A Word to all Recent and soon to be Graduates

Congratulations, graduates! You have studied and grown, and are now ready to be sent out or start new chapters. For some of you, this may mean your first full-time adventure in the working world. For others of you, this may mean moving cross-country. For others, it may mean the transition from one school and degree to another and further study.

Whatever your chapter and transition looks like, congratulations! Your hard work and dedication deserves to be praised.

graduatesMuch has been shared on this blog (and will continue to be shared) to spread light on thinking about faith and finances. COMPASS has and will continue to be a place and resource to think about student debt, the different challenges of finances, and yet the hope and promise of abundance that we share in our collective faith.

Today, I don’t want to spend much time thinking about these challenges and bills—some that you are likely already facing and paying—and others—such as your educational debt—which may become due after deferment in about six months.

Rather, today I want to encourage you to give thanks: to celebrate and be joyful. Give thanks for your focused study. Give thanks for your family, friends, and loved ones who have supported you up to this point. They may have helped buy you dinner, get your study food, be the listening ears to talk through the challenges of life away from home at school, or shoulders to cry on when things didn’t quite go as you had hoped. These people—your network and community—have been a big part of your journey to this graduation. Thank them. Celebrate with them, and allow them to celebrate with you.

Congratulations, graduates! May your discernment and transitions into whatever lies ahead be blessed.

A Personal Word of Thanks

In the spirit of giving thanks, I too wish to give thanks today. I have recently received an exciting call to serve as the new Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In my transition into this new chapter, I will no longer be serving as the Communications Associate for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC).

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way these past 2 years. I am tremendously grateful to Marcia Shetler, the Executive Director/CEO of ESC for this opportunity. I am also excited to share that though I will no longer be serving in this capacity; I will continue as a committee member for COMPASS and ESC and will continue to offer thoughts and perspectives on this blog about once a month as a volunteer contributor. I look forward to continuing the faith and finances conversation with all of you well into the future.

timothy headshotAbout the Author: In addition to these roles and news, Timothy Siburg also currently serves as a congregational mission developer, among a few other roles. He blogs regularly on his own blog as well.

Image Credit: Graduates

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.

We Are What We Eat – Part 2

During April, the COMPASS blog is sharing perspectives about environmental stewardship and being eco-friendly on a budget. Today we welcome back regular contributor Dori Zerbe Cornelsen who reflects about how “We are what we eat.”

It is early spring where I live on the Canadian prairies.  There are just a few crocuses blooming in my otherwise still barren garden.  It’s the time of year when I begin to yearn for colour after a long white winter.

Produce from Metanoia Farmers

Produce from Metanoia Farmers

I also yearn for fresh food greens and veggies, grown locally.  One of the ways we have decided to enjoy fresh local produce in the summer is by participating in a Community Shared Agriculture project called Metanoia Farmers Worker Cooperative.  We buy a half share for the two of us and get to eat whatever the land is producing that week, by the work of hands of farmers we know, from sometime in June into September.

I like that faith is part of the Metanoia Farmers’ motivation.  Here is a description:

“The Metanoia Farmers Worker Cooperative is a group of CMU (Canadian Mennonite University) students and alumni, emerging as farmers motivated by our faith, who use sustainable practices to provide food to urban eaters.  We grow a wide variety of only heirloom vegetables and are developing our seed saving skills to continue to be able to grow these vegetables…The Metanoia Farmers operate as a workers cooperative, practicing consensus decision-making models.  We hope to foster meaningful dialogue while joyfully stewarding God’s gift of the land.”

dori-zerbe-cornelson-220x220I can almost taste the kale now…

About the AuthorDori Zerbe Cornelsen works with Mennonite Foundation of Canada encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Image Credit: Produce from Metanoia Farmers

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.

Managing Debt: Loans and Money in March

As the calendar turns to March, COMPASS is focusing on debt management this month. You will hear perspectives from financial advisors, debt experts, and faith based financial voices as well. As we set the stage for this conversation, it is important to briefly articulate some of the different types of debt we might face.

debtCredit Card Debt

A couple of years ago, about 6 out of every 10 millennials did not have a credit card. Since then, that ratio has changed somewhat. One thing that does seem clear is that millennials as a generational group lack some credit card knowledge, especially as they relate to credit scores.

Student Loan Debt

Among Millennials, student loan debt is a major generational challenge because of the well-documented increase in the cost of education over the past two decades. Natalie Kitroeff recently noted “Four Ways Student Debt is Wreaking Havoc on Millennials.” Natalie notes that:

  • Student debt seems to dampen home buying
  • Young people are delaying starting families
  • Millennials are saving less than they could be
  • College loans make it hard to be financially healthy

How do we manage these and other kinds of debt? How do we faithfully give and live when facing the reality of debt?

These are questions that there aren’t easy answers to. For example, most of the above observations are true for my wife Allison and me. We have found that it is most helpful to remember the reasons for the debt in the first place.

