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 1

During April, the COMPASS blog is sharing perspectives about environmental stewardship and being eco-friendly on a budget. This week we consider how our decisions about food purchases impact environmental stewardship. Today we learn a little about the sustainable agriculture movement. Later this week we will welcome back regular contributor Dori Zerbe Cornelsen who reflects about how “We are what we eat.”

In a capitalistic society, mass-production of everything—including food—can be thought of as a good thing. New technologies, chemicals, and government policies have reduced the number of farmers and increased the size of farms. The number of farms in Canada decreased by more than 10% between 2006 and 2011. In the US, the number of farms decreased 3% between 2007 and 2012.

However, more attention is being paid to the concerns of this type of farming: topsoil depletion, economic effects of the decline of the family farm, poor living and working conditions for farm laborers, and increasing costs of production. These efforts can be defined as sustainable agriculture.

The University of California-Davis’s Agricultural Sustainability Institute names stewardship of both natural and human resources as important in sustainable agriculture. The Institute says that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

What a box of produce from your local CSA might contain

What a box of produce from your local CSA might contain

Participating in community-supported agriculture (CSA) can be sustainable and budget-friendly. You can buy a membership or subscription from a local farmer and receive produce in season in return. You can learn more about CSAs and search for one near you at www.localharvest.org/csa.

As we attempt to follow Christ’s example, we know that how we practice Christian stewardship is a measure of our faith’s authenticity: our commitment to unity and community, our concern for the needy, and our witness in the world.

Paying attention to how we use what God has given and entrusted us—including how we spend our food dollars—is part of our stewardship footprint.

Image Credit: CSA Box

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.

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

When It’s Hard to be Thankful

During November the COMPASS Blog is sharing reflections about Thanksgiving and digging more deeply into why we give thanks. Today we welcome back regular contributor and Ecumenical Stewardship Center Executive Director and CEO, Marcia Shetler, who reflects about when it’s hard to be thankful. 

thanksgiving3Canada and the US both have national Thanksgiving holidays: the US Thanksgiving Day is November 26. However, on that day not everyone will celebrate or be thankful. Situations that we, our family and friends, and others in the world have experienced or are experiencing range from disturbing to heartbreaking. When it’s hard to be thankful, what can we do?

We can find many accounts in the Bible of persons who had an attitude of gratitude in the midst of difficult circumstances: Paul; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and David, to name a few. Psalm 33 is a psalm of gratitude, giving praise for many things that God has done. It ends this way:

20 We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. (NLT)

The Psalmist suggests that trust in God accompanies thankfulness. While we may doubt God’s care for us when we face difficult circumstances, Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at the Church of the Resurrection in Overland Park, Kansas, writes that “Rejecting God doesn’t change the situation … it only removes the greatest source of hope, help, comfort, and strength we have.”

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield offers eight ways to stay thankful in hard times, including:

  • Find things to be grateful for;
  • Share stories about things you are grateful for;
  • Help others with their needs;
  • Give, even if it seems like your gift is insignificant.

A measure of our faith, and certainly our generosity, is our trust in God. An attitude of scarcity—that we don’t have enough—comes from a lack of trust. Persons who view life with an attitude of abundance can be generous with their time, talents, and resources because they trust God to provide.

Perhaps this song from the Taize Community can be our Thanksgiving hymn:

In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful

In the Lord I will rejoice

Look to God, do not be afraid

Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.

Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.

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: Thanksgiving

How do you talk about faith and finances?

compassHow do you talk about faith and finances? No really, how do you?

In August, Marcia Shetler’s blog post suggested providing a conversation table to share about faith and finances. We can gather ‘round with our families, loved ones, friends, colleagues, fellow faith community members, etc. But, what are we going to talk about? In September, the COMPASS blog will dig deeper into the topic of conversations about money.

3 Millennials who like to talk about faith and finances

A group of Millennials who like to talk about faith and finances.

Our guest bloggers include ministers and foundation staff, who will share guidance and best practices. Conversation ideas from resources profiled on the COMPASS website will be highlighted as well.

As COMPASS’ goal is to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances, here are some suggestions—from a Millennial—about how you might frame those conversations:

 

  • Approach others with genuine curiosity and appreciation– whether someone younger than you, from a different generation; someone older than you; or even someone in your own generation.
  • Ask open-ended questions, as these generally lead to more engaging and life-giving conversations.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about money. It’s a reality for everyone, and Millennials in particular understand this as their generation has had to come to grips with the challenges related to student loan debt.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask what someone believes. Sometimes this may not be the easiest thing to start with, but as the conversation goes, or as future conversations emerge, this may naturally develop. It may also be helpful to imagine or ponder what you see in the person you are talking with, particularly in the way of their gifts, choices, and/or passions. How might these be a reflection of God’s work, call, or mission, or one’s vocation as part of that?
  • Avoid using language- in words, or body language- that might suggest judgment. If you are open, honest, authentic, and inviting, chances are the person you are talking with will be too.

So, how do you talk about faith and finances? As we unpack this question this month, we would also love to hear from you and share your thoughts and perspectives. If you would like to ponder this question and share a reflection, please let me know via a comment here or on Facebook.

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.