Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Creating a Culture of Generosity

When I was a child, my family went to a church that operated on a pledge system. Each family was strongly encouraged to pledge an amount that they would contribute as a household over the year. I don’t remember this being talked about in my family, but I do remember the little pledge envelopes that my parents’ checks were tucked into and which in turn were shared in the offering plate as it passed us on Sunday morning.
When the offering plate (or quilted bag, as the case may be) passes us nowadays, very few of us tuck something into it. There are a lot of reasons for this: many of us give electronically, either through our banks or using the very convenient ‘donate’ button on SMC’s website; we don’t carry cash and checks anymore as a matter of course; we might give in a planned way in bigger chunks a few times a year; we don’t have a regular giving practice; we don’t feel as if we have the money to give. Some churches are getting rid of the act of offering during worship all together because they are experiencing the same thing.

As we give up the practice of giving during worship, that physical and visible act of putting something into the collection, where do we and our children find opportunities to practice and discuss living generously? Everywhere I read about creating a culture of generosity within a family and community I see modeling as one of the top ways to pass along this value, as well as talking openly about giving and reinforcing generous behavior with gratitude and praise. I think that’s likely as true for adults as it is with children. Doing it, talking about it, reinforcing it.

Last year we made a commitment through our Jubilee discernment to putting our Jubilee values into practice through our giving. I’m excited to be a part of a congregation that has done that important work of discerning that God's call to us is to increase our household giving in order to be responsive to Jubilee. Like our Jubilee document, our budget tells a story. It’s why we moved from a line-item budget to a narrative budget. Even the money spent on staff or facilities tells the story of the ministries that we are committed to as a congregation. While our commitment to greater giving isn’t yet bearing out in practice, I look forward to seeing how your money will continue to write a story of forming people in the way of Jesus, celebrating in worship as a family of faith, supporting people experiencing homelessness, partnering with people in wider church and repairing brokenness created by ancestors.

I have been so grateful to see our grade 3-5 kids walking around with offering pails after worship in the past few weeks. Grateful that they are talking about giving in Sunday school and grateful that they’re challenging us adults by making giving a visible part of our fellowship. I experienced a twinge of panic and guilt when I didn’t have anything to put in the waiting bucket and while I don’t want to return to what might have been a pressure, shame and guilt based system of giving, the very public nature of their campaign caused me to commit to having some change in my pocket next week. I pray that as a congregation we can live into the challenge we’ve given ourselves to be generous and to continue to tell out loud the story of how our money is following Jesus.

Here are a few of the on-line resources that I looked at around children and giving:

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