Generosity Fitness–a New Year Resolution for 2017!

Happy New Year text with cookies on the wooden background from aboveIt’s time to add Generosity Fitness to the list of our New Year Resolutions, for the spirit and expression of generosity enhances and deepens all the other aspects of life. Generosity matters.  It inspires giving and brings happiness to our lives.

This tradition of New Year Resolutions arose eons ago, inspired by the legend of the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two faces. One of the faces of Janus looks to the past and the other to the future. The Romans believed Janus could forgive their transgressions, so they made offerings and promises at the beginning of each new calendar year.  Janus was believed to take notice of these gifts and bless the peoples’ lives for the year.  That’s where the month of January gets its name.

According to a recent NBC News poll based upon Google search terms most used in 2016, the Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 are:  Get Healthy, Get Organized, Live Life to the Fullest, Learn a New Hobbies, Spend Less/Save More, Travel, Read More. Not surprisingly, these resolutions are about improving one’s life through good health, learning and see new things, and effectively managing money and material possessions. Essentially, this boils down our drive to experience happiness.

A good deal of research has been conducted about the correlation between altruistic behavior and happiness.  Experiments have been conducted at various universities, including the use of brain scans that track the various pain and pleasure centers affected by altruistic behavior, such as charitable giving, helping others, and volunteer service.

OFireworksur pleasure centers light up not only when we receive money or kindness, but also when we give money away or help another out of compassion. Studies show that those who receive money are more likely to give money away, and in larger amounts than those who have not received money before being asked to give.

One Harvard Business School study looked more closely at the cause and effect relationship between giving and happiness.  Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).

So, how might we fulfill our resolution for greater Generosity Fitness in 2017?

  • Make a commitment to a regular practice of giving and volunteering
  • Contribute the cost of your daily coffee to a cause that matters to you–or better yet, the cost of your monthly fitness or golf club membership!
  • A Month of daily acts of giving and kindness
  •  $5.20 or $52 per week for 52 weeks of the year given to your faith community or other worthy organizations
  • Sponsor a program or scholarship that will benefit to those in your community
  • Make a planned gift or bequest to a cause or organization that matters most to you
  • Organize a social fundraising event that brings people with common interests and a desire to make a difference in their community
  • Most of all, use your imagination.  Be creative.  Experience the joy of cultivating generosity in the world!

May this new year bring you many blessings and great abundance~ 

Laurel Amabile portrait 2   Laurel signature

 

 

 

References and Resources for this article:

Anik,  Aknin, Norton & Dunn.   Harvard Business School working paper, Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior.   2009.  http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/10-012.pdf

Brooks, Arthur C. Who Really Cares.  Basic Books.  2006.

Chan, Amanda L. Huffington Post. 2013.  7 Science-back Reasons Why Generosity is Good for Your Health.

Firestone, Lisa. Huffington Post. 2014. The Benefits of Generosity.

Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior. Authors: Lalin Anik, Harvard Business School Lara B. Aknin, University of British Columbia Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School Elizabeth W. Dunn, University of British Columbia

Smith, Jordan Michael. New Republic. Sept. 2014. Want to Be Happy? Stop Being So Cheap!

 

Stories that Create a Giving Culture

Please tell us a story.jpg

Who among us is not drawn in by a good story?

Stories are the best way we share our experiences and the lessons we learn in life.  Families and communities pass along their traditions, beliefs, and moral values through storytelling.  For centuries, stories and wisdom tales have been shared around campfires and dining room tables, out under the stars, and in temples, mosques, and cathedrals all over the world.  We tell stories to explain the origins of the universe and to explain the mysteries of life and death.

Storytelling, at its best, conveys the rich diversity and texture of humanity, creating a safe and sometimes therapeutic space for challenging assumptions and fostering  tolerance of differences among people.   Well told stories touch our spirits, warm our hearts, and leave lasting images in our minds.   Sharing our soul-filled stories is another way of expressing gratitude and demonstrating generosity.

It should be no surprise to us that storytelling is a very effective tool in nurturing generosity and teaching stewardship in our faith communities.  Sacred texts around the world are a testimony to the power of the story in teaching and learning religious values.  One way to promote generous behavior is to tell the stories of how giving made a difference in your life or others’ lives.  For example, as part of a year-round stewardship program, you can invite people to share their stories in the context of worship, small group ministry, religious education, in digital or print form.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider as you plan your stewardship activities for the coming year:

  • Share stories in worship–this may be a testimony about how the congregation or faith has touched their life in positive ways, a wisdom tale for all ages to enjoy, or a guest whose organization has been the recipient of your congregation’s generosity.
  • Host a storytelling event–hold a potluck dinner or picnic at your facility, open to the community, and invite participants to come ready to share a story that conveys at least one value of the faith tradition.
  • Design a story display board–invite people to write their generosity stories down, along with their photo and perhaps some art work.
  • Create a video or visual story–convey your faith community’s stewardship values and generosity through the use of technology, posting video stories on YouTube, on your congregation’s website, blog or Facebook page.
  • Offer a story prompt–Give your constituents a theme or first line of a story, and let them create a community story.  This could be a part of a small group activity, religious education class, or just a big graffiti board people can write on as they enter the building or enjoy fellowship hour.

The summertime is a great time of year for stewardship leaders to polish their storytelling skills–around the campfire while toasting marshmallows, on the riverbank while fishing, or at an informal gathering of friends.  Share your story and invite others to share theirs; this is how the bonds of family and society are strengthened.  This is a wonderful way to include children, youth, and elders in multi-generational community!

