One More Resolution- To Share More Openly & Often about Money and Giving

January’s COMPASS focus is financial New Year’s resolutions. Earlier this month I shared some of my own, but today I would like to add one more to that list. My wife Allison and I would like to talk more openly and more often with others about money and why we give. Coincidentally, this past weekend we were asked to share a “ministry moment” about stewardship and why we give at the congregation (Messiah Lutheran Church in Vancouver, Washington) we serve. What follows is what we came up with, and what Allison shared aloud.

We are so excited to give and talk about money, that we are jumping up and down in the snow about it.

We are so excited to give and talk about money, that we are jumping up and down in the snow about it.

My husband, Timothy, and I are happy to be one of the couples sharing why we give as a part of this year’s focus on stewardship. In fact, I really like how Messiah has different people share their personal take on why stewardship is important.

But just to play devil’s advocate, I want to share why it might not be very smart to give:

  1. When you give to the church, it leaves less money for spending on fun stuff.
  2. It forces us to realize how much we’re actually spending.
  3. It forces us to realize how much we’re actually making.
  4. It forces us to sit down, with no cell phones, no laptops, and no TV so we can have an honest-to-goodness conversation about what we value, what we believe in, and what our dreams are.

Money does that.  So maybe there are some good reasons to give.

It’s true – once a month we make a chocolate chip pancake breakfast and talk about our finances and budget, partly because giving is so important to us, and we need to know how big or how little my coffee budget needs to be this month.

We ask each other: “What are the things and groups that matter so much to us that we want to give money to them?”

The first place we think of… is often not church. I’d love to say it is, but often it’s student loans from three different degrees that we’re not even halfway done paying, it’s paying for car expenses that helps us get to the grocery store, me to hospital visits, and helps us drive for an overnight once in a while to our families’ homes three hours north, which we haven’t been able to do in five years.

Yes, all of the things I just listed are things we spend money on that aren’t the church, but in all of this, God is at work using what God first entrusted to us.

At church we hear the message over and over again of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and the good news of God’s love which propels not just our work, but this whole community’s work of love and service in the world. It’s in the giving and spending our money intentionally that we’re giving our money and our lives over to God. That includes tithing and giving money to church, but also to organizations that align with our values like our alma mater Pacific Lutheran University, and money for coffee so I can learn your beautiful stories of struggle and joy and faith, and gas for our car and going to school, tuition payments, using our brains and gifts of compassion, empathy, and hard work.

So why do we give to the church? We give because we are only beginning to understand the depth of God’s love that is shown most potently through faith communities like Messiah shaped by the table, and by Christ’s living water. This stuff matters to Timothy and me.

As a couple, to discern where to give our money to, we listen to God through prayer, music, service, worship, our neighbors, and through each other. We continue to find out how God is at work, and how exciting that is to be a part of it.

Happy New Year's from Allison and me in surprisingly Snowy Washington

About the Authors: Timothy blogs regularly serves as the Communications Associate for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center with a focus on COMPASS. He also serves at Messiah Lutheran as the congregation’s mission developer. Allison also blogs regularly and serves as the Pastoral Intern at Messiah Lutheran, serving a culminating internship prior to being ordained to be a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

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Move Mountains

During January the COMPASS blog is sharing space for financial new year’s resolutions. The series continues as regular contributor Matt DeBall, shares some thoughts about January being “A new beginning,” and about praying, saving, giving, resting, and community. 

January. A new beginning. A fresh start. In this first month of the year, we have the perfect opportunity to take stock of lifestyle habits, try new patterns, set goals, or even chart a new course altogether. For Christ-followers, it only seems natural to also consider how to love God and neighbor in new ways.

credit given to Glenn Riegel

Majestic Mountains, a photo by Glenn Riegel

In seeking to respond anew to the movement of God, I can’t help but think of our recent celebration of Christmas. The prophet Isaiah shares, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low…. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (Isaiah 4:3-5).

While this scripture is traditionally used in beautiful Advent liturgies and alludes to the coming of the Christ-child, it is also a call to continually make way for the Kingdom of God in our world. Our God is coming, and we need to move mountains to make the road ready. This challenge from the prophet also reveals the way in which God, as our sovereign Lord, desires for us to be prepared for the Holy Spirit to make bold moves in us and through us every day.

Changing geological features as Isaiah describes certainly seems like a daunting task, but as Jesus shared with his disciples, faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). By trusting in our Savior, we have enough faith to raise any valley and flatten every mountain. With Jesus, every roadblock to God’s Kingdom is removed.

As we begin this year, here are a few ways we can make room in our lives and world for God’s kingdom.

