There is a lot of talk these days among the UMC circles that I move in and out of about the decline of money and membership among the UMC. I find myself in conversations with other clergy (old and young) and we swap stories about how to better raise money.
We share personal stories as well as little "tips" and "tricks" we have learned along the way. We attend training sessions to hear from experts on how we can raise more money for our ministry. We read books that articulate the best practices of asking people for money.
We pull from the world of business in some ways, but lately business models are beginning to meet some resistance. So we pull from other philanthropic organizations to hear how they do what they do.
In all the conversation and commotion, I fear we in the UMC are loosing sight of something critical. And more money talk in the Church makes me throw up.
The Church is not a fundraising organization. We are not seeking to "break into the giving market". We are not in competition with other non-profits or great causes. There is not a scarcity of resources in our pews that we have to scrap and fight for every penny. (These are symptoms of a theology of scarcity, which is in direct contradiction to the theology of enough.)
We are not called to get more money or find more people to give.
We are called to cultivate generosity in the world.
I don't care about deploying the latest tricks to get people to give money. I am not interested in learning best practices on getting people to open their wallets. I am not interested in more money.
I am interested in cultivating generous hearts. Overflowing spirits. Abundant love. Faith in knowing there is enough to do what God is calling us to do.
It is easy to get people to give money - read and hear from the experts. But just because we can get people to give money does not mean we have generous people. With all the knowledge and technology around us these days, it is easy to get people to give. It is far more difficult to foster the spiritual disciplines of generosity - hospitality, openness, flexibility, simplicity, etc.
So to all my UMC friends and leaders, I want to ask you: "How do you cultivate generosity?"