Here are some tips for enhancing your storytelling:

  • Reflect on a memorable experience from which you learned and grew as a person–
    if it holds meaning for you, it can be meaningful to others.
  • Stick to the heart of the message you want to convey and avoid too much detail.
  • Lift up a unique angle or unusual perspective that will pique the listeners’ interest.
  • Engage as many of your listeners’ five senses as possible1507 Hands Sm 123rf to bring the story alive
  • Be sensitive to your audience’s diversity using inclusive language so that all feel a part of it.
  • Use the opportunity of telling your story to connect your experience with your faith teachings and values in ways that others can relate to personally.
  • Tell the story without reading it whenever possible–practice, practice, practice to feel more confident, but realize storytelling does not demand perfection.
  • Engage your audience with movement, song, sounds, or repeated phrases that makes them part of the story.
  • Have fun!  Your enthusiasm and enjoyment are contagious.

 If you have a story or link to share, please leave a comment for the blog host with your contact info.

Resources for Storytelling:

Cogdogroo–StoryIdeas:  http://cogdogroo.wikispaces.com/StoryIdeas

Learn to Give:  http://learningtogive.org/materials/folktales/

National Storytelling Network:    http://www.storynet.org/resources/howtobecomeastoryteller.html

Recommended Stories for All Ages:

Resources for Multigenerational Stewardship & Generosity

Unitarian Universalist Stories of Generosity & Multigenerational Worship Resources:

http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/stories/index.shtml

http://www.uua.org/giving/apf/51886.shtml

http://www.uua.org/worship/multigenerational/index.shtml

http://www.uua.org/worship/by_topic.php?topic=Stories

http://www.uusc.org/worship_resources

Pearmain, Elisa Davy, editor.  Doorways to the Soul  1998.  The Pilgrim Press.

berry heart.jpg

Celebrating Generosity in Worship Services

nature-water-spa-background_zkNu9ucd

How does my giving shape what is of greatest worth?”  

What level of giving would be most meaningful and powerful to me?”  

These are two of the questions that Rev. Thomas Perchlik, minister of the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, uses in crafting worship services that celebrate generosity and abundance.

“I have enjoyed using the New Consecration Sunday model as the inspiration for planning services,” Rev. Perchlik reports. “The people love it.  After almost a decade of struggling to get a complicated Canvass process together each year, this seems easy, fun and deeply meaningful.”

The New Consecration Sunday celebration model that Thomas refers to is an integral part of the Christian stewardship program described by Herb Miller, a prolific author and recognized authority in realms of congregational health and effectiveness.

In a nutshell, Miller’s New Consecration Sunday stewardship program design addresses several key issues that some congregations find challenging:

  • Lay volunteer involvement in asking fellow congregants for pledges.
  • Lax organization and planning of stewardship campaigns.
  • Anxiety and stress about raising enough money to fund the congregation’s budget.
  • Negative feelings and reactions to annual stewardship campaigns.
  • Lack of clarity about the teachings and expectations about stewardship within a particular faith community.
  • The minister’s role as stewardship leader in the congregation.

The New Consecration Sunday stewardship program focus is on the religious beliefs, mission, and values of the faith community as a source of inspiration for giving rather than the obligation of funding the budget to pay the bills. Miller’s question to the giver is, What is God calling me to do?

The Rev. Keith Goheen, a member of the UU Church of Mill Creek and JPD Board of Trustees, offers an alternative theological perspective for effective stewardship in other religious communities:

Unitarian theologian Henry Nelson Wieman was keenly interested in ‘The Good.’ His theological/ philosophical imperative involved bringing more (an abundance) of the Good into the self, the congregation, and the world.

abstract-rainbow-wavy-background_zyhnNRv_

What then is the congregation’s relationship to The Good?

Said another way,

What is its vision and mission, or raison d’tre?

If the principle relationship is best expressed as a haven defined in opposition to the prevailing culture (such as being defined by what we are not: a church, theistic, etc.), then The Good lies in the maintenance of strong boundaries. These boundaries protect the sanctity of the philosophical center while deepening its sense of differentiation.

If the principle relationship is to bring more Good into the world (in which we are a resource for ethical, non-theistic living to our community), The Good is expressed in relationships with community and the perceived need for Good in its culture.

This identity provides an interface through the idea of mission. The campaign is then designed to build enthusiasm for fully funding and potentially expanding the ethical mission of the congregation. This is accomplished by creating a pool of financial resources supporting the activities that bring more of the envisioned Good into being. Individuals giving from personal abundance generate congregational abundance enabling an abundant expression of mission.

The choice about fundraising approaches must be in sync with the members’ relationship to the congregation and their shared sense of purpose.

origami money heart

 

Money becomes a tool to empower mission. The focus of the campaign is on impact, not costs.

 

 

May it be so~

20120127-235129.jpg

Laurel signature

 

 

 

Laurel Amabile, CFRE

 

(This post goes back to late winter 2015. Appreciation goes to the Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, M.Div., Interim Minister, First Unitarian Church of Alton, IL, for bringing the topic of the New Consecration Sunday concept to the UU-Money Leaders for an energetic discussion.)

Related Resources:

Miller, Herb. New Consecration Sunday Stewardship Program (with Guest Leader Guide & CD-ROM). 2007. Abingdon Press. Nashville.

Crossman, Bob. Effective Stewardship is Not Budget Driven. 2012. Ministry Matters website: http://bit.ly/180GUlt

Multigenerational Stewardship & Worship Resources on Giving Speaks.com