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Giving for the Right Reasons

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This article is reprinted by permission from Leading Ideas, a free e-newsletter from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary and available at www.churchleadership.com.

The Christian faith invites us to think about giving in new and countercultural ways. Giving faithfully and for the right reasons puts us in alignment with God’s purposes and brings joy.

Our consumer culture sends us many messages about what it means to give and give well. Believing these messages draws us away from the faithful way, and in doing so, it keeps us from experiencing the joy of generosity that God has in mind for us.

When we give, we become more of who God designed us to be. Simply put, giving changes the lives of not only those who receive, but also those who give.

What our consumer culture says about giving

1. Give if it benefits you.

One of these messages is, “Give if it benefits you.” We are responding to this message when the primary motivation for our giving is being recognized for our generosity or when we give as a tax benefit, or if our giving is to gain influence or notoriety.

2. Give to get.

At its worst, the message becomes, “Give to get.” This attitude can even infect our spiritual life when we believe that our giving is a kind of inducement for God to give us back more. This “prosperity gospel” message has even worked its way into some churches.

3. Give if there is anything left over.

Another message we hear is, “Give if there is anything left over.” For the vast majority of people, giving comes last in our financial habits. It has been documented that during the most prosperous periods in our recent history, a strange counterintuitive thing happened — giving actually decreased as a percentage of income, income increased but spending consumed the additional income. For many, giving is an afterthought rather than a priority.

4. Give out of a sense of duty.

Yet another message we take in is, “Give out of a sense of duty.” Our consumer culture, and sometimes even our churches will guilt us into feeling that we have a duty to give something. The Lord does ask us to give to those who need it, but God is also concerned about why we give. Giving out of duty or guilt is an empty gesture and different from generous giving which comes from the heart.

What faith says about giving

The Bible characterizes those who give out of a desire to grow in their discipleship as “generous.” A generous giver is one who gives with a joyful attitude and a compassionate heart. Just as a body of water without an outlet becomes stagnant, a life without an outlet for giving becomes a stagnant life. Giving is the channel through which God’s love, compassion, and generosity can flow through us.

When we give, we become more of who God designed us to be. Created in God’s image, we are made to live in connection and community with others and to share a portion of what we have with others. Simply put, giving changes the lives of not only those who receive, but also those who give.

1. Faithful giving is a response to God’s goodness.

God calls us to give in response to God’s goodness. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift, every perfect gift comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.” Our Creator gives us good things, and so our giving is simply a way to say, “Thank you. I’m so grateful.” An important way we show our gratefulness is by making our giving the first obligation of our income. The Old Testament refers to that as “first fruits” giving (Leviticus 23:10 and others).

2. Faithful giving acknowledges God as our source of security.

Second, God is our source of security. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus warned his followers not to store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths, get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal (or where one economic downturn can wipe them out). Instead, they should store up treasures in heaven. Another way to think of it is not to put your security in wealth, but in the Provider of wealth — not in the gift, but in the Giver.

3. Faithful giving furthers God’s justice.

A third reason God calls us to give is because God cares about economic justice. The growing inequality of resource distribution is one of the great issues facing our world today, and it is creating much conflict in the world. Throughout the Scriptures, material blessing has been linked to obedience, particularly in reference to justice and compassion for the poor. If God has blessed us beyond what we need, it’s so we can help those less fortunate, not just to increase our standard of living. We are called to love. We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving.

4. Faithful giving blesses us and others.

Another reason God wants us to give is to bless others and to be blessed. The relationship between giving and blessing goes all the way back to God’s original covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 12:2-3, God tells Abraham that he and his spouse are being blessed in part so that they can be a blessing to others. We miss that joy and blessing in our own lives when we hold on to what we have rather than sharing freely with others.

5. Faithful giving breaks the hold money can have over us.

A final and very important reason for giving is that it breaks the hold money can so easily have on us. Money often equals power, and money can demand our allegiance. When I release money by giving it away, it breaks the hold money can have over me.

This material is excerpted from Saving Grace: A Guide to Financial Well-being Abingdon Press, 2020. Used by permission. Saving Grace videos, workbooks, and devotional materials explore money management from a Wesleyan perspective to help clery and laity reach personal financial goals and address life concerns. Resources are available at Cokesbury and Amazon.

Posted: March 26th, 2021 | Permalink

6 Reasons Your Church Needs a Planned Giving Program

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This article is reprinted by permission from Leading Ideas, a free e-newsletter from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary and available at www.churchleadership.com.

Giving through one’s will is the most common type of deferred gift. Yet, more than half of American adults don’t have a will. Of those who do have wills, around 95 percent are not including charitable bequests. Why is this such a neglected area in church giving programs?

Many churches find they have to focus so much time and attention on meeting the annual budget and conducting occasional capital campaigns that little enthusiasm is shown for considering a planned giving program. Also, many churches do not engage in long-range planning but focus instead on the immediate future. Planned giving is not seen as a viable solution to short-term needs. Because planned gift income seems like such a distant possibility, it rarely receives priority attention.

Some church leaders regard planned giving as an option only for the wealthy. These leaders think that a planned giving program would have little appeal in their congregation; therefore, they see no need to promote it. Some church leaders simply feel embarrassed or uncomfortable in suggesting that the church should encourage planned gifts. “We are always asking for money from people when they are alive; must we also ask for a gift when they die?” is a question that has been raised more than once.

The fact of the matter, however, is that none of these are legitimate reasons for neglecting a planned giving program. Church leaders are terribly shortsighted not to have a planned giving program in place and to promote it regularly. The benefits of such a program are many.

