Category Archives: Stewardship Today

Giving as Protest

by Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

Does the headline for this article pique your curiosity or does it irritate you? The word protest often evokes strong positive or negative emotions. Like it or not, we seem to be in a time marked by protests of one kind or another.

Beyond giving as duty, the Bible offers us an array of metaphors for giving that can move us to live more generously. The story of the widow’s offering told in the Gospels of Mark and Luke offers us one.

When you think of this familiar story (often called The Widow’s Mite), have you ever imagined what the widow looks like? How old is she? How does she carry herself? What is her facial expression?

I had always imagined this widow was an older woman who showed signs of a very hard life. In my mind, she was embarrassed to be in the temple, shyly approached the treasury hoping not to be noticed and apologetically put her two lowly coins in the box.

An illustration of this story from the Jesus Mafa community of Cameroon completely changed my mind. Their illustrator sees a young woman with a baby on her hip and a basket on her head. She is dressed shabbily but confidently approaches the treasury, boldly giving her offering among the high status men who are also contributing.

In both texts, just before this story, Jesus was teaching in the temple and said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

What if our widow heard Jesus’ teaching and decided to stage a protest at the treasury? Had her house been devoured by an upstanding community leader? Was she reacting to those “upright” citizens who accumulated wealth for themselves at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable?

Widows and orphans were supposed to be cared for, not taken advantage of! Throwing all that she has in the offering, the widow throws herself on God and the community creating an obligation on both to make things right.

This idea is summarized in an offering prayer adapted from the book Be Our Freedom Lord, edited by Terry Falla:

“God of extravagant mercy, with hands outstretched you have poured out wonder and pleasure and delight, goodness and beauty and bounty. Take our offerings, we pray, as our protest against all that is evil and ugly and impoverished, trivial and wretched and tyrannical in our world and in ourselves–that we too may be poured out for the world.”

Yes, the widow’s story might express that no matter how small the gift, it matters. Or no matter what the gift, it’s the attitude that counts. But Jesus tells his disciples that the widow, “out of her poverty, put in everything she had.”

She gave her whole life. It foreshadows that in just a short time after this incident, He too will give his whole life in order for new life to emerge. In the same way, our financial giving can demonstrate that we desire to participate in Jesus’ love poured out for the world.

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen
Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

There are different types of protests. Some are peaceful and others are splashier and more extreme. Not everyone has an appetite for marching, demonstrations or even boycotting. Our giving can be our protest against the “ugly” that we see around us and around the globe.

Any good protest requires planning to have the greatest effect. Perhaps it is time to look at how your giving plan is set up for new possibilities to emerge. Abundance Canada can help!

Journey of Generosity

by Marlow Gingerich

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow….Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).

You likely know people who must have a plan in order to complete, or even start, a project. The Internet is filled with articles about why we should have a plan to do almost anything. A plan clarifies priorities, helps you achieve balance, gives you the strength to say “no” to lesser things, helps you avoid mistakes and envision a better future. These are good things! Planning can be very beneficial, but it can also be intimidating.

In his book, Rework, Jason Fried says, “Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control. Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses.” It’s true. We can spend a lot of time listing goals and designing strategies, but even with the best planning and intentions, there are no guarantees that our efforts will work as we want them to. The problem with planning, Fried continues, is that “plans are inconsistent with improvisation. And you have to be able to improvise. You have to be able to pick up opportunities that come along.” We shouldn’t disregard planning altogether however, but we should be careful not to obsess about it. Conversely, the need to develop a highly structured plan before taking any action at all can cause you to develop planning paralysis.

Planning paralysis can affect many areas of our lives, including our charitable giving. Having a charitable giving plan implies that a few things have been considered before making a gift, such as where do my charitable passions lie? What does my budget allow me to give? When is the best time for me to give? When is the best time for a charity to receive my gift? These are all questions that can hinder some of us from formulating a charitable giving plan and then making a difference by setting that plan into motion.

While I am a strong advocate for planning your giving, I also know that too much planning can hinder the joy that comes from spontaneous giving. All of your planning does not need to be perfect before you make your first gift. Some of it, maybe much of it, can be worked out along the way. Once you begin, work on a strategy that considers your beliefs and charitable passions. You don’t need to know exactly how much you will be contributing or exactly where you will make your contributions over the long term. There is time for that later. The key is to start. Just begin the journey and experience the joy of generosity.

