The Generosity Project is a collaborative effort between ABCUSA, regions, and local congregations. The Generosity Project aims to help pastors re-frame the conversation around stewardship and generosity in their congregations. Bi-monthly blogs help support new growth and understanding as we deepen our ministry and discipleship. The reflection below was provided by Rev. Stacy Emerson.
“Planned giving” is the intention of a donor to leave a gift to an organization in the future, often after their death as part of an estate plan. We often struggle with how to talk about planned giving in our congregations. We don’t know how to approach givers beyond a church’s immediate needs to consider the future of their generosity. Perhaps we also struggle with our ability to steward it wisely. We feel fortunate when we receive these kinds of gifts, but do not always plan for how best to manage the resources in endowments and large gifts other than to use the interest from them for general budget support or for crisis moments. But is that what donors have in mind regarding their “planned giving”?
And so I wonder if we have trouble talking about “planned giving” because we haven’t learned or taught how to plan for giving in the first place. We may (or may not) have a stewardship campaign once a year intended to make a budget for the immediate next year, but what other planning goes into our giving? What about a statement or policy about the meaning and purpose and use of an endowment? What about a plan for the stewardship of unexpected gifts, small and large, that goes beyond the day-to-day budget?
Maybe we could take time every January (or whatever month makes sense!) as we plan for the year ahead to consider how we will “plan our giving.” Here are some questions to consider:
Plan for Giving:
What plan will you and your family make for giving this year? How will you support your church? What organizations are important for you to be generous toward—with time and money? In what ways do you hope your giving will make a difference in the world?
As a congregation, what is our giving plan for this year? In addition to our budget, how will we plan to be generous this year? What organizations would we like to be generous toward—with time and money? In what ways do we hope our giving will make a difference in the world?
How can we help church members look to the future for their giving? How can we talk about the lasting impact generosity can have as our planned giving supports the causes, missions, and ministries we hold dear? And how can we as a congregation be mindful stewards of the legacy and large gifts we receive so that we manage those gifts in ways that respond to people’s desires for their giving to have an impact beyond keeping a budget afloat?
The thing is, planned giving begins with knowing how to plan for giving. Stewardship asks that our generosity be thoughtful and intentional knowing that God has entrusted us with God’s most precious things—life and bodies, friends and neighbors, the earth and all of God’s people. And God depends on us for their nurture, healing, and flourishing. All of which takes a bit of planning…
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.