8 Things You Didn’t Know About Gen Z

 

by Amy Lynch

 

Gen Z is Here, But They’re Not What You Expected

First, Gen Z isn’t their real name. The Z thing is really just a placeholder. Social scientists and marketers have toyed with a bunch of annoying titles for Zs—things like iGens, Plurals, Globals and Founders. And that’s all right by Zs. A lack of concern for who we think they are is built into their DNA.

Zs are a generation with grit. They’re realists who expect to fail and know how to pick themselves up when they do. That’s why, when it comes to their name, I suggest you bet on GenEdge—because this generation’s got one.

 

Natural Born Swipers

For Gen Z, using four to five touch screens at once doesn’t feel like multitasking–that’s just the world they live in. The upside? They process information quickly. The downside? Wait, I forget. Oh yeah, distractibility.

 

DIYers

When they’re not playing Minecraft, these DIYers visit YouTube to teach themselves how to bake, build, carve, and code. Best birthday party every? A robotics workshop. Pass me that circuit board, will you, and don’t trip on the 3D printer on your way out.

 

Bargain Hunters

Growing up during a recession made Zs money-savvy. They worry about the economy, buy for quality, know how much things cost, and prefer to save rather than spend. If you’re coming up short on rent this month, try consulting a 12-year-old for a direct loan.

 

Risk Takers

Gen X parents have allowed Z kids to take reasonable risks, like camping or building tree forts. Adventure playgrounds are showing up everywhere, mostly stocked with used tires, rope, saws, and scrap wood. After all, every kid should know how to throw a spear—in case of zombies.

 

5th Grade Foodies

Growing up with celebrity chefs and farmers’ markets made Zs a sophisticated, fast-casual crowd. Trending now: salads, veggie smoothies, Starbucks, and anything organic. Trending down: microwaves and McDonalds as a food group.

 

Hacking Life

In the land of Z, college doesn’t lead to a job as much as to a skill set. In fact, seventy-two percent of Zs want to start their own business and not work for you at all. They expect to carve out their own paths and possess a “make-it-up-as-I-go” mentality.

 

Perfect is boring

Don’t expect Zs to overshare about their perfect lives on social sites. First, they’re mostly on leave-no-tracks sites like Whisper or Snapchat. Second, compared to older gens Zs are OK with admitting their weaknesses. Among Zs, dealing with a challenge like mental illness or addiction doesn’t make you flawed, it makes you interesting.

 

Amy Lynch is a Generations Expert, Idea Warrior and Killer Keynoter. She helps companies collaborate and innovate by galvanizing every generation. Find out more at http://www.GenerationalEdge.com 

Use Prayer Objects to Boost Your Prayer Life

by Mary McCarthy

The National Day of Prayer was established to remind us to pray—primarily for our nation, but also as a reminder to participate in the most vital of spiritual practices. I was lamenting my shameful prayer life to my friend, Paul Franklyn, and he gave me advice that spurred me to get my prayer life on track. Paul reminded me that if I truly want a relationship with God, like any relationship, we must talk to each other.

So, I was ready to pray; but when I would start, frankly, I found myself drifting . . . at a loss for words. I realized I needed an object, something to help me concentrate and focus. There are many tools out there to help bring focus: labyrinths, stones, calligraphy, illumination, sand gardens . . . the list goes on, and these objects have been used throughout the history of Christianity.

To be clear, these objects are not intended to replace prayer, or to be used as some folk- or fairytale “charm,” but rather as reminders, anchors, and tactile-learner tools to help us arrive and remain in a prayerful state—an outer manifestation of inner spiritual life.

 

Stones and Labyrinths

For example, many of my friends use prayer stones; they’re easy to carry or display in a special place. More than just a reminder to pray, they also serve as a reminder of the clay we came from, and the rock that God is for us.

I often see labyrinths on a desk or in a special place in a home. Often are mistaken for mazes, labyrinths have only one way in; mazes, on the other hand, are intended to trick with wrong ways and dead ends. In a labyrinth, though you may seem to be lost, you never are. Labyrinths are very powerful reminders of God’s grace; the tactile sensation of the journey inside steadies us for prayer, and the center of the labyrinth is intended for just that.

On my wall, tucked away where only I can see it, hangs a plaque of a prayer very special to me. When I have a tough phone call, a rough conversation or just a bad day—I can see it. I pray for myself, but it also reminds me to pray for others. Especially for their forgiveness if I have been too tough or unreasonable. It is a reminder to do better next time.

