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Growing Up Generous: A Book Review

In continuing in our effort to address engaging young adults in generosity, I have read and reviewed Growing Up Generous: Engaging Youth in Giving and Serving, written by Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Elanah Dalyah Naftali, and Laura Musegades. This text, published in 2000, provides timeless tips for nurturing generosity in youth.

Chapter 1: Nurturing Generosity as a Way of Life

There is a particular focus in this chapter on faith traditions and their specific connections and experience with stewardship throughout history. There is also a discussion on how to create a culture of generosity in your congregation; there are eight key concepts that the authors list as essential to forming a generous culture.

Chapter 2: The Unexplored World of Youth, Money and Giving

There is a discussion here about youth of today and their particular patterns as consumers as well as information on advertising focused on youth. This chapter also focuses on financial literacy and youth, and the importance of financial education from an early age.

Chapter 3: Obstacles to Addressing Money and Giving with Youth

There is a deep discussion in this chapter on some of the largest obstacles that we face when addressing stewardship issues with youth. There is recognition by the authors that some adults feel uncomfortable talking about money and that many people may experience financial anxiety. This chapter also addresses some of the stereotypes that individuals often have when concerning youth and money; that they shouldn’t be expected to give, that they don’t have money, or that if they are asked to give they might decide to leave the church. This chapter provides invaluable information about these and many other obstacles that might come up when engaging youth in stewardship but also analyzes these obstacles and explains why they are harmful.

Chapter 4: Serving Others: An Emerging Emphasis

This chapter analyzes all-things-service learning, and explains how there has been a movement in recent years of youth being heavily involved in service learning. The authors also explore service learning in and through congregations. Lastly, obstacles that come up for youth engaging in service work are also addressed.

Chapter 5: Rethinking Youth Giving and Serving

There is a focus on how to face the obstacles presented in earlier chapters and logically respond in the most receptive, respectful, and engaging way. The authors discuss developmental assets in youth, and how these assets contribute to healthy youth development, which in turn leads to higher levels of generosity. Additionally, the authors tackle eight cultural shifts that need to occur in congregations in order to effectively nurture generous youth.

The final two chapters, Chapter 6: Creating a Culture of Generosity, and Chapter 7: Cultivating the Practices of Generosity focus on eight keys to giving and serving in congregations. The first four keys emphasize creating a generous culture in a congregation, while the last focus on practices of generosity.

We hope that this review may assist your congregation with effective strategies to create, or build on, youth stewardship practices.

Book Review: Raising Financially Fit Kids by Joline Godfrey

There is a strong call for well written and informative texts that parents can use to teach their children about financial literacy. However, there are few books that are as in depth and practical as Raising Financially Fit Kids by Joline Godfrey.

Twenty years ago, Godfrey started a project called Independent Means, Inc. This organization offers financial education for parents and kids. Having spent many years doing this work, Godfrey has amassed a large amount of information that can help parents conquer the complexities of raising children to be financially literate and generous individuals. Additionally, Godfrey is very aware that it’s not just about money. She makes a point in her introduction to say that her book goes far deeper, and supports parents who want to raise wonderful children who are “independent, balanced, and able to exercise good judgment, practice responsible habits, and live independent lives as contributing members of both family and community.”

There are some very unique components to Godfrey’s book, particularly in how she chooses to lay out stages of financial literacy. In her book, she covers “Apprenticeship” – or ages 5-18, where she says individuals “Develop financial vocabulary, establish early financial habits and values, practice saving, spending, earning and philanthropy.” Within the Apprenticeship stage, Godfrey says there are four stages that children go through. Clearly well-versed in psychological development, she lays out social and emotional development during a specific age range and what are the appropriate financial skills to master in those age groups.

  • Stage One (5-8): Counts coins and bills; begins to develop a sense of ethics
  • Stages Two (9-12): Can make change; can balance checkbook and keep up with savings account
  • Stage Three (13-15): Can shop comparatively; can read bank statement
  • Stage Four (16-18): Actively saves, spends, invests; shows developing capacity for economic self-sufficiency

It is important to note that Godfrey is also practical and realistic; she recognizes that financial literacy can sometimes come later, and that some skills are developed at different ages, depending on the child. The important thing, she says, is to remember that “this is a developmental, not a chronological, approach to raising financially fit kids” so she does encourage parents to backtrack if the skills still need to be developed by the child.

Additionally, this book is unique in its approach because it has practical, clear, and creative ways to work with children of all different skillsets. Some of the ways Godfrey explores approaching financial literacy with children are:

1.)    Common scenarios in each developmental stage that can provide teachable moments for parents.
2.)    Some very basic money skills that individuals in each age group should have or develop and how to help them develop these skills.
3.)    Books and websites that inspire the entrepreneurial spirit.
4.)    Inspiring quotations about independence, financial literacy, and happiness.
5.)    Detailed activities that a parent can do with each age group in order to teach children how to make smart financial decisions.

