Extravagant Generosity Committee Provides Stewardship Insight “On Demand”
Rev. Dr. Rodney Graves and committee members are available for pastors and congregations seeking to cultivate a culture of generosity.
True stewardship is not really about the church budget. McCabe Roberts Ave UMC Pastor Dr. Rodney Graves knows faithful stewardship is a vital part of each individual’s journey toward becoming a deeply devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. As the chair of the Extravagant Generosity Committee for the conference, he wants to help churches and congregants to re-engage in the journey toward faithfully following the Lord in every facet of life: from heads to hearts, hands, and homes. “When people truly realize who they are and whose they are, they can’t help but give to the God who has given us everything we have,” he shares.
However, he says the stark reality is that the typical Methodist gives 2-3% of their income to their church. “In addition to teaching about this as a spiritual discipline, I think our churches are also missing the opportunity to demonstrate their vision in action, because if parishioners understood the direct link between faithful giving and changed lives, they would instantly become generous givers,” he shares.
“Facilitating strong and vital churches is the focus of The Center for Congregational Excellence,” notes Center Director Dr. Jesse Brannen, “and one of the ways we do that is to form committees that provide free expertise to clergy and congregations upon request. The Extravagant Generosity Committee is eager to provide stewardship training, encouragement and hands-on support to our districts and churches of all sizes.”
One of the key lessons Rodney has learned and practiced in his own churches is what he calls the 4-Point Approach. “First of all, I LOVE them, then I LISTEN to them, then I am ready to LEARN from them, and finally LEAD them,” he shares. “I think our committee will operate the same way, approaching each situation with a customized response.”
Other committee members include Karen Ross, a member of Friendswood UMC, Rev. Melody Kraus of FUMC, Mt. Belvieu and Rev. Andrew Wolf of FUMC, Athens. Karen believes “generosity flows from love and a desire to help others.” She adds, “Giving is an integral to being a child of God and disciple of Jesus as loving, serving, and praying. It follows that teaching and encouraging fellow Christians to give and give extravagantly is as essential as teaching them to love wholeheartedly, to serve selflessly and pray ceaselessly. In the end, ministry and mission depend upon it. Our team can help. Don’t hesitate to call on the resources we want to provide.”
Rev. Kraus adds, “I think the biggest hurdle in receiving the monetary resources that congregations need to fulfill the mission of the church is simply articulating a clear and compelling reason why a member SHOULD give.” Passing the offering plate in the 21st century, she believes, is not enough. “Worshippers need to know how their monies are making a difference. They need to see faces, vision and lives changed – not spreadsheets, deficits and bills due. It is compelling to catch a glimpse of the kingdom right in our own backyards.”
“Money follows vision, so our first stewardship tip will be to give congregants a scripture-based, compelling vision for the church, noting where lives are being changed and where all funds are funding that vision,” Rodney adds. “Even if money is needed to fix equipment or the building, the ultimate purpose of that equipment or building is to do ministry.”
Another truth related to cultivating generosity is to lead by example. “We cannot expect our people to tithe in any consistent way if their leaders do not practice what they preach,” Rodney shares. “As we invite others into relationships with Jesus, some degree of tithing is important to our witness and our own faithfulness journey. Rather than focus on a certain percentage, each of us should strive to be a generous and what the Bible calls a ‘cheerful’ giver.”
Some of the committee’s favorite resources include Herb Miller’s Consecration Sunday Stewardship Program and the book, Rich Church, Poor Church by. J. Clif Christopher.
For church leaders panicked about giving levels, or aging congregations facing declining membership and reduced incomes, this committee can provide encouragement and ideas. “Sometimes I think it might be as simple as getting excited about what we are doing or can be doing in our community,” Rodney adds. “And sometimes I think we drop the ball in reporting back to our churches how their giving helped send kids to camp, or build wheel chair ramps for the elderly, or start a food ministry.”
One of Rodney’s favorite teaching examples is a parallel between heavenly giving and earthly giving. “If I say I love God but never express that by giving back to him, it is a bit like me saying I love my wife, but I spent all my money at the racetrack,” Rodney explains. “It’s true that you can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving….For God so loved the world that he GAVE.”
Annual Conference Breakfasts
Representatives of the Extravagant Generosity Committee will be speaking at the Local Pastors’ Breakfast and the Small Membership Church breakfast during the 2017 Annual Conference. Adds Melody, “We want to partner with churches of any size to help celebrate and articulate their mission, vision and kingdom opportunities.” (Anyone wanting to talk with committee volunteers or seek training can contact Marylyn Green at The Center for Congregational Excellence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-521-9383.)