 

Beads
But my own preference, in terms of regular prayer? I use prayer beads on a regular basis. Though we often associate beads with the Roman Catholic rosary, the practice of praying with beads is found in every religion and goes back millennia. I use traditional Protestant (sometimes called Anglican) beads:

  • Thirty-three beads (often said to be the years Christ lived) divided into . . .
    • Four sets of weeks (seven beads each, as seven is often a Christian sign of perfection or completion) separated by . . .
    • Four cruciform beads (that remind us of the cross) and you start with . . .
    • One invitatory bead that completes the circle.

I adapt favorite prayers to the template, and keep them in a journal to help me ‘move through’ the beads. The beauty, feel, and repetition of the beads help calm and immerse me in my prayers. They are portable, so I take them with me everywhere. I have sets stashed in purses, drawers, and pockets—always there when I need them.

So, this April 5th, please pray for our nation and the world, but don’t stop there. Take the reminder to renew, deepen, or even start a regular prayer practice. If you are not sure how to start the conversation, consider searching for a prayer object, a prayer spot, or some other reminder that will help you arrive at that point.

Mary is the Executive Director of Merchandising at Cokesbury, selecting many of the books and all of the gift items we offer. 2016 marks Mary’s 40th anniversary in the book business. Trinity Episcopal (Russellville, Kentucky) is her Church home.

Sacred Edges: The Joy of Colorful Margins

by Lisa Nichols Hickman

 

My book, Writing in the Margins, began with a prayer.

After the death of Rich Gordon, his family entrusted me with his Bible. I quickly learned he was a margin writer.

For years I thought about the notes and prayers he had written into scripture. I began to wonder how this scriptural discipline he loved and was shaped by might be shared with others so they could learn from him as well.

When I started researching to discover more about margin writing, there were plenty of examples of medieval illuminated manuscripts. As I poured through images on the Internet, there were a few examples of notes and prayers people had written into their Bibles. But it was rare to find any color. One young teen drew rainbows and birds into the Psalms. Another mom posted a photo of her toddler’s pink crayon scribbled into the mom’s devotional Bible. A precious mark for sure.

Now when you Google “writing in the margins of your Bible” you will discover an array of words, colors, prayers, images, artwork, paint, joy. You’ll find journalers, scrapbookers and margin writers who have discovered how the Holy Spirit can meet them in a creative process in the margins of their Bibles. Something has happened!

When I wrote over five years ago, “The invitation of this book is, at its simplest, to pick up a pen and write in the blank spaces of your Bible,” I never could have imagined the growth and power this movement would have. I could never have imagined that writing in the margins of our Bibles would meet the scrapbooking world. I could never have imagined that now, in 2016, five of the top twenty bestsellers on Amazon are adult coloring books. This “scriptural” discipline of taking pen, marker, and/or paint to the margin of scripture is creating places of joy, creativity, and identity in people’s daily lives.

These practices are first and foremost solitary. An individual sits quietly and creatively in the presence of God to let the scripture speak to them and then guide their hand.  However, what we have learned is that these practices also shape community. Whether the community is a Bible study, or a small group meeting at a local scrapbooking store, the large “Journaling Bible Community” on Facebook, or a smaller regional group like “DC Metro Bible Journaling” group, individuals are gathering in deepened community to learn, share, reflect, pray, and grow.

Connie Denninger, a creative faith coach, who has studied church and community leadership, recognizes this opportunity. She enjoys networking with women across the country through social media to deploy them to be digital missionaries, creating small networks of Bible journalers. These creative havens provide a space for sharing information about the practice, discovering formation through the practice, and living into transformation by way of the scriptural practices. Connie says this practice of margin writing provides a way to be “re-arranged.” She explains further, “Bible journaling and margin writing are a place for spiritual transformation where God at work in our lives can move all sorts of pieces around all at once.” We become shaped by the word. I appreciate how Connie moves us from the individual practice to community fellowship and then takes us a step further to ministry. Folks equipped in the practice of margin writing can then serve their church, neighborhood and community ministries teaching others the practice and finding joy in so doing. At a recent Bible journaling retreat, Connie worked with a woman who had been estranged from both the church and from spiritual practices.  After being turned loose in scripture to journal and draw and create, the woman said to Connie as the retreat came to a close, “Do you feel the ice melting around my heart?”