At Abundance Canada, we can help you develop a charitable giving plan. We offer a variety of donor-advised fund options, designed to facilitate either short-term or long-term goals. Abundance Canada also offers advice, tax information, and tools to make your giving easy.

Our Gift Planning Consultants can help you open a gifting account, which will allow you to have the flexibility of spontaneous giving or to hold the funds until you have developed a giving plan. Once you make a donation to a gifting account, Abundance Canada will make donations on your behalf to the charities you choose, when you choose. You decide when to give, how much to give, and you can even remain anonymous if you wish.

Abundance Canada looks after all of the administrative details, so that you can experience the joy and simplicity of giving—and avoid planning paralysis. Contact a Gift Planning Consultant today.

Marlow Gingerich is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Ontario and eastern provinces. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest Abundance Canada office or visit abundance.ca.

 

Preventing Prodigals

by Mike Strathdee

A man had two sons. When the younger told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!’ his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve” (Luke 15:12-14).

Many of us are familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. There are great lessons about grace and forgiveness, but I’ve never heard it used to warn about giving children gifts before they are emotionally or spiritually mature enough to handle them properly.

We aren’t told how old the prodigal was when he made his disrespectful demand of his father, but clearly he wasn’t ready to handle money responsibly. I wonder if the story could have been different if the father knew what we now know about human brain development. What was the father thinking? Could he have had any idea how poorly equipped his son was to handle the premature inheritance?

Science has taught us that, even in well-adjusted people, it can take up to age 25 before the prefrontal cortex is fully developed. This part of the brain helps people appreciate the consequences of their actions. In her book Payback–Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, Margaret Atwood argues that knowing what we now understand about brain development, giving people access to credit cards too soon could be considered a form of child abuse.

Similarly, parents should consider whether allowing their children to potentially inherit more money than they’ve ever had before, as soon as they attain the age of majority, would be a blessing or a bane.

About 15 years ago, I was trying to make this point in an end-of-life planning seminar at a church in a small town. A young woman stood up and said that she agreed with me completely.

Later I heard the sad family story. Her father died when she and her brother were 19. Their mother had passed away earlier. They each inherited $60,000. It was way more money than either of them knew what to do with. Her brother chose particularly poorly, burning through all the cash and ringing up considerable debt in only 18 months. She is now determined to ensure her children have a better understanding of money.

Another scripture relevant to the topic of inheritances is Proverbs 13:22: “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”

At first glance this passage seems to skip a generation and leave everything to the grandkids. But when taken in context with other advice in Proverbs, we see that wealth can only be successfully transferred between generations if a values transfer comes ahead of the money.

Part of me wonders if we might have fewer prodigal children and grandchildren if we were more explicit in modeling generosity and explaining our beliefs and habits. We can transfer good values to our children by educating them about responsible spending, good habits, and about giving throughout our lives.

We can model generosity in our estate plans by including charitable gifts as if they were an extra child in the list of beneficiaries. Let your kids know what values are important to you and how you hope they will continue them with their inheritance.

Mike_Strathdee
Mike Strathdee

Abundance Canada can help you design and carry out a generosity plan. Ask us how.

Mike Strathdee is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Ontario and eastern provinces. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest Abundance Canada office or visit abundance.ca.

A Lesson On Sharing

A father often took his five-year-old son to the local minor hockey league games. Each time, they saw the same homeless man in the parking lot asking for donations.

The first time, the son asked his dad why the man was asking for money, providing an opportunity for the dad to explain homelessness. The second time, the son asked why everyone didn’t give the homeless man money, which gave the dad a chance to share a lesson on charities and generosity.

On their third trip to the rink, the young boy approached the homeless man. The father and son now knew the man by name and often engaged him in brief, casual conversation. Suddenly, the boy reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a small bag of coins and, with a big smile, offered the bag to the homeless man. The man smiled back, offering an appreciative “Thank you.” The dad could only smile as he fought back tears.

