Millennials: Should We Give You Credit?

-Marcia Shetler

There’s a lot of talk about millennial debt in the media, and there’s a lot of millennial debt to talk about. About a year ago, Business Insider reported that US millennials held about a third of the country’s consumer debt. Fourteen percent of Canadians with significant debt are between the ages of 18 and 29.

pexels-photo-462368.jpegIn the US, millennials’ experiences with finances and debt have influenced their thoughts about credit. They observed their families’ struggles during the 2008 financial crisis. Many of them have considerable debt from student loans and have not been able to find jobs that help them repay it quickly. And in the US, the 2009 CARD act has made qualifying for credit cards more difficult. Therefore, US millennials are approaching credit differently than previous generations. Less than a third of them have a credit card. In Canada, 95 percent of Canadian Millennials have at least one.

Millennials also have more methods for money exchange available than ever before. In the US, 58 percent still prefer to get paid with cash, according to shopify.com. Many still write checks occasionally. Most of those who don’t use credit cards use debit cards. Across North America, payment apps are becoming more popular.

But with vast amounts of knowledge and experiences accessible to them, millennials on both sides of the border have poor financial literacy. Only eight percent in each country have a high knowledge about money matters, including credit. This lack of understanding—along with high debt, little savings, and being at the low end of the pay scale—makes the financial world a fearful one for many millennials. In fact, 33 percent of US millennials named credit card debt as the scariest aspect of their everyday lives.

People fear what they don’t understand and what they can’t conquer. This month, the COMPASS Initiative gives you several opportuntites to conquer your fears about credit by increasing your understanding:

  • Get great insights every week on this blog and on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Join us for a Live Chat with Denise Wayman, regional operations manager for Everence, on Thursday, March 29, 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, 1:00 p.m. Central time, Noon Mountain time, and 11:00 a.m. Pacific time.

So join us, and take some credit for reducing your fear and increasing your understanding about your finances!

About the Author 

Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

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, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Faith and Generosity: The Connecting Thread

-Marcia Shetler

fabric-1031932_1920Recently the Barna Group and Thrivent Financial partnered to produce a study called The Generosity Gap, which explores attitudes, understandings, and practices related to generosity. Pastors and church attendees from across denominations and generations participated in the study. Ninety-six percent said generosity is important to them, and that Christians should be generous to reflect God’s character by showing love to others, to give back in appreciation for God’s generosity toward us, and to become more like Christ.  An attitude and a discipline were the words both groups used the most to describe generosity.

These survey participants, at least, seem to have a good understanding of what it means to be generous. Some might claim that a generous spirit is part of our nature as God’s creation. In their blog for Spirituality and Practice, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat note that generosity is a fundamental teaching in most, if not all, of the world’s religions.

grass-2563424According to Christian historian Tertullian, in the early days of Christianity the generosity of the disciples set them apart. In her book Beyond Belief, Elaine Pagels describes it this way: “Unlike members of other clubs and societies that collected dues and fees to pay for feasts, members of the Christian ‘family’ contributed money voluntarily to a common fund to support orphans abandoned in the streets and garbage dumps. Christian groups brought food, medicine, and companionship to prisoners forced to work in mines, banished to prison islands, or held in jail. Christians even bought coffins and dug graves to bury the poor and criminals, whose corpses would otherwise lie unburied beyond the city gates. . . such generosity, which ordinarily could be expected only from one’s own family, attracted crowds of newcomers to Christian groups, despite the risks.”

crochet-patterns-2092645_1920While the recent Barna study names differences in thoughts about generosity between denominations, generations, and vocations, I think there is a connecting thread between the centuries-old actions of the early Christians and the responses of the study participants. Christian generosity at its best is not just transactional: it is transformational. The early Christians were known by their care for the poor, the sick, and the grieving, possessing the characteristics named in the Barna study: attitudes and disciplines that in the spirit of Christ’s example showed love to others in gratitude for the grace they had been given and continued to receive.

Are the ways you are generous testimonies of your faith and blessings to the world?

Stay connected with COMPASS this month for more guidance about generosity:

  • Get great insights every week on this blog and on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Join us for a Live Chat with Jacqueline Painter, a financial advisor for Everence, on Thursday, February 1, 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, Noon Central time, 11:00 a.m. Mountain time, and 10:00 a.m. Pacific time.