When I started exploring Bible margins a few years ago, I prayed that the margins of Rich Gordon’s Bible might inspire and encourage others to continue the practice. I never could have imagined the transformation that would occur as margin writing, social media, scrapbooking and the adult coloring book craze ignited new practices of scriptural disciplines. My hope is that more hearts melt and discover as the ice cracks creative faith, color-filled hope and illuminated love.

 

Lisa Nichols Hickman is a pastor at New Wilmington Presbyterian Church, author of Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible and adjunct teacher at Westminster College in the Religion Department. She writes regularly for Faith and Leadership online magazine as well as its “Call and Response” blog. Recent articles appear in The Huffington Post, in The New Castle News and in The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. She lives in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

God Answers Prayer! Who Knew?

by Gina Duke

I’ll never forget my friend, Leesa, plopping herself down beside me on the church pew the Sunday morning after I had shared my structured prayer journal with her. Along with a bright smile, she flashed me a view of one of her pages, and said, “God answers prayer! Who knew?”  We both laughed in agreement because her sentiment is no doubt shared by many.

Until I began structured prayer journaling, I thought the same thing. Oh, I would have never admitted that to anyone, but, truly I was unsure. Even if He did answer prayers, I was certain of this—the answer was often No. I don’t believe that I am alone in this thought. Just look up the antonyms for prayer on Thesaurus.com and see the word answer listed. Had I felt He was a God of Yes, I am sure I would have noticed this, and been much more inclined to confidently state that God did indeed answer my prayers. However, this had not been my experience, or so I thought.

It was Albert Einstein who said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” The point is that I really had nothing to show for my prayer life. Of course, I was randomly pitching things up to God, and in return felt that I was getting nothing back. My prayer life was random, which yielded me little.

In 2001, God changed all of that. Either He felt I had had enough or maybe He had from my pitiful prayer practices. In a matter of just a few short weeks I began to feel strongly that I should create a worksheet with ten compartments for recording short prayer prompts to aid my prayer life.  I also added scripture to pray along with my entries. Once it was complete, I was on my way to a personal prayer revival that immediately taught me three things.

The first thing I realized was that prayer journaling brings things from the spiritual realm into my visual presence where I can physically see the hand of God moving in my prayer life. And if He is moving in my prayer life then that means that he is moving in my life. That was a revelation.  Think about how many times God instructs people of faith to “write this down.”  The things I am experiencing spiritually are not apparent to others. I can speak about them; yet, only few will hear, and more than likely forget, including myself over time. But, if I write something down, I can view it over and over.

Viewing my conversations with God brings permanence and clarity like nothing else.

Secondly, I have received a surprising bonus—the blessing of realizing that God says Yes more than He says No. Feel free to test Him in this. Within my first week of structured prayer journaling, I was ashamedly surprised that I was able to record answers to my prayers. The number of Yeses delighted my soul. From this, the words or Psalm 56:9 became my new reality.

“Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.”

God is for me. I can now see this, and even when an answer is No. On more than one occasion can I refer back to a No that has since turned into a Yes. Additionally, I do believe that becoming a student of my prayer life through the continual examination of my structured prayer journal has helped me pray with right motives.

Lastly, an organized and structured prayer life is a productive prayer life. When I became the director of women’s ministry of my church, I quickly learned that participation can be increased with organization and structure. As church leaders, we are mistaken to believe that people do not want to live missionally. The culprit is crazy-busy lives. By and large, if God’s people are left to themselves to step out and do, they often won’t. That is why the spiritual gifts of leadership and administration are important to a church. Once structure and organization are in place, believers can accomplish both mission and ministry projects together.

Prayer is much the same way. My disorganized, random attempts at prayer were not only one-sided, but they were also unable to demonstrate my Heavenly Father’s love and wisdom. By recording, updating and detailing His movement, my organization honored God’s participation in my life.

I cannot imagine my prayer life without structured prayer journaling. I literally would not be able to spiritually see what God is doing. The Prayer Closet Organizer, which is housed inside Organizing Your Prayer Closet, neatly brings things from the spiritual realm in our visual presence, faithfully showcases God’s wisdom and readily keeps our minds clear for prayer.

God does indeed answer prayer, and everyone can experience His goodness.

 

Gina Duke, author of Organizing Your Prayer Closet, is a direct, point-on speaker and Bible teacher. With educational degrees in Organizational Leadership and Ministry, as well as fifteen years of leading women’s conferences, Gina provides a combination of expertise for uncluttering the busy Christian’s life. She is the director of Women’s Ministry at her church, hosts a short radio segment called “A Moment of Clarity,” and frequently hosts prayer journaling workshops. She and her family live in Portland, Tennessee.

