Generosity is not only concerned with the present, it looks to the future. Our generosity is about planting seeds of hope and possibility for a vibrant future—for ourselves, our neighbors, our churches, the earth, and our world. In this way, generosity not only seeks to accomplish something now, it acts in such a way that our ministry is sustained for the long haul.
In the book Beyond the Offering Plate: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship, Maryann McKibben Dana shares an illustration from another book, Leadership Jazz by Max DePree:
“Max DePree talks about the construction of New College, Oxford in the fourteenth century. The quadrangle provided all the services students needed, with the chapel and great hall as the crowning achievements. About five hundred years later, the buildings had begun to deteriorate—the giant oak beams that supported the structure had started to rot. Architect Sir Gilbert Scott was enlisted to help, and with a group from the college visited the Great Hall Woods in Berkshire. There he found trees that had been planted a hundred years before, specifically planted to be replacement beams when the time came and the need arose. They’d been growing large and strong for a century, waiting for the opportunity to e used to make an ancient building sturdy and beautiful again.”
When we think about our generosity in the present, we must include a view to the future and consider the seeds we must plant today to bring God’s audacious dreams to reality long after we may be gone. Endowments are often seen as this kind of seed, but there are other kinds as well—mentoring leaders to serve alongside and after us, establishing healthy systems in churches and organizations, casting a sturdy vision that we may not complete but one that can inspire future generations as well. Generosity stretches beyond the moment to continue to spread blessing and abundance for a long line of tomorrows.
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 Coordinator 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.