Cultivating Generosity in Small Town and Rural Settings – Part 2

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In this week’s post, Larry Strenge suggests some practical ways pastors and other stewardship leaders might engage in conversations concerning money. Very helpfully, Larry shifts the focus from the problematic side of money and the church—shame, guilt, obligation—to the freedom, grace, and gifts we have from God. Stewardship, then, becomes a grateful response to God’s generosity.

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders

Cultivating Generosity in Small Town and Rural Settings – Part 2
Rev. Larry Strenge

Last week in Part 1, I spoke about how the “field” of our stewardship consciousness has been made ready to be sowed with the good seed of the Gospel, seed to grow gratitude and generosity in the new beings’ lives. However, the “weeds” of consumerism and of leaders untrained and unwilling to talk money threaten to choke the spiritual fruits of generosity.

This week I seek to offer some practical advice for how you and your congregation can start conversations about cultivating gratitude and generosity rooted in the Gospel in order to lead a movement to reclaim the joy of generosity as a spiritual practice.

How could this spiritual practice happen for you?
Here’s one way and your leaders to consider.

Let me ask you a question: What’s your net worth? Really, what is it? What figure comes to mind?

(Pause. Think about that question before you read on…Thanks!)

What figure came to mind for you?

Was your “figure” a dollar sign, a dollar figure?

Or maybe it was question mark, like in “I don’t know.”

Be truthful with yourself. What was your first thought?

My hunch is that if you are “normal” in our “consumer culture” it is what most “normal people” think first! (I challenge you to do this exercise in your church council and see what happens! Tell them to write their figure on a small piece of paper, fold it and hand it to you. Assure them you’ll mix them up before you look at them. Then see what happens)

Now, read on….

Ask yourself (or the group you’re leading), “What figure is our ‘net worth’ as a follower of Jesus? Is it not, this one—a cross? Isn’t the cross marked on us in our baptism our true ‘net worth’? Isn’t “Your name, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever,” our baptismal promise, is this not our true net worth?

Who or what determines that net worth for you? It takes some real spiritual practice in today’s world to see God’s generosity in Christ Jesus as our rootedness.

Cultivating generosity as a spiritual practice will happen through your listening in these small town and rural settings. Eugene Peterson in that same talk said, “Pastors are an on the ground witness to what the Holy Spirit is up to.”

I believe we do that work through story gathering.

A process to get you started.
Go out and visit those generous people in your congregation. There are plenty! Yes, find out who they are. Do an analysis. See who gives what. But, don’t let dollar amounts deter you. Pray about it. Your “most generous” may be the “widow’s mite” person(s). She may be your largest giver. And, yes, it’s okay to pay attention to amounts. You know your people. People who have a boatload of money have a big responsibility to steward it well. The banker, accountant or a financial advisor is not the only one who can talk to someone who is called to steward large amounts of money.

And always, remember, this is a spiritual conversation.

Here’s one open-ended question to ask among your people in a one-to-one visit. Ask, “I’m curious, who taught you to be generous?”

Then, get ready to listen.

Give it a try. And before long you’ll discover what God is cultivating as you unpack the gift of generosity.

Remember, you are a witness. You may have to hold the story close for a while, but before long you’ll find ways to invite people to tell that generosity story as they live into the spiritual practice of generosity, one God has placed inside each of us.

God is doing a new thing in this day. And it is happening in and through our listening to those stories in small town and rural ettings, as we invite people to be generous in that ‘net worth’ in Christ.

For More Information:

Rev. Larry Strenge is Director for Evangelical Mission in the SW MN Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

To view Larry Strenge’s 20-minute presentation of these ideas see this video from Rethinking Stewardship 2018. 

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