We Don’t Need More Money; We Need Wisdom

by James A. Harnish

 

Stanley Johnson was a lot like many of us. A character in a classic Lending Tree television commercial, Stanley flashed a self-satisfied smile as he showed us his four-bedroom home in a great neighborhood, his swimming pool, and his new car. He beamed with pride as he told us he was a member of the local golf club. Turning steaks on the grill, he asked, “How do I do it?” Still smiling, he confided, “I’m in debt up to my eyeballs. I can barely pay my finance charges.” Then, looking directly into the camera, he pleaded, “Somebody help me.”

We may not be in as much of a financial mess as Stanley was, but most of us some of the time, and some of us most of the time, need help in managing our money. How we earn it, save it, spend it, and give it is a persistent challenge for every follower of Christ.

Stanley Johnson’s commercial was for a lending company, but Stanley didn’t really need more money. What he needed was wisdom. When it comes to dealing with money, that’s what all of us need. The good news is that that wisdom can be found in Scripture and in the Wesleyan tradition.

Information about how to manage our money is easy to find. It is readily available from a multitude of sources, some of which are more helpful and trustworthy than others. Advice about everything from taxes to long-term investments can be acquired in online programs and from financial planners. Stockbrokers, mortgage brokers, and investment bankers are eagerly awaiting our calls. Lawyers and estate planners are standing in line to help us write our wills and plan our legacy. The information we gain from them is a necessary tool for living responsibly with our resources.

As a pastor, I’ve seen ample evidence of the need for information about finances.

  • I’m concerned about young adults who become the prisoners of credit card debt. Listening to their stories has convinced me that credit card debt is nothing less than the demonic power of institutionalized greed taking control of their lives.
  • I’ve counseled with couples who bring nearly insurmountable levels of debt into their marriages because they never learned how to design a budget or balance a checkbook.
  • I’ve watched seminary graduates enter the pastorate—not usually considered a high-income career—with educational loans that will be a long-term burden on their ministries and families.
  • I’m surprised by the number of colleagues who retire without adequate planning for financial stability.
  • I’m curious about faithful church members who have never prepared a will or an estate plan.

All these concerns and others like them challenge us to use the best information we can about the most effective ways to manage our money.

But for followers of Christ, the issue digs deeper and reaches further than simply gathering information. The Bible teaches that how we relate to our money goes to the heart of our relationship with God.

I sometimes wish Jesus hadn’t said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). I’d be more comfortable if he had said, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” But he said what he meant and he meant what he said. Our attitudes toward money and the priority we place on our possessions are matters of the heart; they go to the core of our identity. Because of the soul-level importance of our relationship with money, we need more than information. We need wisdom.

The Hebrew word for wisdom appears 318 times in the Old Testament with over half of these in Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. The sages of ancient Israel knew that wisdom is more than the accumulation of information or knowledge, as important as that knowledge is. They understood wisdom to be a gift of God that enables us to know what to do with the knowledge we gather, so we can live faithfully and well in our relationships with God and each other.

Our culture has conditioned us to believe that human beings are the source of knowledge and that wisdom comes from the accumulation of information, in much the same way that wealth comes from the accumulation of money and property. As a result, we assume that the more we know, the wiser we are; but the Hebrew sages believed that wisdom does not begin with us. It doesn’t grow out of our human capacity for learning or our ability to gather information. They were convinced that true wisdom is not something we make up on our own; it is a unique gift growing out of our relationship with God. This is not to suggest that biblical wisdom is contrary to empirical or academic knowledge, or that the Bible contains answers to questions that are better addressed by science. The wisdom that guides us into personal and spiritual maturity is not of our own making. It goes beyond the accumulation of knowledge and instead guides us to use that knowledge in ways that are just, good, and in harmony with God’s life-giving purpose.

Jesus pointed his disciples in that direction when he said, “Desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). There is wisdom that is only gained through an experience of fear; not neurotic, self-absorbed, irrational fear, but fear that acknowledges the magnitude of the issues we face. It’s fear that stands in awestricken amazement before that which is beyond our power to manage, explain, or control. It’s the kind of fear that leads us to humility.

Humility undermines our self-assured arrogance and pride. It challenges the assumption that the answers to all our questions are within ourselves. It requires an openness to discover something we would not otherwise comprehend. Fear of the Lord is the starting point, because it calls for humble trust in the God who is the source of wisdom and the giver of every good gift (Proverbs 2:6; James 1:17).

