A good time to teach your people to give

When Hurricane Katrina hit in September of 2005 it not only did a tremendous amount of damage to the Gulf Coast, but it also brought very real human needs to our television every night, needs that weren’t a continent away affecting people with a vastly different culture, but folks we could relate to.

Before that, giving to all charities in this country had remained fairly steady at about $240 billion for several years, according to the Giving USA study.  But in 2005 it jumped to $260 billion and in 2006, the first full year after Katrina, it went to $295 billion. The funny thing is that giving increased to the Red Cross and to UMCOR, but also to groups that had nothing to do with hurricane relief.  Folks just felt more generous all the way around.

So with Sandy so very real to us right now I suggest you take this opportunity to help inspire that kind of generosity.

I imagine nearly every church across the country will lift up UMCOR this week and take a special offering.  This is great.  As some of you know I am a huge fan of UMCOR and I have seen them in action.  Incidentally, remind your people that every nickel contibuted to UMCOR for disaster relief actually gets to the disaster site.  UMCOR overhead is covered through One Great Hour of Sharing.

But I encourage you to teach generosity a couple of other ways as well.

First, teach your people to give of themselves.  Writing a check is great, but volunteering time for disaster relief is of value beyond measure, and it can help with the discipling process.  You can’t tell me that a week of fellowship, sweat and sore muscles in the name of the church won’t do great things to help you members feel more connected to the work of Christ.  It’s still pretty early, but some estimate that the Sandy area will be ready to receive relief workers after Christmas.  Who in your church would be willing to commit that week between Christmas and New Year’s to this cause?  How many van loads of relatively young, healthy retirees do you have who could go for a week in mid-January?  And the need will certainly still be there in the summer.

I have contact information for each of the Annual Conferences affected by the hurricane.  In the interest of spam prevention I won’t post them here, but send me an email and I’ll be happy to send that info along to you.  Two of our Districts also have relief trailers, essentialy tool chests on wheels.  They already have basic tools all loaded up and  ready to go.  If you need to borrow one of those, I can get you in touch with those folks as well.

Second, I would encourage you to take this chance for your church to model sacrificial giving.  Pass-through giving, taking what was given to UMCOR and sending it along to them, is great.  But what if your church made a commitment to match that pass-through money from the church’s operating budget?  What if you postponed repaving your parking lot for a year so you could send that donation to UMCOR, or to cover half the cost of your adult mission trip to New Jersey?  What if your choir spent another year in those old robes so you could purchase and equip a disaster relief trailer for future groups?

You can’t expect to teach your members about sacrificial giving if your church is only giving when there is abundance.

As they say, the iron is hot, so you would be crazy not to strike.  The plight of the people on the east coast is heavy on the minds of many of your members.  Show them some different ways to change lives.  If you’re not careful, you might just change some lives in your own congregation while you’re at it.

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