For the churches we belong to and seek to lead, there can be a lot of double vision: confusion about our specific purpose as a congregation or ministry. This is especially true when we have a long history of trying to do everything. The saying fits with Jesus’ next parable, about the inevitable conflict when a slave has two masters at the same time. No matter what our roles in life, we can have only one absolute loyalty.

But I was surprised when I saw William Barclay’s translation of these verses: “So then, if your eye is generous, the whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is grudging, your whole body will be in the dark.”

Now that’s intriguing! It can apply to us personally. Whenever we look upon the world, other people, and ourselves through a generous eye, we can see God’s generous acts, God’s grace, people’s gifts and the giftedness of life. But when we view life grudgingly, we see everything through a jaundiced, jaded perspective.

May you look at life with a generous eye!

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Local Church Stewardship Plan Guideline

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Stewardship bookWritten for the CA-NV United Methodist Conference

Instant Connection, 7/30/2015

The 2012-2016 U.M. Guideline, Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living, is now available. This nuts-and-bolts booklet, written by the Rev. Betsy Schwarzentraub, former California-Nevada Conference Director of Stewardship, is written for a local church stewardship team to build a generosity plan for the congregation. The forty-page booklet moves from three core stewardship practices, to ten possible plan components, to ways it can support other congregational ministries. To order the Stewardship Guideline, visit http://www.cokesbury.com.