The Bible does have positive things to say about the results of wise living that are just as true today as when the Proverbs were written.

  • It’s wise to use our talents and the opportunities that come our way to earn an honest income. It’s foolish to bury our talents and never find productive ways to use them. (Matthew 25:26-30)
  • It’s wise to use our money well by living within our means. It’s foolish to be like the prodigal son who “wasted his wealth through extravagant living.” (Luke 15:13)
  • It’s wise to manage our money in order to become debt-free. It’s foolish to be consumed by unnecessary and unmanageable debt. (Proverbs 11:15)

Wise living may not ensure that we will be rich, but it always leads to a healthy, prosperous, abundant life. Biblical wisdom on the use of money is centered in helping faithful people order their financial lives around their commitment to Christ so that they can live well in every area of their lives.

 

Adapted from Earn. Save. Give. Wesley’s Simple Rules for Money by James A. Harnish, copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press. All rights reserved.

Putting a Face on Giving

by Judy Bumgarner

 

Have you ever met a local television news anchor at a community event? When people have personal contact with a local media “star,” they typically make a point to tune in now that they feel a kind of connection however brief it might have been. Station management knows that personal contact can change viewing habits and therefore ratings.  Which makes you wonder how stewardship campaigns would be affected if church members connected—even briefly—with the people who directly benefited from their pledges?

Giving a face and a name to the needs of the church and community makes pledging personal; and when it gets personal, you’ve got their attention. Hearing about all the good things your church does is one thing; looking into the grateful eyes of someone with whom your pledge has made a difference, that’s another thing entirely.

 

About Face Pledge Cards

Create a template of a pledge card that includes a pledge form, room for a photo, and a brief statement. Take pictures of people in classes, in daycare, during service projects . . . everywhere you see people who benefit from a church project or service. And don’t be afraid to take close-ups; you want your photos to be of faces. Print and cut them out, then paste them onto (or into, if you’re computer-savvy) your pledge card template. Hang them on an artificial tree, a bulletin board, or even from the ceiling grid and let the pastor invite the congregation to choose a card. Personalize each card? You bet. This is all about personalization.

 

Example:

This is David. He is one of twenty-three homeless men who spent the night in our Fellowship Hall last month. The church not only provided the men with a warm/cool, safe place to stay, but we also served them a nice, filling meal.  Take this pledge card to honor David, and know that your contribution goes to support programs like Room in the Inn.

 

Template:

This is [first name]. [He/She] is a [single mother? four-year-old? recovering addict? what was the need?] who [took a parenting class? attended VBS? uses our counseling program . . .  what service was provided to help fulfill that need?]. Take this pledge card to honor [first name] and know that your contribution goes to support programs like [name of program.]

 

Face-to-Face with Pastor

At most churches people line up to shake hands and say a word or two to the pastor after the worship service. Take advantage of that with this idea: Select people who have benefitted from church programs and have them form a reception line just outside the sanctuary. Prompt them to thank people as they pass by for what the church has done to help them, but also ask a volunteer or staff member to “host” each person in case they need a little help. Have pledge cards available at the end of the line just before they see the pastor who is—again—at the end of the line.

 

Example for Those Helped:

My name is David. Nice to meet you. I sure appreciate the church letting me stay the night here during that cold snap last month. Without Room in the Inn, I don’t know what some of us would do. Thanks again.

 

Example for Host:

Hey, I want you to meet David. You know how the church supports Room in the Inn? Well, David is one of the men we were so happy to have stay with us one night last month, when it was so cold. We hope you’ll make a pledge to the church again this year to help us continue to fund these important programs.

 

Face It

This idea also centers on taking photos of those who benefit from the church’s programs, but would showcase the photos in a formal art show setting. Enlarge and/or frame as many photos as possible and display them on easels and movable screens. Post information next to each piece of art that describes the subject. Make the art show a big deal; invite the media, ask “patrons” to vote on their favorite, serve punch and light hors d’oeuvres, offer valet parking—you could even roll out a red carpet and stage a premiere event. All the hoopla serves as an interesting way to get the congregation to pay attention to the faces of those in need.

 

Important: Don’t Lose Face

Before adapting any of these ideas, you need to run them by your church’s legal counsel. While using photos of those who are involved in your programs may seem to be “implied consent,” it can get a lot more complicated than that.

“Churches would want to get approval from the person to use their information and image,” says Alisa Graner Napier, a music and media licensing professional in Nashville, Tenn. “The person would need to know what the pledge card is being used for, where, when, etc., and approve it in writing with their signature, date and, if possible, their address and phone number.”

