52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation…Generous Giving
By William Green
Part of a multi-volume series, 52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation, published by the United Church of Christ’s Pilgrim Press, this little book is a source of ideas for year-round stewardship.
Its title concerned me: I thought it might be filled with trite and trivial approaches to fundraising. I found several innovative ideas, some creative ones, a number of basic ones, and a few which seem far-fetched.
The “Foreword” by Shawnthea Monroe heightened my hopes for this book. While I found it worthwhile reading, I had some challenging moments with this book. I wanted more development of key ideas and theological concepts and less determination to cover everything about stewardship.
The biblical premise that we are “hard-wired for generosity” sets a strong and appropriate tone. The ensuing three parts offer insights into the progression of spiritual growth that leads from “reciprocal generosity” (God gives to us; we give to God) to “open generosity” (giving for the sake of giving) to “doxological generosity” (giving to praise God). These distinctions are helpful, but are unevenly developed.
The flow of the book leaves something to be desired. Maybe the requirement of providing 52 ways causes the sense of choppiness. I wished for a consistency of format: biblical and theological insights, practical experience in applying the concepts in congregational life, and then questions and suggestions for implementation.
My suggestion is to read the book through and then to go back through it to glean the parts that seem most applicable to one’s specific situation. There is no way to undertake all 52 suggestions. But this book does contain something for everybody—from tithing to technical issues.
The author, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, speaks a language of stewardship that would resonate with most Disciples pastors and congregations. He asks probing questions that could generate wonderful conversation in small groups.
I intend to share parts of this book with my young adult church school class, with my congregation’s stewardship committee, with our elders, and with the church board. Those parts will differ, as this book offers a great variety of angles and levels. Many questions are multi-part, with the first couple of queries being more general in their probing and the follow-up being more specific to generosity.
Maybe the best thing about this book is that many of the “52 ways” approach the topics of generosity, stewardship and money through the back door. The resulting discussion likely will be less threatening to participants with more openness made possible. I would encourage you to give it a try in your setting, but in small and well-designed doses.
Janet A. Long, Pastor
Washington Avenue Christian Church