About the Author 

Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

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, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

This Year, Resolve to Be Generous

This month, the COMPASS Initiative is exploring the connections of faith, finance, and generosity.

water pitcherGenerosity is connected to faith. The call to “have a generous and charitable spirit”—as James Clark, a contributor with the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics defines it in his blog post “Generosity: More Than Money Can Buy”—can be found throughout the Bible. Consider these words of wisdom from Proverbs: “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water” (11:24-25, NRSV). And whether they are about considering the growth of a mustard seed, blessing five loaves and two fish, speaking words of welcome to a tax collector, or having a conversation with a young man of means, Jesus’s words and actions often focus on generosity.

credit-squeeze-522549_1280 (1)Our generosity and our financial practices inform each other. Sometimes our generosity is impeded because of our lack of financial planning and/or our attachment to our consumer culture. But in their book American Generosity: Who Gives and Why, Patricia Snell Herzog and Heather E. Price say that generosity develops a healthy awareness of your own material abundance and of the needs of others.

corn croppedGenerosity is about more than money—and about more than 10%. We may debate about how much financial giving is enough. In Giving magazine Volume 16, Marc Kirchoff references the biblical story of the widow’s mite. “The poor widow knew nothing about the debate, or she ignored it. She gave all she had—even all she had to live on. Jesus affirmed her action as the standard. God may not care so much about our 10 percent as the 90 percent. That is, God cares about how we use all our resources.” And perhaps you have heard generosity defined as time, talent, and treasure. When we start to think about it, there are unlimited ways we can be generous. James Clark says, “We can never point to a meager bank account as an excuse for why we cannot give.”

So stay connected with COMPASS this month for more guidance about generosity:

  • Get great insights every week on this blog and on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Join us for a Live Chat with Jacqueline Painter, a financial advisor for Everence, on Thursday, February 1, 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, Noon Central time, 11:00 a.m. Mountain time, and 10:00 a.m. Pacific time.

About the Author 

Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

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, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Making Space for Truth and Reconciliation

By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

winter-2968505_1280

The carol, ‘Twas in the moon of wintertime, is very familiar to Canadians but it is likely little known elsewhere. Also called The Huron Carol, it was written between 1626 and 1649 by Father John de Brébeuf, a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit). Brébeuf lived among the Wendat indigenous nation which the French called the Huron. Originally written in the Wendat-Iroquois language, the words were set to a French folk melody.

After having been lost for a time, this carol was first translated from its original language into French and later into English. The most popular English version was written by Jesse Edgar Middleton in 1926. As blogger Andrea Shalay notes, the original intent of the author seems to have been lost in translation. In the English, romanticized images of indigenous life are crammed into an imaginary nativity scene not present in the original. And the English version muddies different indigenous cultures inserting the Algonquian words, Gitchi Manitou (Great Spirit), into the lyrics.

Between 2008 and 2015, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada worked to create a comprehensive response to the colonial history of residential schools in Canada. The residential school system was set up to assimilate indigenous children by separating them from their families. The legacy of harm caused by this state and church sponsored system has affected generations of indigenous people in Canada.

With the TRC as a backdrop, singing this carol becomes an uncomfortable experience. Are those of us who sing this carol perpetuating a colonial attitude toward indigenous communities in Canada? How do we come to terms with the fact that the church willingly participated in the residential schools system to make another cultural group become like us? These questions seem to be counter to the coming of Jesus, the Suffering Servant and Prince of Peace.nativity-2570017_1920

I continue to love this carol and enjoy singing it, in part because of the discomfort itevokes in me. It seems to me that the coming of Jesus wasn’t meant to be grand and comfortable. This carol reminds me that we need to be jarred from all the cultural trappings of Christmas we’ve so grown accustomed to.

As I wonder about Jesus’ coming in the context of truth and reconciliation in Canada, I want to embrace the way of Jesus that is radiated from him at the end of this carol – the way of beauty, peace and joy. I think these are good values with which to judge all my relationships as I seek to walk in the way of Jesus.

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free, O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy who brings you beauty peace and joy.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Hear a version of this hymn sung by Tom Jackson, indigenous actor and philanthropist:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCa6BM6-F24

About the Author

dori_zc-abundance-profile-pictureDori Zerbe Cornelsen is the Director of Development for Canadian Mennonite University.