Pray – Whether at home with others or alone on the go, there are many “in between” moments where God is present with us. By using some of these seconds or minutes for prayer, we can be refreshed by God but also be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in every encounter of our day. Making way for God happens not only in action but also in attitude. As we make room for these reflective moments with God, we are made aware of how we can better love others and serve God.

Save and give – Money is an important resource related to almost everything in life, and as people of faith, it is essential for us to be good stewards of it. Though we may not compare making financial changes to “moving mountains,” we can be comforted in knowing that small changes also make room for God. You may consider:

  • Putting aside dollars in relation to what week of the year it is (Week 1: $1, Week 2: $2, …). [Catch up by putting aside $10 before the end of January.] Before next year, you will save nearly $1,400 to give to your church, put in savings, or some of both. OR
  • Collecting spare change and dollars in a jar until it’s full, and deciding before it’s counted how it will be divided for giving and saving.

Regardless of what method you use, imagine how that money could be used to further God’s kingdom in your community and make way for the peace of God’s kingdom in your own life.

Rest – It can be so easy to pack our schedules full with (mostly) meaningful activities. But if we put too much on our weekly calendar, a lack of energy or attention may dampen our effectiveness. For ourselves and for those whom we serve with at work, at church, or in our community, we must be good stewards of not only our time but also our energy. To make way for God’s Kingdom, consider scheduling more time for restful and re-energizing activities.

Community – As we make room for God in new ways, both in our own lives and wherever we go, we cannot do it alone.  Whether a personal goal or a communal change, teamwork is essential to consider. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Whether before or after setting goals, consider whom you might invite to join you on the journey.

May the Holy Spirit reveal how you might move mountains and raise valleys to make way for God’s kingdom in your life and in the world. And may we all experience grace and peace as we strive to fervently love God and neighbor in the year ahead.

Matt DeBallAbout the authorMatt DeBall currently serves as the coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity from Northern Seminary, and enjoys running, reading, and napping. He and his wife, Chelsea, live with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, in northern Illinois.

Four Simple Financial New Year’s Resolutions: Share, Save, Spend, and Plan

Four Simple Financial New Year’s Resolutions: Share, Save, Spend, and Plan

During January the COMPASS blog is sharing space for financial new year’s resolutions. The series continues as Marcia Shetler, CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center shares some thoughts about sharing, saving, spending, and planning.

happy new yearWith a grateful nod to my friend Nathan Dungan, I’d like to suggest four simple financial new year’s resolutions. Nathan is founder and president of Share Save Spend, and his website is full of great resources related to finances.

  1. Share!

Data about young adult giving in Canada and the US provides mixed reviews. The Globe and Mail reported last summer that less young Canadians are giving financially. In the US, though, CNBC reported that 84% of Millennials made a charitable donation in 2014, and 70% spent at least an hour volunteering.  But because their giving is strongly influenced by their peers, social media momentum, and current issues, it can tend to be sporadic.

While some Christians use the tithe (10 percent of income) as a giving measurement, it can also be a goal to aim for over a period of time. Do you know what percentage of your income you gave as charitable gifts in 2015? If you’d like to give more, set a “step goal” for yourself: an increase of a percentage or two. Now translate that into actual dollars and decide how you would like to give it. You can even include a category for unexpected or new opportunities you might encounter this year.

  1. Save!

It can be hard to save when you are faced with student debt and new expenses related to living on your own, but getting into the savings habit will reap benefits in both the short run and long-term. Sometimes adding to your savings is as easy as increasing your knowledge. For example, does your employer offer matching contributions to your retirement fund, and are you taking advantage of that opportunity? According to CNW, more than one third of Canadian Millennials can’t answer that question.

Even if you have a tight budget, you can develop a saving mindset. Pick a short-term goal. Save your loose change. Save by spending less, like on apps, eating out (including work lunches), and entertainment that costs money. Open a savings account and schedule automatic transfers from your checking account, perhaps synching it with your payday. Money you never “see” can be easier to save.

  1. Spend!

For most people, money is an integral and unavoidable part of life. So if we are going to spend, it’s important to do so wisely. Just this month, right after the traditional Christmas gift-buying binge, The Washington Post reported that one of the newest spending trends is choosing experiences over tangibles. “People are saying, I’ve got enough stuff. I want to pamper myself a bit and do something that makes me feel good,’” the article quotes Steven Kirn, executive director of the University of Florida’s retail education and research center, as saying. This kind of attitude toward spending can spiral out of control quickly.