We have yet to buy, or even look for a home because of our educational and vocational plans as we prepare to be a pastor (Allison) and a rostered leader in ministry (me). We have taken on this debt largely because we believe that our education matters, and that we are called to serve in capacities where an education will be invaluable. So in this sense, these loans are and remain an investment on our part in our present and future.

Conversations about Debt

Sandy Crozier, Stewardship Development Director of The Free Methodist Church in Canada

Sandy Crozier, Stewardship Development Director of The Free Methodist Church in Canada

This month COMPASS is beginning a new initiative offering a monthly conversation in real-time on the month’s theme. The first conversation will center on topics related to debt and how to manage it. It will be held on Tuesday March 22nd at 8pm EDT/5pm PDT. Sandy Crozier will be our topic leader. Sign up for the Live Chat at https://stewardshipresources.org/compass-live-chats. If you have questions that you would like to discuss, please let us know in the comments, via Facebook or Twitter, or by email.

What questions do you have about debt and managing it?

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 Credit: Debt

What is your money, debt management, and generosity type?

During February the COMPASS blog is sharing some Faithful Fun with Finances. Today, we welcome back regular contributor Beryl Jantzi to the blog who shares about and asks, “What is your money, debt management, and generosity type?”

It’s been suggested that Americans fall into one of four groups when it comes to how we manage money. Maybe as you review these four models you can identify your own and decide what changes if any may be helpful moving forward.  Here’s what they are:

The Perfectionists: 19% of Americans

These consumers know the exact route to their financial goals, whether they developed the map themselves or sought a professional financial planner. Not only do they have a household budget, which includes retirement savings and insurance, but they work toward specific short and long term savings goals.

The Dreamers: 38% of Americans

Most consumers fall in this category. They have some goals worked out and have an idea of what they’d like to achieve. Dreamers may have savings plans for retirement or education, but they haven’t pulled everything together to form an overarching plan.

The Procrastinators: 33% of Americans

These consumers put forth the bare minimum and might get to the rest of planning later. Most in this group have a budget or plan to address savings goals, but not both. Their comprehensive financial planning behaviors don’t differ much from wanderers, but some Procrastinators keep a written budget, and they tend to avoid racking up credit card debt.

The Wanderers: 10% of Americans

In this group, people float from bill to bill without any intentional plan. They tend to live in the moment without much concern for the future. They may have debt but probably couldn’t tell you the total debt they have.

How do you manage your money?

How do you manage your money?

Knowing our predisposition for managing money is a good start to knowing what we may need to do to get to the next step.  Most of us will need to move one step at a time father than leap from a Wanderer to a Perfectionist.

Questions to ponder:

  • Where do you see yourself most closely identified by the descriptions stated above?
  • If you don’t like the label used to identify your style what different word would you use?

Your generosity will be most fruitful when you have a clear understanding about how God is calling you to share what has been entrusted to you.

Are you a generous wanderer? Is your generosity usually based on the whim of the moment?

Are you a generous procrastinator? Do you have good intentions about giving, but never get around to it?

Are you a generous dreamer? You give, but you could be more disciplined and focused with your giving?

Are you a generous perfectionist? Do you feel confident about your giving habits now, and have plans to continue to increase it in days to come?

In the book of Philippians, Paul writes,

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12, NRSV).

What small steps can you take today to move from one money management and generosity type to another from the examples described above?

Source: Household financial planning survey 2013

Beryl Jantzi and familyAbout the Author: Beryl Jantzi currently serves as Stewardship Education Director for Everence, a Christian-based, member-owned financial services organization which is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and other churches. 

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 Credit: Piggy bank.

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.

Young Adults, Faith, and Finances: Provide a Conversation Table

One of the first COMPASS blog posts by Timothy Siburg described the monthly Saturday breakfasts that he and his wife Allison have to talk about their finances. In the most recent COMPASS blog post, Adam Copeland, new director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary, describes a similar approach in his household.

Kitchen Table

How do you provide a conversation table?

In 2012, Adam wrote an article for Christian Century in which he muses that it’s difficult for many churches to build relationships with the Millennial generation (born 1981 – 1997), let alone have meaningful conversations about Christian generosity with them. The first step in this process may be to provide a conversation table. But what topics might get the discussion started?

In his Christian Century article, Adam mentions four characteristics of Millennials’ culture and how it relates to stewardship and generosity:

  • They are concerned about the environment: 20/30-somethings haven’t known a world without global warming as a going concern. They care deeply about the earth, buy “green,” factor the environment into their life choices, etc.
  • They like to give to specific causes: Millennials want understandable details about needs and assurances that their gifts will make a difference. Adam notes that his young adult friends who run races for charities raise a lot of money.
  • They live in a digital world, but communicate and make decisions based on relationships: When Adam led a local young adult ministry and made a related Facebook event invite, friends with hundreds of Facebook friends would often “like” the event and share it on their wall. Rarely did they actually come to the event. What were these social media users doing? Being good stewards of their social media presence, getting the word out about an event they supported even if they couldn’t attend in person.
  • They are invested in many things, but probably not the church: 20/30-somethings give to their communities and are invested in their tribe, whatever it may be, even if it’s not the church. If the church can tell a meaningful story about its ministry and show how it benefits the community, you have more of a possibility of engaging Millennials’ support.
How do you engage young adults like these in your stewardship plans and ministry?