Image credits: pixabay.com

 

Hope you have a Debt-Free Christmas!

By Sandy Crozier
box-2953722_1280
Christmas is a time for giving. It is a time for thinking of others. A time for expressing the
joy and hope we have inside because of God’s perfect gift to us.

Gift giving, holiday parties and family gatherings are all good things–but when they become the focus of the season, many people experience stress, guilt, and pressure to spend what they do not have–as well as the debt that follows. With the Canadian Debt-to-Income ratio hitting 150% early this year, many people are still paying off last Christmas (if not the one before too).

Somehow, we have bought into the cultural lie that we have to spend a lot for Christmas gifts to be socially acceptable. There are now guidelines on who and how much to buy for everyone from your boss to your mailman.

Sadly, many feel that even if they are completely broke, they can still spend thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts—and believe it is not only their right to do so, but that they are chain-1027864_1280obligated to do it. For those living on tight budgets, who have been as careful as they know how to be, and have a Budget or Spending Plan–the pressure to overspend at Christmas is still there.

And it is not just money that we overspend. There is also the mounting pressure to attend every event, party, rehearsal, and gathering. Saying yes to these will surely over tax our time and emotions. At the very time of the year when relationships could and should be of highest priority, over-activity and overspending combine to become a toxic potion that effect our relationships with God and each other.

The Christmas story begs us to see it as far more than a peak event in December that is soon followed by the reality filled with bills we cannot pay. We should be celebrating the greatest gift of all–God with us. But it should not come with any more debt–other than the debt of love to God and each other.

Tips to having a Debt-Free Christmas

  1. Make a commitment to NO NEW DEBT at Christmas – Overspending increases stress, not joy, to the season.
  2. Set a budget for your holiday spending and stick to it! Make a list of everyone you are buying a gift for and what you can afford to spend–and don’t go shopping without the list. You will be far less likely to buy on impulse.
  3. Save BEFORE you Shop – Many people find it is necessary to open a completely separate account for this purpose. You can set yourself up to have an automatic transfer of funds to a savings account and come Christmas time you’ll have money ready for shopping.
  4. Pay Cash / Avoid Credit – One of the best ways to stick to a budget is to pay cash for everything. Take out the total dollars you can afford to spend over the holidays. Put the money in an envelope and pay for all your gifts from that single source.
  5. Shop Early – Last minute shopping can be expensive. Stores may be out of the items on your list. When you are tired and frustrated, it is easy to make costly impulse buys just to cross that name off your list.
  6. Be Creative – There are a lot of ways to give without spending any or very little thought-2123970_1280money. Handmade crafts, cookies or jars of preserves are always appreciated. You can give your time/service (babysitting, cleaning, home repair, etc.) Use reward points gift cards (movie pass or restaurant). For those hard to shop relatives who do not need anything – consider giving a gift in their name of a goat or cow through World Vision or Samaritan’s purse or another mission that is important to them.
  7. Get out of the house & enjoy the season. There are lots of lights, community events, carol sings and more that you can enjoy for free with your family that focus on the season and not your wallet.
  8. Model a sane schedule – Avoid overtaxing your health and relationships by limiting how many commitments you make. And when you do feel stressed and pressured to do more – stop and take a deep breath. Do what really needs to be done and then choose to take the second deep breath of God’s Spirit. Take this moment to reflect on your perspective and ask God’s Spirit to guard your heart and renew a right spirit in you. Bill Bright used to call this “Spiritual Breathing.” Remember – Christmas is not about the gifts, it is about “The Gift” to each one of us – one that costs us nothing but cost God everything.


About the Author

Sandy CrozierSandy Crozier is Stewardship Development Director of The Free Methodist Church in Canada.

Image credits: pixabay.com

What Really Matters

By Rev. Morgan Dixon

christmas-1856982_1280
Many of my earliest CHRISTmas joys involve the singing of hymns and the playing of special music. My uncle would play the piano and we would all gather around and sing along making melodies and memories that would last for a lifetime. These hymns were at the crux of my understanding of the CHRISTmas story. They helped to form my own personal theology and appreciation of the nativity and birth of Jesus.

