Faith+Lead: Who influenced your approach to generosity?
JJ Godwin: When I was a child I was often given a dollar by my mom to put in the offering basket at church on Sundays. As an adult, I also participated in some Christian services where no basket was passed to collect an offering. This was because the community decided the dedicated time, service and talents of the community was sufficient. The community faithfully accepted that money would find its way when needed. Because the focus of this community was less on mandating funding, members were able to creatively volunteer their talents. One member offered after school tutoring or piano classes on a sliding scale, donating any funds toward the community. Also, some members contributed financially by focusing on specific areas of interest or passion. For example, some members provided capital funds for building a community garden. Another family covered repairs on the building plumbing by using their plumbing company and donating the service. This approach has influenced my generosity greatly.
Faith+Lead: How has your giving changed over time?
JJ Godwin: As I grew up, I became part of the generation that does not carry cash. I often felt shame during church services as I passed the basket because I would perceive other members of the community might judge me about my forgetfulness to bring cash or my lack of funds to give. As an adult, I became involved in https://timebanks.org/, which is a time-based currency. This approach allows for everyone’s time to be equally valued and not monetized. I think my work in this movement definitely motivates my congregational giving through acts of service and voluntary community engagement. I can clearly see time banking utilized in any community by creating a resource base of talents and gifts throughout an entire congregation and beyond. As a massage therapist myself, if I donate an hour of my time giving a massage to someone’s neighbor, I “bank” that hour of time to spend having one of the church youth help me weed my garden. That youth can “bank” their hour to have the church pianist give them a piano lesson, and the church pianist can have a church member watch their children while they go out on date night. That same hour has been paid forward throughout the entire community, and the added benefit is that everyone can get to know the individuals in the community even more by the passions, skills and gifts they are willing to share.
Faith+Lead: What role does giving play in your financial life as a whole?
JJ Godwin: As a seminary student, my work in ministry is often seen as unpaid or volunteer work. My call to ministry, currently as a seminary student, is my current form of giving and has significant consequences for my financial life. For example, in order to ensure I have health insurance as a student, I need to work full time while going to school. Being called to mental health peer support ministry and chaplaincy, I am paid less than a living wage. Being under-paid requires me to take on student loan debt, even with a university scholarship. I take on this debt, without a guarantee of a call, as a GenderQueer individual and as someone called to Word and Service roster (Diaconal Ministry). On one hand I can see all of this risk and inability to plan for the future and on the other hand I am witnessing God at work in my financial life through my call to ministry, bringing me both hope and strengthening my faith.
Faith+Lead: Are you a spontaneous giver, a regular giver, or a little bit of both?
JJ Godwin: A little of both.
Faith+Lead: How do you decide how much to give to the church and/or other non-profits?
JJ Godwin: I mostly decide to give based on my availability of resources (time, money, connections) and on how moved I am by the Holy Spirit through prayer and reflective meditation on my values. I often use the wholeness wheel to discern which domain of my life is currently the most abundant I can give from.
Faith+Lead: Why do you give to the church and/or other non-profits?
JJ Godwin: Because I have something in abundance to give at the time which usually meets a need.
Faith+Lead: What values guide your giving?
JJ Godwin: The values that most often inspire my giving are compassion, accompaniment and advocacy.
Faith+Lead: What does stewardship mean to you?
JJ Godwin: In Genesis 1:28, God calls humans to have dominion over the Earth. I believe I am called to steward or care for all of the wholeness wheel domains for both myself and for my community. I care for my whole-self, first, so that I have the ability to care for others. For example, I follow the instructions given by flight attendants; in the event oxygen masks fall down from the overhead bins, I must place the oxygen mask on myself before assisting someone else. Being a steward is ensuring the domains God has entrusted me with are well cared for. I see this as my “cup is so full” of self-care, that I am joyfully able and willing to share because “my cup runneth over.” (Psalm 23:5). This is, for me, the Golden Rule, Matthew 7:12.
Faith+Lead: How do you prefer to give (i.e. via credit card, check, text message, etc.)?
JJ Godwin: As someone who is called to mental health care as a ministry, I usually give time and experience instead of money to the church because those are the gifts I literally have to give.
Faith+Lead: What encourages you to give to the church?
JJ Godwin: I find, the work of God is slow and tangential, requiring patience and acceptance of this uncomfortable space of not knowing where money for ministry will come from. I am encouraged to give because I am inspired by the Church members who are willing to accompany me through this liminal place. Together we carry hope by sharing where we notice God at work in our lives.
Faith+Lead: What discourages you from giving to the church?
JJ Godwin: I have noticed some churches have the same few committed volunteers doing all the work. I have learned we cannot simply give and give until our cup runs dry because we will burn out. Some people, like me, don’t really have money to give.
Faith+Lead: Do you feel like your giving to the church is making an impact? Why or why not?
JJ Godwin: The practice of time banking reminds me there is an entire community at work called to be the Church, I am not alone in ministry. I choose to lean into the dialectical Lutheran theology of both/and—both giving to my intentional communities and receiving from them, as well.
About JJ Goodwin
Living in Fort Worth, Texas, JJ is a genderqueer individual (pronouns: they/them), attending Luther Seminary in their final year of M.Div. coursework and internship. JJ is seeking ordination in the ELCA word and service roster and walking in formation with the Deaconess Community of the ELCA. JJ is called to board certified mental health chaplaincy in the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod of the ELCA, and currently leads the mental health ministry work of the Public Witness team for peace and justice at the NTNL Synod. JJ is also a peer support specialist on DBSAlliance.org and on HeyPeers.com where JJ will be spending part of their internship year developing a new space for ministry leaders to discuss in peer support groups challenges with their own mental health and empowering leaders to learn new mental health awareness skills to feel more supported as front line responders during this pandemic and beyond. If you would like to connect with JJ @heypeersjj on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and by email: email@example.com
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