Creating Generous People A summary for church leaders Adapted from a talk given May 2009 by Gary F. Gleason
Marianne Williamson writes in Everyday Grace, “Abundance is our spiritual birthright which is ours to either receive or resist.” Being generous is one of the greatest privileges we have in life. The more one gives, the more one grows in faith. The scarcity mentality, so prevalent in our society, diminishes our capacity to grow spiritually. Stewardship is not a program that happens once a year during the October Bega-thon. It is a process that continues throughout the year. Good stewardship enables and requires that church leaders talk about money in ways that transform lives. Stewardship shouldn’t be just about the church needing money to meet its budget. Rather it should concern our need to give, as individuals and as a parish. This begins when we show that we value the time and talent of leaders. The focus for church leaders, lay and ordained, is to teach about how we grow in faith and character as Christians. Increased giving will strengthen one’s faith and relationship to God. This is spiritual life. This is adult education. This is Christian formation. “We don’t have the money” or “we don’t dare spend the money in case we need it elsewhere for ourselves” crowds out hopes and dreams as we focus more on minimizing expenses. This causes disillusionment with church and a belief that church is unworthy of support. When church giving remains the same, relationship with church and God also remains the same. If people come to church out of routine or habit, with a low expectation of what the church can accomplish or how their lives will be changed, then stewardship and generosity will reflect those attitudes. A clear vision is mandatory in fostering a congregation’s capacity for giving because money follows mission. Any church member should be able to see clearly where the money goes. How much is given for ministry beyond our walls? Treasurer and finance committees are responsible to insure that church leaders understand this.
Parishioners who give the least are motivated most by maintaining the building and the congregation. Some will resist the idea that they should be giving to the church to help others. They say they can and will contribute directly to those causes that interest them and they decry the idea that their church should make these decisions for them. Church members have evolved into consumers rather than stewards. They donâ€™t see church giving as returning a portion of their incomes to God; rather they see themselves paying for services rendered by their church. Unless instructed otherwise, members probably donâ€™t know how giving helps create a stronger relationship with God. During the economic boom of the 1990s, income rose for 90% of all American households, and charitable giving to churches declined. This could be the result of people giving directly to other charities, but it also indicates a need for more teaching about Christian stewardship. It is not about whether the church will survive, itâ€™s about whether the church will flourish. Charitable giving is not merely financial, it is also emotional and spiritual, and it helps form our relationship with God over the course of our lives. It is an integral part of spiritual well-being. Clergy need to encourage and expect an attitude of abundance rather than one of scarcity, challenging people to live more generous lives, even when they might already think of themselves as generous. There is likely no such thing as being too generous and the church has a huge responsibility in promoting that.
Rev. June 21, 2011
Being generous is one of the greatest privileges we have in life. The more one gives, the more one grows in faith. The scarcity mentality,...