This young boy understood Abundance. Even with a small bag of nickels and quarters, he felt he had enough to share and wanted to give something to their new friend. Abundance isn’t about wealth or excess or affluence. Abundance starts with gratitude and nurtures relationship. When you’re grateful for what you have, whether a little or a lot, you want to share it with others.

There is actually much evidence out there that says living generously is good for us! The book, The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, is the result of a five-year social scientific study of financial giving done in the United States. The authors conclude that, “Generous financial givers are happier people.”

The research also suggests that “while money cannot buy happiness, giving it away actually associates with greater happiness.” In the story, the boy, the father, and the homeless man were all affected favourably by this simple act of generosity.

The authors of Paradox of Generosity go on, “This win/win outcome of generosity also holds true for other kinds of well-being, such as health, avoidance of depression, purpose in life, and personal growth.” In contrast, when we don’t live generously and strive to protect ourselves against future uncertainties and misfortunes, “we are affected in ways that make us more anxious about uncertainties and vulnerable to future misfortunes.” If this is true, why wouldn’t we all want to give?

Better health and happiness are simply the side effects of generosity. At Abundance Canada, we work with some of the most generous people in Canada. For them living generously is not about the size of their wallet; it’s about the depth of their heart. They don’t give because they can—they give because they want to. They are passionate about the charities they choose to support and eagerly seek out ways to express their generosity.

Our organization was built on the understanding that God is generous and that God invites us to share.  When we are generous, we reflect God’s character.

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen
Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

Abundance Canada offers a variety of services to help people live generously. We can help you discover ways to give generously, both now and later in life—for example, a generosity plan in your will. Every person has unique circumstances. Abundance Canada consultants will listen to your story, identify your charitable goals and develop a plan to help you experience faithful, joyful giving.

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest AC office or visit abundance.ca.

A Big Change

By Darren Pries-Klassen

Mennonite Foundation of Canada is about to make a big change. In October, MFC will become Abundance Canada.

This decision did not come easily. Our process was both cautious and comprehensive. Long before we considered rebranding, the Board and Management began strategizing for the future. Through this process we affirmed a number of core values. Among them is our commitment to serving the Church with biblical stewardship education and the facilitation of charitable giving.

We also challenged ourselves with a bold vision that our stewardship ministry is not only for the churches and adherents of our seven founding conferences but for the wider Christian community in Canada. A broader, more ambitious ministry would allow us to assist more people with charitable giving and also to increase awareness of God’s generosity and the biblical message to share with others.

With a bold vision before us, we began an 18-month process that analyzed the market, evaluated similar service providers, held conversations with clients and potential clients and gathered input from a sample of the Christian population across Canada. With the help of a branding agency with experience in the faith-based, not-for-profit sector, we also learned there is a real desire and a need for our ministry and services which match our vision to work with the wider Christian church.

We also learned, through our research, that serving a wider Christian community would be difficult with a name that reflected a specific denomination. This meant we needed to entertain a rebranding of the organization.

It was imperative that our new name be welcoming and inclusive to the wider Christian community and support our faith-driven approach to our ministry. It also needed to reflect our four principles of biblical stewardship: 1) God is generous, 2) God owns, we manage, 3) God asks for our whole selves, and 4) God invites us to share.

After a rigorous creative process, we chose Abundance Canada, and we are delighted with it. Abundance Canada inspires thoughts of God’s abundance. It reminds us of the importance of gratitude. It is open and invitational. In short, Abundance Canada helps people share God’s abundance with those in need and more accurately reflects our service, our ministry and our spirit of generosity.

Let me assure you that while we are changing our name, the Board and Staff are committed to ensuring our services and level of client service will not change. Our research showed that our satisfaction rating among existing clients is more than 90%. Clients cited our financial stability, our knowledgeable and courteous staff, our honesty and integrity, and our values as important factors in their overall satisfaction.

Over the years, we’ve heard from many clients who have said, “We love working with MFC. You make giving so simple and easy.”  The same will be true for Abundance Canada. And just as it was with MFC, Abundance Canada will be a donor-advised charitable foundation.

If you have questions, please give us a call. We would love to tell you more about our expanding ministry, introduce you to our services and help you experience the joy of generosity.

darren_pries_klassen
Darren Pries-Klassen

Abundance Canada … because generosity changes everything.

For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact 1-800-772-3257