A team working together around the challenge of stewardship in the 21st century has worked hard over the past eighteen months to put together “The Generosity Project,” a pilot program running from Sept. 2017 – Dec. 2018 which will work to provide stewardship resources and support to a cohort group of pastors from New England regions. Members of the team have prepared blogs for “The Generosity Project” participants, which will also be shared on the ABCUSA website in the coming months. To learn more about The Generosity Project, click here.
The Joy of Generosity
by Rev. Stacy Emerson
“The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” ~2 Corinthians 9:6-8
“God loves a cheerful giver!” In 2 Corinthians, Paul is working to support the “ministry to the saints” and helping churches share their abundance generously. Paul is concerned about both our attitude toward giving and the effect of giving.
Think for a moment of the most generous person you know. What qualities come to mind? Open. Warm. Helpful. Honest. Full of life. Passionate. Thankful. Compassionate. Joy-filled. These might be just a few. And we might all give thanks to God for the generous people who bless our lives! Generous people have a certain attitude toward giving. They give without complaint; they give to more than one cause or ministry; they understand their generosity to be as much for their own need as for another’s; they believe generosity is more than money—generosity encompasses the whole of life, including time, talent, treasure, and temperament.
Generous people are also concerned about the effect of giving. They want to be a part of something significant, something that will have a beneficial effect on the world. With Paul, they perceive God’s abundance and know that God hopes for that abundance to be shared even as the world feels like a place of scarcity. The mission and ministry of the Church is about being stewards of God’s great generosity, God’s abundance, and sharing in ways that bring God’s blessing and grace to every corner of the earth.
Stewardship then is about cultivating generosity in ways that foster these qualities in us as followers of Christ and in our congregations as we serve others in Christ’s name. Our stewardship efforts, campaigns, and ministries should nurture joy and share the good news of all that we are called to do in Christ’s name.
I call this the “fourth ‘T’”. We know all about the 3 T’s of stewardship: Time, Talent, and Treasure. But what about our “Temperament”? That is to say, what about our attitudes, our values, our perspective? If we constantly complain about not having enough—not enough members, not enough young people, not enough volunteers, not enough money—we are giving in to a mindset of scarcity. God promises that when God calls us, God will equip us for the ministry to which we have been called. God is a God of abundance and will provide whatever is needed. Perhaps then we need a fifth “T”: “Trust.”
It’s time we re-framed our stewardship conversations and it starts with our attitude. Begin by celebrating God’s abundance in your life and in your community and in your congregation. Together, let us nurture a joyful generosity and consider the many ways our giving has a beneficial effect on our lives and the lives of others!
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Facilitator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.