1. Planned giving provides a tremendous opportunity for Christians to make a powerful witness to their faith and their values.

Those who have been faithful in their giving throughout their lifetime can continue to make a witness at the time of death. Yet the contributions of most Christians stop at death simply because they have not been encouraged to regard planned giving as another opportunity to make a witness. I once asked an elderly woman who had been a tither all her life if she had ever considered tithing her estate. “No,” she responded. Then, with a look of disappointment, she asked, “How come no pastor ever suggested that to me?” One wonders how many other Christians may feel similarly cheated.

2. Planned giving also helps maintain the work of the church and its related institutions.

A gift from an individual’s estate to a church’s endowment is a gift that will keep on giving in perpetuity, helping to assure the continued strength and vitality of its ministries. What could bring greater satisfaction than knowing our resources are continuing to positively influence and benefit others even when we are no longer here?

3. Planned giving enables persons to make larger charitable gifts than otherwise possible.

Most annual gifts come from current income. Planned gifts, however, can come from one’s accumulated assets when they are no longer needed. Through planned giving, persons often can make larger gifts than they ever dreamed possible to those institutions that are important to them.

4. Planned giving allows persons to establish permanent living memorials for themselves or others.

Few remembrances are as lasting or meaningful as a living memorial that continues to minister to others in Christ’s name for generations to come. Scholarship funds, lecture funds, and funds for missionary support are just a few types of living memorials that have been created through planned gifts.

5. Planned giving also provides tax advantages for the donor.

In addition to charitable deductions, many planned-gift arrangements provide the opportunity to reduce estate taxes and receive lifetime income. Some arrangements enable persons to increase their own spendable income at the same time that they make a planned gift.

6. Planned giving enhances both annual and capital giving programs.

When persons make planned gift commitments to an institution, their interest and involvement in that institution often increase, as does their annual support. Likewise, capital giving programs are often significantly enhanced through planned gift arrangements. Individuals wishing to make a major commitment to a capital giving program frequently discover they can best do so through a combination of outright gifts and planned gifts.

The fact is that planned gifts are a very important source of revenue for charitable institutions. Nonprofit organizations receive billions of dollars each year in charitable bequests. A substantial portion of total individual giving to educational institutions consistently comes from planned gifts. Religious organizations, however, are not receiving a large percentage of planned gifts. Whereas outright gifts to religious organizations far outweigh donations to any other type of charity, only 10 percent of planned gifts go to religion.

Why don’t churches receive a larger percentage? It’s because most have not learned what educational institutions have known for a long time: a consistent planned giving program can produce significant dollars over time. Most institutions of higher education have planned giving programs of some kind. Thus, it should not be surprising that a majority of bequest dollars go to education. Most churches, on the other hand, have neither programs nor policies in place for planned giving and often don’t consider either necessary until they find themselves the unexpected recipients of a planned gift. Receiving sizable bequests would be more common, however, if churches had a well-defined planned giving program.

The Georgia United Methodist Foundation can help your church set up a planned giving program. To learn more, please contact Dr. Rick Lanford, GUMF Regional Vice President (South Georgia), at 478-256-7130 or rlanford@gumf.org, or Nancy Young, GUMF Vice President of Development (North Georgia), at 678-708-6601 or nyoung@gumf.org.  

Posted: February 28th, 2021 | Permalink

Something to Think About 1-26-21 Devotion

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By Dr. Rick Lanford, GUMF Regional Vice President

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” - Mark 1:14-15 (NIV)

The Good News is that the Messiah has come to break the power of sin and begin God’s personal reign on earth. How will you share the Good News with others today? Father, use me as an instrument of thy love and peace to the world. Soften my heart so that your Good News will be shared and received with a penitent spirit. Amen.

Rev. Keith E. Lawder
President/CEO
770-449-6726
877-220-5664
404-906-1425 (Cell)
klawder@gumf.org
 
Dr. Laudis H. "Rick" Lanford
Regional Vice President
478-256-7130 (Cell)
rlanford@gumf.org


 

 

Posted: January 25th, 2021 | Permalink

Something to Think About 1-19-21 Devotion

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By Dr. Rick Lanford, GUMF Regional Vice President

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” - John 1:43 (NIV)

When I was in grade school, we played a game called “Follow the Leader.” Like Philip, we are all called to follow Jesus. I will confess that as I follow Jesus, my actions are not always like His.  Father, forgive me when I don’t always follow as close as I should. Amen.

Rev. Keith E. Lawder
President/CEO
770-449-6726
877-220-5664
404-906-1425 (Cell)
klawder@gumf.org
 
Dr. Laudis H. "Rick" Lanford
Regional Vice President
478-256-7130 (Cell)
rlanford@gumf.org


 

 

Posted: January 18th, 2021 | Permalink

Something to Think About 1-12-21 Devotion

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By Dr. Rick Lanford, GUMF Regional Vice President

“And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” - Mark 1:4 (NIV)

John the Baptist came before Jesus to prepare the way for Him. John was baptizing people with water. Jesus would come and baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Father, may the Holy Spirit work within each of us to present Christ to others. Amen.

Rev. Keith E. Lawder
President/CEO
770-449-6726
877-220-5664
404-906-1425 (Cell)
klawder@gumf.org
 
Dr. Laudis H. "Rick" Lanford
Regional Vice President
478-256-7130 (Cell)
rlanford@gumf.org


 

 

Posted: January 11th, 2021 | Permalink