Over time as I have lived through life, those words of assurance and intention ring ever more important as I seek to navigate in this world of confusion. The Advent messages of HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE during this commercialized season are ever the more needful. The hymns help re-member us to the body of Christ when feeling out of sync and distant. They help ground our faith and reassure our confidence in a coming Savior.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear!

crib-1094317_1280Amid everything coming our way encouraging us to buy and consume, let us focus on the
simple things: things that cannot be purchased or wrapped and placed under a tree but have profound and lasting staying power. Recall the memories. Cherish the times with loved ones. Share Christ’s message of HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE through a simple smile or random act of kindness. Use this time to focus on what really matters.

Joy To The World, The Lord Is Come!

Lord, my prayer is that we are able to be good stewards of the CHRISTmas story and allow it to inform our Christian walk throughout the year. Inspire our hearts with each melody and remind of your reason for coming. Help us to bring Your hope, peace, joy and love wherever we go.

About the Author

Rev Morgan E DixonRev. Morgan Dixon is an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves as the Church Administrator & Youth Minister at DuPage AME Church in Lisle, Illinois. She also works with the denomination’s district stewardship department as its Media Director.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Abide with Me

By Daniel Hazel

The Christmas season is, to borrow the cliché, the most wonderful time of the year. It is filled with opportunities for families to reunite. It is a chance to break out of the drudgery of our everyday routine. The Advent season is a time when we are reminded of hope, joy, peace, and love, and that Christ is Emmanuel—God with us.

christmas-2919725_1280Christmas can also be difficult. It can be hard to feel welcome to express anything other than joy and happiness. Whether due to financial troubles, the death of a loved one (recent or long past), or something else entirely, the holidays can be discouraging and challenging. It can be hard to feel like Christ is with us.

I write this in the midst of the death of my grandmother. During this time, it is hard to find language for grief. It’s Christmas time, and Christ’s birth is on everyone’s mind, but the pain is real. However, the hymn “Abide with Me,” written by Henry Francis Lyte in 1847, provides helpful words. I love this sobering hymn with deep passages. It is a beautiful poem and has a wonderful tune. It was actually written and revised at the threshold of Lyte’s death. While this hymn is most often used in the church calendar around Lent or Pentecost, I believe it also has a place during Advent and Christmas time. It invites the worshiper to express hurt.

(The Brigham Young University’s men choir preformance of Abide with Me is a beautiful arrangement which allows for meditating on the lyrics and allows the listener to freely contemplate.)

“Abide with Me”

Verse 1
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens Lord, with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Verse 2
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Verse 3
I need your presence every passing hour
What but your grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like yourself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

Verse 4
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness
Where is death’s sting?
Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Verse 5
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies
Haven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee
In life, in death, o Lord, abide with me.

Lyte writes for an occasion like a family’s first gathering after hardship. It has given candle-2905395_1280language for grief as my family works through the death of my grandmother, and speaks to anyone who has painful memories or difficult situations arise during the holidays. No matter what is happening for you this Christmas, Lyte’s words can speak to you.

Take, for example, “Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou, who changest not, abide with me!” It is a line that is entirely destitute. There have been many times in my life when I realized that everything was different. The passing of my grandmother has certainly been one of them. It has affected everyone in the family, it has changed family dynamics, and it can be a hard reality to grasp, but a reality we have to come to terms with eventually.

The words, “The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide!” is a cry for help amongst grief and pain. It is a cry to feel the presence of God. Even if you aren’t dealing with having financial struggles, hurt among family, or a family member’s death, the holidays and Christmas is a busy time, and it can be hard to know and feel the presence of God. The hymn is a constant prayer for the Divine to be near and stand beside us.

What seems most important is how the hymn centers the singer with the Divine, and gives an assurance of faith. At the end of verse 3, Lyte writes, “Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.” Even though we are surrounded by death, heartbreak, and sorrow, we have assurance through Christ, our Lord. Through darkness, tears, and hardship, Christ stays the same. Through light, joy, and good times, Christ abides with us.

About the Author

Daniel_Hazel_photoDaniel Hazel is the Worship and Creative Pastor at First Christian Church in Aurora, Ill., where he lives with his wife, Emma, and their cat, Maisy. They enjoy reading together and escaping the city by taking day trips to hike and explore. To see too many pictures of their cat, you can find Daniel on Instagram at daniel.hazel and on Twitter at _daniel_hazel_

Image credits: pixabay.com