How to Give More During Lent (and Beyond) – Part 2

By Matt DeBall

church-768613_1280 copy

We began this month with an introduction post by Marcia Shelter that invited us to 
consider how we can “give more” during Lent—taking a step beyond the traditional trend of “giving something up” for Lent. Two weeks ago, I invited you to do a self-inventory of your time, possessions, and budget to consider what you can put aside or change for Lent that could allow for the capacity to give more. Last week, Timothy Siburg shared a great reflection about how he has taken on something new for Lent this year. This week we will explore how to take practical steps to move forward and give more during Lent.

Taking a path of simplicity and generosity, especially in our world today, is not always an easy task. With many demands (some very important, some not so much) on our time, energy, and resources, it’s easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of a busy life and miss the opportunity to live in a way that best honors God and shows love to those around us. The season of Lent invites us to intentionally consider all that is happening in our lives and to put some things aside to more fully focus on the work of Jesus through his death and resurrection as well as the work that God continues to do in us and in the world.

A helpful first step toward living a more generous life is considering how you spend or share your time, energy, possessions, and money. For help to do this, feel free to check out the first part of this post. After doing a careful assessment of these aspects of our lives, we can then move forward and make changes to be more generous. Here are a few thoughts to help you consider how to give more:

1) Give more time – Is there a member of your family, faith community, or neighborhood who is in a rough season? Is there a way that you could offer help or simply a listening ear to show God’s love to them? Is there a local charity or community group that does great work and whom could benefit from your service? Is there an initiative at box-18749_1280your church that you are passionate about but have not yet given a try? All of these are questions that can help you share more of your time.

2) Give more money – Have you noticed any purchases like drive-thru coffee, eating out that you could replace with cheaper alternatives for Lent (or longer)? Do you have a phone plan or TV package that is more complex (and expensive) than you need? These cost savings may not amount to significant savings, but every bit we can decrease in our regular expenses allows us the flexibility and peace of mind to be more generous. In cutting down non-essential costs, what ministry of your church or initiative in your community could benefit from your support?

3) Give away or share more possessions – Now is the perfect time for spring cleaning.
Are there any items which you rarely or never use (clothes, tools, non-perishable foods, books, or other lightly worn objects) which you could give to someone in need or share with a local charity? You may also want to consider selling nicer clothes to a second-hand store and donating the money you receive to an organization in your community. Does gratitude-1201945_1280someone
in your neighborhood attend the same church or community events as you? And could carpooling be
a valuable option for both of you? Considering these
ideas may help you become a better steward of what
God has given you.

4) BONUS – Give more of yourself – After minimizing non-essential drains on our time, energy, and money, we not only have more of these items to give, but in general, we have more of ourselves to give. When our schedules
are less full with non-essential fillers, our living spaces
are less cluttered, and our minds are less busy, we can be more fully present in our times of rest (whether alone or with family) as well as in moments of sharing and serving others.

Though making changes can be difficult, it’s remarkable how small adjustments can make a big difference. As you consider how God may be leading you to be more generous, we hope you will feel renewed in this Lenten season and beyond.

About the Author

m-deball-9-2016Matt DeBall is the COMPASS Communications Coordinator for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. He also serves as Coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary of Lombard, Illinois and a BA in Communication Arts from Judson University of Elgin, Illinois. He loves running, reading, and napping. He and Chelsea live in Northern Illinois with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, and attend the First Baptist Church of Aurora.

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’ve read? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Keeping Your College Years Affordable- At Least 7 Ideas (PART 2)

By Timothy Siburg

Last week I shared a few ways to save money during your college years. Here are more helpful ways I discovered to make college more affordable.

Sharing Responsibilities

If you find yourself living off campus or in an noodlestew-1737476_1280on-campus apartment where you are not on a full or regular meal plan, that likely means you will need to cook. Between you and your apartment mates, devise a cooking schedule where you take turns cooking for each other once or twice a week. This will help save on costs and work. Also, think about how to share responsibilities for cleaning the bathrooms, kitchen, vacuuming, etc. Having a plan can make life more enjoyable, avoid conflict, and in some cases, save you time and money.