If you have been searching for an easy-to-read, hands-on, and practical guide to aid you in teaching your children about generosity, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy, I would highly recommend this book as a resource to you and your child.

Are You Assuring the Long-Term Fiscal Stability of Your Congregation?

One of the greatest missing teachings in the American church today is the reminder to men and women that nothing we have belongs to us.

–Gordon MacDonald

Does your congregation have a planned giving program? Is the program actively growing with new bequests?

If your answers are Yes, congratulations! Your congregation is one of the few Unitarian Universalist congregations that have an active planned giving program. In fact, we estimate that well over 50 percent of our congregations do not have an active planned giving program.

An important element of a comprehensive financial management plan for congregations is planned giving. A well-conceived planned giving program encourages congregants to give financial support for the long-term fiscal stability of a congregation. The gifts given to a planned giving program establish and maintain an endowment fund, the part of a congregation’s income derived from donations. By providing investment income, the endowment fund becomes the vehicle through which long-term fiscal stability is assured.

Conventional wisdom says that planned gifts are most often made by people between the ages of 55 and 75. Currently, almost 14 percent of the United States population is 65 years or older. The median adult age of Unitarian Universalist members is estimated at 54+ years, and their average household net worth is estimated to exceed $232,000.

Planned giving can be accomplished by several means. For example, a person could name the church as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or retirement plan. Charitable bequests, however, are the most commonly used form of planned giving. A charitable bequest is a gift given to charity through the provisions of a legal will or living trust. From the donor’s standpoint, bequests have several advantages that make them popular. They are relatively inexpensive to arrange, save one dollar in estate tax liability for every dollar given. They are also easy for a congregation to promote. However, it is estimated that 70 percent of all Americans die without a will. It is also estimated that fewer than 10 percent of those capable of making a charitable estate gift have ever been asked.

The best news is that your congregation doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Chapter Eight in Beyond Fundraising provides a step-by-step process to create a planned giving program. The Appendices include several important document samples that can be modified to fit the specific needs of your congregation.

So what are you waiting for?

Two Stewardship Books for Youth

Money management is not always easy. The draw of consumerism can be intoxicating, and sometimes can get in the way of effectively managing a budget. I remember the experience of feeling that I needed new sneakers, a new bike, or any kind of new toy, and feeling like it really was a need and not a want. But life lessons helped me to understand money, and I learned how important it is to manage money effectively as well as feel comfortable having conversations about it.

As adults, we can fully engage young children in the process of understanding and learning about money. Engaging youth in this process is a helpful way to guide and support them in hopes that their understanding of the concepts of stewardship strengthen over time. We can supplement these stewardship and money management conversations with our children by picking up texts that also discuss these topics. There are many books that can help you with these conversations, two of which are discussed here.

The Story of Money by Betsy Maestro is a fascinating, short (41 pages) read for young children, probably between 5-12 years old, that is a historical account of how the concept of money came into existence. The book begins by recounting what individuals did before money was used and how, gradually over time, money became the preferred method over trading or bartering goods. The book illustrations are fantastic, and provide children with a visual representation of what money actually looked like when it was first produced and how it changed over thousands of years. While this book doesn’t address the practical concepts behind money, learning about the history of it can be valuable for a child to understand as it creates a framework and a working knowledge of how money came to be.

The Kids Guide to Money by Steve Otfinoski is a wonderful, practical pocket guide to all things money management; how to earn it, how to save it, how to spend it, how to grow it, and how to share it. While this text is longer (118 pages) it is extremely useful for children who have questions about anything from stock to credit cards to A.T.M. machines. Geared towards children a bit older than our first book (9 years old and up) this book can be given to a child when you first start having conversations about what to do with that allowance money, or when they open their first bank account. It’s a helpful supplement to those conversations about stewardship.

We hope that these books may aid in your conversations with children and young adults about stewardship practices.

Welcoming Congregations and Conversations about Money

It’s been almost a year since we’ve launched FORTH: A Stewardship Development program, and we now have over 50 partner congregations. If your congregation doesn’t know about the FORTH Program, please take a look at our website and learn more about it. Below you will see some data from FORTH Partners who have taken our Congregational Stewardship Self Assessment.

Each bar represents the average scores for each question in Section 1 of the assessment.  The highest possible score for any question is 25. As you can see in the middle bar, the average FORTH Partner believes that their congregation is welcoming to people from varying socio-economic situations. Do you think that your congregation is welcoming to all? What techniques have been especially helpful?

While scoring for welcoming is relatively high, many Partners indicate there is a hesitancy to talk about money in their congregation (see the third column from the left). How does your congregation approach conversations about money? Do you have any gems to share?

