Inspiring people to be generous...
Inspiring people to be generous is vital for the stewardship of our churches. Everyone needs inspiration to live generously, to be given hope that we can grow in generosity, and to grow our faith in our generous God. A recent survey of over 2,000 Anglicans, found that only half (53%) had heard a sermon on giving in the past year, and 60% of those who had, said it didn't change their thinking on giving.
Generous churches have generous leaders. When you are talking about giving, make sure you are giving yourself. The Church of England recommends that we all tithe 5% of our income to our churches and 5% to other charities. If we do this ourselves and let people know, then that can act as inspiration to others. Likewise if you are preaching about giving, ask a member of the congregation (asked beforehand) about their giving practices, how they manage it and why they think it is important. Remember, don't just focus on money, but on the other ways people can give as well, through their time, talents and freedoms.
Think about how you can encourage small acts of generosity in your congregation. Maybe have an act a day for a week before your Stewardship Sunday or during Advent or Lent. The podcasts and reflections from the National Church's Generosity Week have local stories and little activities that you can do, which you might find helpful.
Make sure that generous acts are celebrated!
Try to do this within the service, for example, if someone is doing a sponsored event, either for the church or another charity, remember to pray for them the week before and ask for God's blessing on their endeavours, and then to pray for them again, thanking God for their success. Then repeat the celebration after the service in a way that suits your circumstances, such as through a cake with coffee.
This not only builds up those who have acted generously and makes them feel valued, but also encourages and inspires others to act similarly.
Our God is a generous God
There are lots of stories of Generosity in the Bible, and most Sundays the readings can be related to generosity. Either God's generosity towards us in creation and forgiveness, Christ's generosity is coming alongside us, or the Spirit's continued generosity in inspiring and guiding us. We have stories of great generosity from the disciples, giving up their lives in order to follow Jesus, and warnings of those who don't act generously, such as the parable of the unforgiving slave in Matthew 18.
One of the greatest calls we have is to worship God, and to help others to worship God. Lots of hymns are about generosity and by emphasising those points when we introduce them helps people to focus on those ideas as they sing and adds another level to their worship.
You can also use the Offering during the service to inspire generosity. Introducing the Offering specially and explaining why you are doing this, helps your congregation to engage with it and for it to become an integrated part of the worship, rather than something which is done wihtout further thought each week.
Tell generous stories
There are lots of stories of people acting generously which can inspire our congregations. Some are great acts of giving, Maximilian Kolbe standing in to die for another in Auschwitz, or Edward Metcalfe, a Benedictine of Ampleforth, who died caring for others suffering from fever in Leeds in the 19th century. Postman's Park in London commemorates those who have died trying to save the lives of others, and the news often tells local and national stories of generosity such as Captain Sir Thomas Moore, who walked each day in his garden before his hundreth birthday to raise money for the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other tales of generosity are much smaller, people supporting one another during the lockdown by making a weekly phone call or doing someone's shopping. Here we see that they have offered a space for God to inhabit and use them to build his Kingdom. These tales are vital and help inspire people to act generously in small ways, and by celebrating them within our churches helps to celebrate our Christian story.
If you have any tales of generosity that you would be happy to share and help inspire the Diocese, please do contact Sam Setchell, the Diocesan Director of Communications..