Furniture and Furnishings

Especially if you are living on campus, dorm rooms have become so ornate in the past few years. It’s not unheard of, to see people spending upwards of a couple thousand dollars to

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The bookshelves my Grandpa, Dad, and I built as they appeared holding my bed up during my first year of college, with my keyboard and some pictures on bulletin boards below.

furnish their room and make it feel like home. If you are doing that, my advice, make sure that you can use the same things throughout your college years (and ideally longer) to make the investment worth it. If you are not planning on keeping everything, then I would always caution about that kind of spending.

In terms of stewardship, look at second hand or homemade options when possible. When I was in college, I wanted to maximize the space in my room, so my Grandpa and Dad helped me build two book cases in my grandpa’s wood shop, which also were strong and sturdy to support and loft the school provide bed on top of them. (In fact, they were much stronger and more sturdy than the school’s provided loft system.) To this day, these bookcases are holding many of my wife’s and my books, and have moved across the country at least three times over the past 11 years.

Activities on and Off Campus

Take advantage of opportunities. On campus, free events are often advertised which can be a meaningful study break, community building, and even entertaining experience. As a student on campus, you can often get into concerts, performances, speeches, and athletic games and competitions for free (or at reduced rates) simply for being a student. This can be a great way to support your friends and roommates. And off campus, many local places like movie theaters, skating rinks and more, have reduced student rates. All you likely need for these offers, is a valid student ID card.

Study Abroad Experiences

rome-study-abroad

When studying abroad in Italy, you have to go and visit the Coliseum in Rome.

One of my favorite parts of college was the opportunity to study abroad in Italy, and tour and perform with my college’s choir across much of Eastern Europe and the United States. Studying abroad was fantastic, but it can be pricey. Look for scholarships, and with any travel, plan well ahead. There can be discounts for being a student to help with travel costs, and if you look for them, the same sort of tips above related to events and experiences can apply. The experience is well worth it, and will serve you well long past college, if you save and plan for it.

Those are at least seven ideas I have based on my own experiences for ways to keep your college years affordable. What ideas do you have?

About the Author

timothy headshotTimothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a Deacon in the ELCA, and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison serves as an ELCA pastor, and together with their cat Buddy, they reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy attended college at Pacific Lutheran University, and graduate school at the Claremont Graduate University and Luther Seminary. Timothy can also be found on TwitterFacebook, and on his blog.

Image credits: Timothy Siburg, pixabay.com

Finding Your Enough: Some Practical Suggestions

By Marcia Shetler

In his book Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity, Rev. Adam Hamilton observes that contentment and simplicity go hand in hand.“There comes a point when we have ehamster-wheelnough stuff,” he says, “and everything above and beyond that level only creates stress. When I think of the stress created by our relentless pursuit of stuff, I think of a hamster running on a wheel. The hamster gets on the wheel, not knowing where it is going. It starts running faster and faster until one of two things happens: either it flies off the wheel into the side of the cage, exhausted, or the hamster wheel breaks. That is the image that comes to mind when I look at current consumerism trends. We are like a hamster on a wheel. We really don’t know where we are going, but we are sure everybody else does; so we run faster and faster to keep up. Eventually, something is sure to break–the system or us or both.”

Here are five practical suggestions from Rev. Hamilton’s book to help you transition from the hamster wheel to taking positive steps that will make a difference as you find your enough.

#1:  Reduce your consumption by setting tangible goals.

  • Reduce your trash consumption by using canvas bags when you go grocery shopping and to refuse any extra packaging.
  • Grab only one or two napkins, as opposed to a handful, when you eat at a fast-food restaurant.
  • If you are buying a new car, aim to improve fuel economy over your existing car by at least 10 percent.
  • Reduce your utilities usage by 10 percent by setting the thermostat back a couple of degrees when you are away during the day and asleep at night.

#2:  Before making a purchase, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” and “Why do I want this?”

