Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Extravagant Generosity: The Heart of Giving

One of the most difficult challenges for the church is effectively bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to a negative world in desperate need of something positive and transformational. The need for positive leadership seems more acute now than ever.

As our culture continues to be affected by the aging of generations, changing economic realities, increased competition for charitable support, and a continually evolving vision for the church, a new approach to address personal generosity would be helpful. There is an apparent need to change from the traditional culture of fund raising in church to positioning generosity as a core value of discipleship and individual spiritual experience. There will never be enough fund-raising gimmicks to sustain significant giving in the church. Hearts must be encouraged so giving becomes an outpouring of one’s love for God.

The use of the word generosity is a part of the change in communication. Frequently, the word stewardship has been applied to the approach to finances in the local church. Unfortunately, that word carries negative “baggage.” The word generosity, however, communicates the appropriate biblical and spiritual value. In his book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Robert Schnase identifies Extravagant Generosity as one of the five fruitful practices. “The practice of generosity describes the Christian’s unselfish willingness to give in order to make a positive difference for the purposes of Christ” (Abingdon Press, 2007, p. 112). He also says, “Generosity is a fruit of the Spirit, a worthy spiritual aspiration” (p. 116). This program guide is designed to walk church leaders through a step-by-step process to planning and implementing the program Extravagant Generosity: The Heart of Giving.

From the Biblical Foundation

In the famous verse of our faith about the very nature of God (John 3:16), we again see giving explained as an expression of love: “God so loved the world that he gave . . . .” The thread is also seen in other passages. We read in 1 Chronicles 29:9 that the people responded to the financial appeal from David “whole-heartedly” (NIV). Then in Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And looking again to Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth, Paul suggests that generosity, as reflected by the Macedonians, came from first giving themselves to the Lord (See 2 Corinthians 8). They made a spiritual decision. In addition, Paul says, “Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Without more insightful teaching about what constitutes meaningful life, the prevalent cultural momentum of acquisition, consumption, and accumulation of possessions becomes our default value. First Timothy 6:17-19 provides an important framing passage:

Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. In- stead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.

Generosity, not consumption, is a key value of a meaningful life.

--Michael Reeves and Jennifer Tyler

If you would like to order this resource, please contact Cokesbury.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Giving means thinking positively

“Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times.” (Ephesians 5:16 The Message)

Tornados in the Midwest, tsunamis and earthquakes around the world, spring floods on the East Coast and along the Mississippi River, state and national budget controversies, rising gas prices … the past few months definitely feel like desperate times.

The apostle Paul writes, “Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times.” How will we as United Methodists make the most of every chance we get during these desperate times? For one thing, we’ve just come through another tax season. I’m always amazed that no matter what kind of a year we’ve had – good or bad – we always find a way to pay our taxes.

If you examine your tax return and you wish you had given Jesus a bit more so that you could give Uncle Sam a bit less, we invite you to consider starting now for next year. “Resurrect your finances” during the Easter season. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make the first check you write each pay period, or the first automatic withdrawal you make, be a “thank you” gift to God.

  • Instead of buying your children or grandchildren candy and trinkets for Easter or graduation, consider a gift in their honor to help victims of a natural disaster through UMCOR or to your church’s portion of our shared mission (apportionments).

  • Give at least 50% of the total you might spend on a vacation or special events during the summer to the ministry of Christ.

  • Try tithing; i.e., giving 10% of your income to the church for 3 months during the summer or fall.

  • See how quickly you can get out of debt under various repayment scenarios by going to http://www.moneypurposejoy.com/, click on “resources,” “calculators,” and “accelerated debt payoff calculator.”

Attend the “Freed Up From Debt” workshop at Pine Lake Camp on Friday, August 19. Register for the Stewardship Retreat at http://www.wiumcamps.org/.

--Wisconsin UM Foundation

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nurture Children as Church Leaders

Three adults were meeting to plan the fall program ministries. It was summer and a third-grader came to the meeting with her mother. In the middle of a planning dilemma, one adult turned to the child and asked, “What do you think?”