Although not an attorney, Graner Napier has been in the industry for twenty years and says typically an organization, with their attorney’s assistance, creates a release form to use in situations like this. She suggests that before going to print, show those whose photos you plan to use what the stewardship materials will look like to avoid later confusion.

“Churches could create a mockup of the pledge card showing where the photo and information would go so the person could see how exactly it is being used. Also, for their church files, they should keep a copy of the pledge cards attached to the individuals’ releases so they don’t get mixed up.”

So, take these ideas and make them your own. Find ways to make use of social media. Make it intergenerational. Or let them inspire you to think of a new way to show your congregation that they can no longer take your pledge campaign at face value.

 

Judy Bumgarner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee.

Defying Financial Gravity

by Rev. Tom Berlin

 

I have several friends whose parents are leaving homes where they have lived for decades, moving into smaller places that require less upkeep. That process requires people to figure out what possessions they are going to hold onto and what they want to release to family members who might enjoy them. When distances between relatives make it difficult to distribute possessions, companies are hired to sell these goods or just take them to charitable organizations or the town landfill. There is nothing like paying someone to cart off things you once paid someone else to put in your home to make you think about transient nature of possessions. Working through this process leads many to take a vow of austerity.

One of the most important pieces of wisdom a Christian can learn is the difference between a need and a want. We all have needs. Jesus kept it lean and simple. He had no home and few possessions. But Jesus did have friends with houses, knew fishermen who owned boats, people who raised children and those who lived in a community where they put down roots.  But he was still clear that a life of simplicity was preferable to a life of complexity. He warned his followers about the way money and possessions could begin to rule their lives. As one who came as Lord, he knew how easy it was to find an alternative master in wealth and the pursuit of more.

I think the insight Jesus brings that is most helpful is that many of us, after honoring the basic needs of life, tend to want more. Most of us want more of everything, whether for security, pleasure or anticipated fulfillment. The list of wants is never short. I have found that the desire for more is a gravitational pull in my life. The longer the list, the more financial gravity exerts its pull until we are bogged down by financial worries and more stuff than we ever imagined.

Last fall, we issued a series of challenges at our church. The goal was to offer a congregation-wide experience where people could see how much gravity possessions and money had on their life. There were three parts:

  • The Clean Out Challenge: Clean out a drawer, closet or room of your home and bring the stuff to the church parking lot on a designated Saturday. We had an electronics recycler, an industrial paper shredder, two charitable organizations, and one truck headed to the landfill. It was fascinating the see the joy people had as they dropped stuff off. One woman threw her hands up in the air, shouted “woo-hoo” and did a happy dance. Married couples exchanged high-fives. At one point I thought a revival was going to break out. I think many felt more joy in getting rid of their things than they ever did when they initially purchased them.
  • Budget Challenge: Figure out how much you spend a month on key budget categories and how much you should spend to keep a balanced budget. Giving was the first category to consider. We all need to look at what percentage of our income is invested in generosity. Most Americans give less than 2% to any charitable institution. Many are not ready for retirement years when they will no longer be able to work. I am convinced the reason is that both require a plan that most never create.
  • Estimate of Giving Card: Write down the amount you plan to give in the coming year and submit it to the church. Many churches no longer ask people to make a commitment to give. I think it helps people to write down or electronically enter an amount they hope to give to the church. People will only do this when inspired by their faith in Christ and the ministry of their church. When people want to invest in God’s Kingdom more than they want the stuff that makes them feel like royalty for a short time, generosity is easy. I encourage people to follow the biblical standard of the tithe. No spiritual practice enables you to embrace Jesus’ call to simplicity and his desire to seek first the Kingdom of God like tithing. It is the way I learned the difference between a need and a want. It is how I learned to trust that God would see our family through lean seasons. I believe that God wants us to bless others continually rather than leave a few residual dollars in our will after the last bill was paid.

If you want to help people change and fully embrace the Christian life, your church will have to talk about money, possessions, and generosity. These issues are a part of our everyday life. We make dozens of financial decisions every week, each with a cumulative impact on our life and identity. If you can teach people to defy gravity and overcome the culture of more, they will discover how Christ truly sets us free. ‘’

 

Rev. Tom Berlin is Senior Pastor of Floris United Methodist Church (Herndon, Virginia). and A graduate of Virginia Tech and Candler School of Theology at Emory University, he has authored many books and studies; his latest, Defying Gravity: Break Free from the Culture of More, released in May 2016.