  • Use the twenty-four hour-rule. When you see something you think you must have, wait twenty-four hours before making the purchase. If you still feel you should buy the item after waiting a full day, go back and get it.

#3:  Use something up before buying something new.

  • Wait until a replacement is truly necessary.
  • Take good care of the things you buy and use them until they are empty, broken, or worn out.
  • Buy things that are made to last, and, when buying things that have a short lifespan, spend your money wisely.
  • Take better care of your furniture, appliances, and other things around the house. Resole your shoes. Mend rips and tears and make repairs.
  • Remind yourself that you don’t always need to have new things. If you feel something is really outdated, keep it for an extra six months or year before replacing it.
  • Sell or donate things that still work.

#4:  Plan low-cost entertainment that enriches.bench-1031398_1920-cropped

  • Plan entertainment that’s simple and cheap.
  • Remember that a memorable vacation can be simply relaxing and fellowship with family and friends.

#5:  Ask yourself, ”Are there major changes that would allow me to simplify my life?”

  • If your car is already paid off, consider keeping it for another year or two before buying another one and re-starting another debt obligation.
  • Consider downsizing your home.
  • Get rid of intangibles you rarely or never use, like club memberships.

Rev. Hamilton says, “Remember, if you cannot do all the things God is calling you to do and you’re unable to find joy in your life, perhaps it’s time to simplify in some major ways.” Good advice for life in general, and especially as you find your enough.

About the Author

marcia shetlerMarcia Shetler became the Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center in March 2011. 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.

Image credits: pixabay.com

New Engine, New Tires & Luke – Faith in the face of debt

By Timothy Siburg
car-1564300_1920

Student loans? Broken down cars? How am I ever going to pay this off? Those are some pretty normal reactions to debt, and ones we have heard a little bit about this past month on the COMPASS blog.

What strikes me though as I think about these questions, is a reminder of the way God is present even in the face of our stress, uncertainty, doubt, and fear, all of which can surface when thinking about money and debt.

The Gospel of Luke is full of stories and parables from Jesus about money, wealth, poverty, and debt. For example, there is the confusing parable of the Dishonest Manager found in Luke 16:1-13.

In this story we hear of a manager who has been called to account for his business. In the face of what sounds like the manager’s certain firing, he goes about reducing the amount owed by different individuals in the community to the manager’s master. This is something that certainly could be praised, in that those oppressed and marginalized by debt were getting some of it forgiven. Of course, the story is much more complicated than that.

It’s not as likely in our daily life that someone will come along and just because they can, reduce the amount of debt we owe. If you are assuming that is going to happen for you, I wish you well, but I wouldn’t advise you to plan and budget that way.

Debt is a reality of life. It doesn’t need to be a crushing one, however. It only has power, like money, when we give it that power. We can certainly live in fear of it, if we are not careful. And unexpected and big expenses can help lead us to be in fear.

hand-truck-564242_1920A couple of days ago, my wife and I faced one of the downsides of moving across country from Washington to Nebraska. My wife Allison went to turn the car on in the morning, and every warning light started to say hello to her on the dashboard. As we suspected, our car needed a new battery. That’s not all that surprising, since we have shared one car between the two of us for our six years of marriage, and it’s been a few years and a couple cross-country moves since getting a new battery.

Unfortunately, one of the other downsides of moving, wear, and tear is that your car might also need new tires, plus its next regular oil change. So, with new tires, fresh oil, and a new battery, we spent a bit more this week on our car than we like to do in one day.

This could easily have led us into despair and debt. Thankfully, we budget for such days as this, so it wasn’t that bad. But interestingly, there is another faith element to this.

A few days earlier we had received a refund check in the mail for the balance of Allison’s seminary cost, as she graduated from seminary and actually had money left on her account in her favor. We didn’t think much of the check at the time. The day after the car was running like new, we remembered that check. It was just about the exact cost of all of the car expenses. Sometimes I think God truly has a sense of humor. It’s experiences like this that remind me of just how much abundance we live in and have, thanks to our abundant God.