Let’s start a dialogue about the two issues of welcoming and money.

Click the Graph for a clearer image


Need Some Stewardship Support?

As the economy slowly . . . very slowly . . . starts to recover, more congregations are asking for the support of Congregational Stewardship consultants. In some cases, congregations are asking for annual budget drive support. Some others are asking for strategic planning guidance and still others are asking us to lead them through a capital campaign.

In all cases, an assessment visit is the first step in a relationship between your congregation and one of our consultants. There are three outcomes of an assessment visit:

First, the visit provides an opportunity for your congregation to get an objective assessment from a stewardship consultant. Prior to the visit, you will have sent several documents to the consultant. Once on site, the consultant gathers more information in a series of meetings with key professional religious leaders and volunteer lay leaders.

Second, an assessment visit provides your congregation with specific recommendations to get “from here to there.”  Based on all the gathered information, the consultant lists several steps necessary to allow your congregation to reach its long-term goals.  These recommendations are given verbally at the end of the assessment visit, and are then followed by a written summary.

And third, an assessment visit clarifies how the Congregational Stewardship program can be helpful to your congregation. Since 1985, we have provided support to hundreds of congregations. Each consultant brings special skills, as well as the combined skills and experience of the other consultants. Each is prepared to guide and coach your congregation through all aspects of your comprehensive stewardship expectations.

Need more information? Please contact the Congregational Stewardship Services office for more information.

Why we give to charity

Thank you to Congregational Stewardship Consultant Aggie Sweeney for sharing this article about generosity and the holiday season with our office.

“The urge to give that is awakened around this time is an important one: Philanthropy plays a crucial role in American society, providing funding for a vast array of services. Giving also connects us as a culture: According to a study by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, nearly two-thirds of all Americans gave to charity in 2008. American charities took in nearly $300 billion in 2010.” by Leon Neyfakh

You can read the rest of the article on The Boston Globe website.

First Unitarian Society in Madison & Microfinancing

Stewardship efforts are highlighted in so many unique ways, and First Unitarian Society in Madison in Wisconsin is no exception. This congregation, with over 1,600 members, wanted to give back in a meaningful way. They decided to raise funds to contribute to microfinancing, which can provide individuals in developing countries with loaned money to start small businesses. An article in the Wisconsin State Journal details how the congregation approached raising money for this justice project.

“At First Unitarian, task force members bypassed traditional fundraisers and went to the congregation with a direct pitch to donate money. The church’s foundation pledged to match up to $10,000. The total amount raised would then be invested in microfinance organizations that would pay returns to the church on the money.

This approach, similar to socially responsible investing, made for a more sustainable, longer-lasting program than a one-time donation, said Scott Andersen, another task force member. It also made for an easier pitch — donors would be strengthening the church’s financial health while helping to reduce international poverty.

‘It was a one-two punch,’ he said. ‘There were benefits on both the local and global level.’

About 50 families donated a total of $13,000. With the church foundation’s $10,000 match and a $10,000 grant from the national Unitarian Universalist Association, the church had $33,000 to invest.”

First Unitarian Society also has highlighted information about the microfinancing kits on their website.

Culture of Abundance versus Culture of Scarcity

The Law of Enrollment Meets the Ask
By Laurie Herrick, Kathleen Dowd, and Rachel Kuhn

In this article, Laurie Herrick, Kathleen Dowd and Rachel Kuhn make a compelling case for focusing on the reality of abundance, instead of the myth of scarcity.

Herrick, Dowd, and Kuhn believe in something they call the Law of Enrollment. They describe it as a natural law in which it is easy for donors to become enrolled in current conversations about scarcity and what we do not have or cannot do. They believe that fundraisers must be present to the enrollment ‘dance’ and enroll prospective donors in how they can make a positive difference in your organization/congregation.

Read the article in Quantum Jump for a wonderful example of a conversation between a fundraiser and a potential donor where the fundraiser helps the donor to understand the importance of making a difference.

Interested in a unique fundraising option?

Interested in a unique fundraising option? If so, we have found the article for you! Jeff Shapiro writes about a group of senior citizens posing nude for a calendar to help raise money for their church. Shapiro writes, “a group of senior citizens from a congregation in Massachusetts stripped down to their birthday suits to pose for photos in a 2012 calendar created to show the beauty of aging.

Twelve men from First Parish in Framingham, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, who are all between 64 and 87 years old, took it all off in the making of the parish’s Celebration 2012 Calendar. Don’t worry though, they don’t reveal everything. In each of the calendar’s images, the men aren’t wearing any clothes, but each of them is covered up by a prop in their private areas.

The goal of the calendar is to show, in a society that can sometimes be obsessed with youth, growing old can be a joy. The parish wanted to show that these older men are still full of life, they have a lot to offer and they have a great sense of humor.”

You can read the full article on The Christian Post website.