Generous Stewards — Collaborative and Collegial

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            Generous stewards often seem to interact and engage in ministry through networks of diverse folks – more like being part of a movement than a single organization. For example:

  • Cooking Up English, in Austin, TX, is a local church ministry that uses cooking to help non-English speakers learn more about the language, while building community between longtime church members and those new to the area.
  • Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in Stony Point, NY, brings together seven communities in different nearby towns that focus on various aspects of peacemaking, from urban gardening and immigrant support to young adult programs and storefront prayer gatherings.
  • Healthy Vines, in Corona, CA, is collaboration between local and public-school gardens, to help children learn about farming and enjoy locally-grown produce.

These ministries are examples of what I see as a third set of core attributes of generous stewards – they are collaborative and collegial.

When we try to live intentionally as stewards – enjoying, sharing and managing what God has entrusted to us – we often develop collegial relationships that cross over old-time boundaries for the sake of a larger purpose. An article about attracting Millennials in ministry (those born roughly between 1980 and 1995) says the bottom line is that they want to be part of a collaborative community that empowers and releases them to create new ways of doing church and connecting to others.1 But Millennials are not the only age group looking for this approach. Many congregations are popping up these days, which Phyllis Tickle refers to loosely as the “Emergent Church.”

Emergent or otherwise, whenever two or more of us gather in Christ’s name, stewards of the Good News and all God has entrusted to us tend to work with one another in a mutual, flexible way that strengthens the whole. May you find yourself in increasingly collaborative and collegial ministry relationships!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – Chris Folmsbee and Brad Hanna, “What Millennials Crave and How the Church Can Relate,” Circuit Rider, May/June/July 2015, pp. 24-25.

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Generous Stewards — Curious and Creative

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Who knew that curiosity might have anything to do with stewardship? I hadn’t thought about it that way. But some scientific studies approach curiosity not as a predilection or character trait, but as a behavior. As such, it shows our “stewardship of attention” 1 – how we choose to pay attention to certain people and situations. When we are curious about others and ask open-ended questions, we can learn and grow, and improve others’ lives, as well.

This is Part Two of four blogs about some primary attributes of generous stewards. Yes, they are cooperative and connectional – and they’re also curious and creative.

Two broad-based studies focused on what Millennials (those born roughly between 1980 and 1995) look for. 2 They want interaction with people in relationships that are diverse in theology, race, ethnicity, etc. And they are curious, seeking experiences and unafraid of risk. They hope to leave the world a better place, including social justice issues, environmental ethics, and local and global physical wellness.

But while Millennials stand out for these things, they aren’t the only age group to desire them. Curiosity is “the desire to approach novel and challenging ideas and experiences,” 3 to increase one’s personal knowledge and engagement. And we all want that, to differing degrees. But when people actively reach out to follow their curiosity, they tend to have better relationships – they connect more easily with strangers, they are often better at “reading” other people’s verbal and nonverbal cues, they are usually less aggressive and enjoy socializing more. 4

It’s no wonder that curious folks – generous stewards of attention – tend to be creative, then. Because they’re willing to learn from other people and to cooperate and connect with others, they end up helping to create new ways to relate beyond old roles and expectations, and new models of ministry that involve risk and flexibility.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – For more on “stewarding attention,” see the three-blog series under that title by Jason Misselt at www.luthersem.edu.

2 – Cited in Folmsbee and Brad Hanna, “What Millennials Crave and How the Church Can Relate,” Circuit Rider, May/June/July 2015, pp. 24f.

3 & 4 – Jill Suttie, “Why Curious People Have Better Relationships,” http://greatergood.berkeley.edu.

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