Money conversations can be different for Millennials (like those pictured here), because their economic situation is quite different than their elders in church.

Churches also should remember that money conversations can be difficult for Millennials, because their economic situation is quite different than their elders’. For example, according to a US Government report, their wage-earning power will be affected by the recent economic downturn for years to come, and they are less likely to be homeowners. Many are trying to pay off years of accumulated student debt. Forbes says that more than a quarter of them have fallen behind on paying their bills, and as a group they have the lowest credit scores of any generation. The Canadian PR Firm Citizen Relations reports that Canadian Millennials experience increasing pressure to spend via social media, with 56 percent of them feeling driven to live beyond their means.

If you are helping to lead or implement stewardship opportunities for young adults at your church, you have an opportunity to provide space for conversations, learning, and listening about tough and emotional topics, such as faith and finances.

  • Consider setting your conversation table outside the church building and at times other than Sunday mornings. How about a coffee shop? Or an ice cream parlor? Or a casual restaurant with a room for conversation?
  • Leverage the social power of the young adults you know: have them help you with the invitations. They’re the social media experts: use that to your advantage and give them responsibility.
  • Use your table as an opportunity for intergenerational discussions with selected members of your congregation. As a generation that loves interaction, they are looking for stories of financial wisdom from real persons.
  • Remember that the best conversation is not a one-way transmission of information, but a dialog in which all participants benefit. Think about what you might learn from the young adults at your table.

Who knows where the conversation may lead?

P.S. Need some resources to help you engage in conversation? The COMPASS web page has links to videos, online resources, and book reviews.

marcia shetlerAbout the Author: Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, which along with COMPASS provides a variety of resources to support generous giving and faithful stewardship. Visit the Ecumenical Stewardship Center website at www.stewardshipresources.org to learn more.

 

Image Credit: Kitchen Table.

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.

Meaningful Gifts- Stories Remembered While Packing

Today’s post is one more in the spirit of “Christmas in July,” the guiding theme for this month on the COMPASS blog.

Boxes, boxes, and more boxes... Packing, packing, and more packing...

Boxes, boxes, and more boxes… Packing, packing, and more packing…

I currently find myself in the midst of more boxes than anything else. My wife Allison and I are busy packing as we’ll be moving soon, leaving Minnesota to return to the Pacific Northwest so Allison can begin her pastoral internship.

As I have been packing, I have come across a few things which have been gifts to us over the years, and they have me thinking about meaningful gifts. Most of them aren’t special or meaningful to me because of their fiscal value (if they have any). The stories that go along with the gifts and the memories they have given have a value far beyond their monetary worth.

Here are a few stories and memories of my most valued gifts:

  • I am a pianist and vocalist. I love to work out my stress on the piano, and because of this I have quite a bit of sheet music that I’ve been packing. Last week as I was going through some of it I came across a song that had been written and dedicated to me by my good friend Tom. The gift of that song, a thank you for serving in leadership in a particular congregation, brought me to tears when I was surprised with it in worship a couple years ago. Finding the music again brought back many memories and joys from those years.
  • Christmas in JulyThis morning I was sorting through many of our holiday decorations, especially our Christmas ones. I wanted to make sure that our nativity scenes were all packed snugly and comfortably so that they hopefully will make the trip unscathed. I took particular care of our largest one, a crèche that was a wedding gift from my Grandma. It was the scene I grew up playing with, and when Allison and I got married my Grandma said I should have it. I’ve been taking care of it ever since because it brings back many memories.
  • Last weekend I was packing some of my jazz CDs and some baseball things. I credit my love for both in a large part to my other Grandma and Grandpa. The gift of great conversations about how the Mariners are doing, dreaming about what it will be like when they make it to the World Series (sadly, which definitely won’t be this year), and listening to the melodies and improvisation of Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and many others, are areas of interest which I share with my grandparents. And they bring back great memories.
  • It’s pretty easy to tell what Allison and I do for a living based on what we’re packing. Clearly the things we have the most of are books. We’re definitely life-long learners, and I am grateful for the gift of a deep understanding and appreciation of vocation which was instilled in me growing up by my parents. Thanks Mom and Dad!

As I write this today, I have to admit I’m grateful for many gifts which don’t fit in boxes like the ones I’m packing. Of course, many of these things help me remember the gifts of faith, hope, and love that we have in God. Gifts with the most worth in our lives are often holy moments in life that come unexpectedly. Just today I received an email and call expressing great news of a miracle. A family friend battling a terrible form of cancer just found out that thanks to prayers from all over, and her willingness to hit her pancreatic cancer head-on, her cancer mass is gone. It hasn’t just been reduced, it’s gone. That sort of thing doesn’t just happen. It’s a miracle, I believe. And for that, and so much more, I am giving thanks today.

What gifts with valuable memories stand out to you? What stories are attached to them? And for what do you give thanks today?

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.