Pastor Larry Strenge has committed his ministry to inspiring generosity, or, as he names it in this conversation with stewardship leaders, “cultivating generosity.”
I am a fan of that verb, especially for leaders. It’s something we tend and grow, whether the tending is in our own hearts and minds or in the hearts and minds of the people we serve.
In this first installment, Pastor Strenge will share the first mindset shift he sees as necessary to cultivating generosity. Next week, he’ll reveal numbers two and three.
Catherine Malotky, Center for Stewardship Leadership
A Shift in Mindset: Generosity as Discipleship
By Rev. Larry Strenge
I recently heard a wonderful sermon based on the story of Jesus’ call to the tax collector Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13). The preacher highlighted how Matthew followed Jesus and ended up at dinner with him at a table that included people Matthew knew: tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees promptly questioned Jesus’ choice of dinner companions. Jesus’ generous dinner invitation disrupted the normal way of things. It broke the rules.
To help us think about this more deeply, the preacher posed a central question, “Who do you have space for at your table?”1 Implied was this challenge: Dare we live into God’s expansive generosity? I keep thinking about this “daring way” and what I’m learning about it.
For us as stewardship leaders, this is a variation on the preacher’s question to ask ourselves: “What can we (put your congregation’s name here) do to cultivate more space to live into God’s expansive generosity?”
In my stewardship work, I see three necessary mindset shifts that the Spirit uses to cultivate God’s expansive generosity process among us. I’ll talk about the first one this week, and next week, the other two.
1. Cultivate generosity as a discipleship practice
I’m convinced that one of our key roles as congregational leaders today (especially pastors, but also any of us who are stewardship leaders) is teaching people about God’s generosity and cultivating it among us. What if our inspiration was not so much to “get their money” but to inspire a discipleship practice? What would happen to the space at our tables? Who might take a seat if we opened the invitation?
In my coaching and teaching work with pastors and congregational teams I invite leaders to explore generosity as a discipleship practice, which is more than a belief. Every pastor and generosity team is invited to read and reflect on Henri Nouwen’s “A Spirituality of Fundraising.” Nouwen makes the case that generosity is a learned and lived discipleship behavior that brings joy to the giver and fundraiser. Part of my goal here is to expand our role as leaders in Christ’s body beyond simply raising the funds for the next budget. How might we be unabashed advocates among those we lead for the joy of being generous with of all of our resources, including money?
One key question for leaders to explore personally is “Who taught you to be generous?” Once you get a glimpse of your own story, you can inspire others to dive in as well. You can learn a lot about a person’s life as a disciple right here! “What stories shaped you in your life of being generous?
And how do we move from thinking about generosity to doing it? Watch this short video by Brother David Steindl-Rast about gratefulness. What if, like Brother David, we began to explore the “joy” in gratefulness? What if we practiced this daily—starting each day noticing with wonder and gratitude? I suspect our behavior would change. I suspect we’d discover that soon we couldn’t help but be generous in a multitude of ways.
1. Sermon by Kai Nilsen at Incarnation Lutheran Church, Shoreview, MN, October 13, 2019. https://soundcloud.com/incarnation-lutheran/october-13-2019-whos-at-your-table
About the Author
Rev. Larry Strenge and his wife, retired ELCA Pastor Elizabeth Strenge, live near Sartell, Minnesota. In July 2019 Larry began his “re-fire-ment” years after serving congregations and as Director for Evangelical Mission in the ELCA’s Southwest Minnesota Synod. Larry now coordinates “Cultivating Generous Congregations (CGC),” a Lake Institute on Faith and Giving generosity course and co-teaches CGC as synods invest in CGC for their synod. He has a limited generosity coaching practice with graduates of the Lake Institute’s Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising. He can be contacted at Larry.Strenge@gmail.com