Without missing a beat the child answered with a question that led to solving the problem. For the rest of the meeting, the child was included in the conversations, leading to some great plans.

How can children be involved in your congregation in ways that help them develop their own leadership skills? Think about all aspects of your congregation’s life. Where are children currently involved as leaders? Where are their voices and talents needed? The answer should be “everywhere.”

  1. When planning mission projects for children, get their input about what projects to support, when to do these projects and who the projects will target.

  2. Recruit children as liturgists. Give them copies of the liturgy in advance with their part well marked. Practice with each liturgist with the lighting and microphone in place.

  3. Invite children to be on the planning team for church dinners, vacation Bible School, special worship services, fund-raisers or church picnics. Let them help with set up, food preparation and evaluation. Keep in mind that children need to move, to complete a project that is meaningful and helpful and to feel appreciated.

  4. In Sunday school classes, small groups and other gatherings of children, include times for children (in age-appropriate ways) to practice making choices, to think about the needs of others in the church, to be creative problem solvers and to share in leadership roles.

  5. Include children when doing churchwide mailings or requests. Provide pledge cards to children as well as adults. Include children’s prayer requests for the church devotional book, recipes for the church cookbook or special covers for the bulletin.

  6. Invite children to join your quilting group or to make items for the church bazaar, to participate in the church clean-up day or a work project 9in the community, to join the prayer chain or to design the bulletin board.

Think creatively about involving children in the total life of the congregation. They need to be responsible members of the community of faith in order to grow as leaders in the congregation. Children will provide leadership today and in the future.

--Mary Alice Grann, GBOD, Interpreter Classic, Feb/Mar 2003

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We are all 'Christians under construction'

“The Most Trusted Man in Georgia.” That is the way a radio commercial portrays Clark Howard, Atlanta talk show host and consumer advocate.

Clark’s mission is to help folks “save more, spend less, and avoid getting ripped off.” Many people in this region and around the country heed his advice and share it with others. It is fairly common to hear someone start a conversation with, “Clark Howard says…”

A link on the Clark Howard website is to “Clark Stinks” where everyone is invited to offer criticism of his attitude or advice. A regular feature of his daily radio program is to read some of those comments. Often he says that he was wrong either in what he said or how he said it. It is not uncommon to hear him acknowledge that he was wrong in judgment about a product or service. Clark Howard’s mistakes do not result in serious consequences and do not have a life changing effect.

It has been said that every person has feet of clay. All of us make mistakes. Some mistakes are more serious than others. Some are more public than others and have a more widespread impact.

I have had friends and colleagues who have been accused of some terrible things. Sometimes they were guilty. Sometimes not. Either way God’s grace is theirs. Years ago one of my teachers reminded me and all of his students that “anything anyone can do, I can do.” It was Brian Bailey’s way of helping us to see that all of us are sinners in need of God’s grace.

Recently I saw one of our retired United Methodist clergy, Rev. Claude Smithmier. In conversation with him I jokingly made a critical comment. Claude reached into his pocket and with a slight smile he handed me a polished rock. It was his gentle way of saying, “He who is without sin let him cast the first stone.”

Philip Bliss penned the words of the hymn, "Hallelujah! What a Savior." The following words of the first verse speak loudly to me:

Man of Sorrows!

What a name

For the Son of God, who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

I am one of those “ruined sinners.” And so are you. We are constantly being reclaimed. We are what someone has called C.U.C--Christians Under Construction. People of faith are forever seeking forgiveness and claiming God’s redemptive love and grace.

When we sing, “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart,” we understand that what is felt internally must be expressed externally. Our actions must be Christ-like. When they are not, then our only hope is to confess our sins and trust God to forgive us and restore us to a right relationship with God and with other human beings. And to repair the damage that we have caused. I believe God is capable of doing all of that. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

--by Jamie Jenkins, North GA AC

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer


United Methodist Communications