"During a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints." - 2 Corinthians 8:2-4
My wife and I have a small list of institutions we support. Each month we give to our churches, public radio, our alma maters, the counseling center where my mentor serves, and a few others. These are far from extravagant gifts. They are just small monthly debits that, taken by themselves, hardly seem significant at times.
And yet, when I look at my bank account, I like seeing that money go out. I know that at my college the LGBT center has a few more resources. I know that down in Georgia someone in crisis is closer to seeing a therapist. And I know that when I listen to the news on the radio, I've done my part to help pay for it.
I see giving to the organizations I support as a privilege. In some small way, I get to be a part of work that is greater than myself.
Most churches dread stewardship season. We feel like we are running a pledge drive that everyone hates. We bring out budgets and expense reports, present them with dour faces and negative tones, and then wonder why no one wants to help us meet the bottom line.
But the reality is that Americans give generously. Over $375 billion last year, in fact. And, fully 84% of Millenials made a donation in 2014. So why do we struggle in the church?
My sense is because we have stopped being inspirational in our requests for support, and have instead focused on doomsday scenarios: "If we don't meet this budget, this church will be dead soon," or "How can we support the children's ministry when there is a deficit?" So we cut out churches to the bare bones. But our austerity measures fail to inspire a vision that anyone wants to give to. And so we cut again. We create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Show me a church with vision. Show me one that inspires joy. Make me feel like supporting your ministry is a privilege. Do that, and I'll open my wallet in a heartbeat, and thank you for it.
God, help us to cultivate joy in our vision, and to inspire joyful givers. Amen.