In the COMPASS blog, we’ve encouraged looking for ways to live a fulfilled life without overspending. Here are a few previous posts that you might want to read for more ideas:

  1. Plan!

time to plan“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is a familiar phrase. Whether you want to share more, save more, or spend more wisely in 2016, developing a plan to do so is essential. If you’re not sure how much money you have or where it goes, gaining that understanding is a necessary first step. For just one month, or even just one pay period, keep a detailed record of where all your money went. How much did you share? How much did you save? How much did you spend? How can you adjust so that you are sharing, saving, and spending to reflect the life that God is calling you to live?

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image Credits: Happy New Year and Time to Plan

Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year from all of us at COMPASS! 2016 is going to be a year of continued, new, and exciting conversations. We’ll continue to explore faith, finances, and topics such as debt management, saving, thanksgiving, gratitude, and giving. We’ll also enter into new conversations about shared economies, alternate living situations, pooling resources, and even piecemealing income.

resolutionsTo kick off the year, during January COMPASS Team members and other Millennial guest bloggers will share resolutions, questions, and ideas for financial New Year’s resolutions. To start this month’s series on Financial New Year’s Resolutions, I figured that it would only be fair if I shared some of my own first.

I have to admit, I have never been enthusiastic about New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I have made them and then not followed through:  I’ve just never really made them. I know that they are helpful for some people, but instead of resolutions, I am going to make a few promises to myself. When I promise something, I generally follow through.

  1. I Promise Myself that I Will Be Healthier

This might sound like a generic resolution, and to some degree maybe it is. But for me, this means more than just making sure I work out regularly. Being healthy also means allowing myself space to be most fully and healthy me, emotionally and mentally. 2015 was a wonderful year of growth and opportunity. My plate filled to the brim with great blessings and opportunities as I have piecemealed income and projects. This is exciting but also means that I end up working so many projects that I hardly ever get a full day off during the week. For my health, sanity, and productivity, I am promising myself that will change in 2016. This may mean occasionally saying no to a project that might have provided some extra financing, as well as to continue to make financial commitments for insurance, health care, and regular doctors’ visits. Being proactive and preventative is a promise for health- both physically but also financially.

  1. I Promise Myself that I Will Take Some Time to Breathe

Also related to health, I am starting the year with the promise to give myself a little more “me time” each day for reflection, prayer, moments of gratitude, and vocational restoration. A day off each week away from work and projects is helpful for me to be most productive, but taking a little time to reflect each day also enables me to be my best self whom God has created and called me to be. Without taking this time, I can give in to doubt and stress related to life and finances, while not taking the time to reflect and be grateful for all that God has done and continues to do.

  1. I Promise to include Creativity in My Life

I have found that writing and blogging is a way that I stay healthy and mentally charged. By carving out some time each day to write, I will also be giving myself a chance to reflect and see how I am doing and breathe without focusing on other projects and work that needs my attention. This time allows me to create and write, something that I believe I am called to do as part of my vocation and identity as a Child of God. When done with my blogging and “me time,” I will be even more focused, productive, and ready to dive back into my work for that day, and be able to get more done.

  1. I Promise to Continue to Budget and Save for a Honeymoon and Make it Happen
Happy New Year's from Allison and me in surprisingly Snowy Washington

Happy New Year’s from Allison and me in surprisingly Snowy Washington- being healthy by taking some time to enjoy it together.

My wife Allison and I have been married for nearly five and a half years now. This is the real confession moment: we have not yet gone on a honeymoon. Because of our vocations, studies, and other demands we moved and started seminary (following our faith calling for further education and preparation for ministry) right after getting married. In the meantime, we have created a few different financial savings account pockets, one of which is for our honeymoon. I am promising to myself that not only will we continue to save for this experience, but at least by the end of the year we will have made reservations to make it happen.

  1. I Promise to Give More

As a late 20-something, I know that my wife and I have a long and exciting life and journey ahead. I’m grateful for that, and that’s why we save as much as we do and budget regularly. This year I am promising to build off of that and continue to give more financially. We’re not “crazy wealthy,” but we’re not starving either. We have been more than able to find the ability to continue to pay off our student debt, give towards our faith community and causes we believe in, and save some. I am happy to say that in each year of marriage we have been able to incrementally increase our giving, and I promise that 2016 will continue this trend as we give more of what has been entrusted to our care.

These are five big promises, I admit. But I think that I can keep them. It might mean giving up an occasional early-morning or late-afternoon meeting for a walk or workout, or taking some time that might have been spent elsewhere to collect my thoughts and write some reflections. Overall though, I believe these decisions will make for a healthier, happy, and productive 2016.

What New Year’s resolutions are you making for yourself? What promises are you making to yourself?

Image Credit: Resolutions

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.