What makes confronting the reality of debt—whether student debt, housing mortgages, car loans, etc.—possible is the reminder that God is with us, and wants us to live life abundantly. Living abundantly doesn’t mean living irresponsibly. It means enjoying, giving, sharing, and using all that God has first entrusted us with to live our lives and steward them for the sake of our neighbors and communities. It also means responsibly paying off debt early or on time, so as not to be overwhelmed by the interest accrued from it, so that we can live abundantly.

As long as I can keep this in perspective, making those monthly student loan payments, and needed car expenses, for example, doesn’t seem to be as daunting.

Note: That check, in addition to helping our car expenses, will be stewarded in part back to the larger church in gratitude, and in support of other future seminarians.

About the Author
timothy headshot
Timothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison is awaiting call to be an ELCA pastor, and the two of them reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and on his blog.


About COMPASS

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 or Twitter.

And join us this Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET for a Live Chat with Darryl Dahlheimer, Program Director for LSS Financial Counseling, for Conquering Your Debt: the Overlooked Key to Faith and Finances. It’s free! Register at https://stewardshipresources.org/compass-live-chats. People of all ages are welcome!

Image credits: pixabay.com

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.

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.

Eco-Friendly on a Budget

As the calendar turns to April, our focus turns to environmental stewardship. Later this month, on Friday April 22nd, the World will observe Earth Day 2016. In observance, the COMPASS blog will feature perspectives all about being environmentally friendly on a budget and our stewardship of the Earth.

eco friendlyThe first post in this series will take up the idea that “We Are What We Eat.” In addition to this, other reflections will include thoughts pertaining to: the stewardship of recycling; sustainability; community agriculture; the work of restoring creation; as well as water stewardship. If you would like to share a post or reflection within this theme, please let me know as we are always looking for more perspectives to share as part of COMPASS and our shared conversation about faith and finances.

To begin our conversation, consider these questions:

  • Do you think about where the food you eat comes from?
  • Do you actively recycle in your home and office?
  • Do you produce more things that go into recycling each week, or the garbage?
  • Do you leave lights on in rooms that you are not seated in? How about water running while you are brushing your teeth?
  • How might the answers to these questions be informed by your faith?

A Personal Confession

In asking these questions, I have to confess that I often come up a bit short. I don’t always eat the healthiest diet, nor always look for the most sustainable source of food. I do occasionally leave lights on in rooms that I am not in, and from time to time catch myself leaving the water running while no longer actively using the faucet. Even with the ability to recycle, I still think my wife Allison and I produce more garbage than recycling.

I work hard to recycle both at home and in the office, and this is made easier by living in neighborhoods and cities where recycling is a priority. However, I have come to learn through traveling, that this is not always the case across the country and world in all communities.

The way we care for our environment matters to me, because I believe that we are called to be stewards of creation. In Genesis we are reminded that God has created all, and invites us to participate with God in caring for it and working with it. When we lose sight of this, when we don’t show care for it, we are all impacted. Not only does it negatively impact the quality of our planet, it shows disrespect for the beauty that God has created for us to live and work in.

Environmental Stewardship on a Budget

How we live faithfully in this way on a budget sometimes may mean a bit more of a cost. Choosing to eat healthier may not always be the cheaper option. Recycling may not always be more budget friendly than garbage. But at least, utility costs are usually positively impacted when you turn the lights off as well as the faucet off. And, if you don’t mind it in the summer, you can turn the temperature up on your thermostat to save energy during the day, as well as down a bit during the winter to cut down on heating costs.

As we take up these questions this month, I invite you to share your perspective, and I look forward to the conversation together.

timothy headshotAbout the Author: Timothy Siburg is the Communications Associate for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and focuses especially on the center’s COMPASS initiative focused on creating conversations and resources for faith and finances among younger Adults and Millennials. Timothy also currently serves as a congregational mission developer, among a few other roles and blogs regularly on his own blog as well.

Image Credit: Eco Friendly

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.