Why Give? Because Jesus Gave Us Work To Do

A church that throws parties, enters floats in parades, and shows up at community festivals? These are all aspects of the work Rev. Dr. Katie Hays supports as lead evangelist in her new congregation, Galileo Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. In today’s post, Hays describes how reading scripture with an eye for Jesus’ penchant for announcing the reign of God might mean for evangelism, reimagining budget categories, and communicating with millennials. Next week, we’ll take a short summer break. But on July 12, Hays will be back to share how Galileo Church receives money (hint: it’s not by checks).

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders


Why Give? Because Jesus Gave Us Work To Do

Rev. Dr. Katie Hays

The Millennials in my three-year-old next-church (non-traditional, emergent, missional) are generous. They will buy me a beer, or respond to a friend’s specific need, without hesitation. But giving regularly in support of an institution -- what we old-time churchy people call stewardship -- is a stretch.

As their pastor I’m tasked with teaching them why they should give (yeah, I said “should”) in support of the church’s life, as well as how generosity becomes a way of life connected to spiritual maturity. This post addresses the why as a developing conversation in the life of our church. In my next post, I address the how.

In traditional churches populated mainly by Baby Boomers, I learned to speak about stewardship mainly in terms of God’s abundance and the generosity that grows out of recognizing how good we have it. The language of abundance doesn’t resonate with Millennials, however, who came of age during a deep recession, whose student loan debt is heavy, and whose vocational dreams have been derailed or delayed. Condescendingly minimizing their financial stress with talk of God’s abundant provision doesn’t change their experience of disappointment and anxiety over their postponed adulthood -- the delay of home ownership, marriage, childrearing, and vocational advancement.

So our church articulates alternative motivation for the practice of consistent, generous giving. In all aspects of our life together, we remember that Jesus left us (his followers, the church) with work to do, and the power to do it. What used to be his work is now ours, with the help of his living Spirit in us.

So, for example, if Jesus was obsessed with announcing the reign of God, and inviting people to step into it (see Mark 1:14-15), then we should also be obsessed with announcing the reign of God and inviting people to step into it. Our church developed a budget category named “Announcing and Inviting,” in which the first line is for “Celebrations.” Our Christology tells us that Jesus liked to go to parties (John 2, Luke 5:29ff.) and imagined God’s future as a party (Matthew 22, Luke 14). So we are obligated to throw evangelistic parties, parties to which we can invite friends and neighbors and enemies for whom coming to “church” is just not going to happen… yet. Imagine what happens when newcomers realize that the first line item in their new church’s budget is for parties. Yes, including beer.

“Announcing and Inviting” also pays for “Branding, Web Presence, and Printing,” so we have lots of ways to invite people to experience God’s reign. And there’s a line for “Public Events, Registration Fees” because we often enter floats in local parades and set up tables at local festivals to be as inviting as we can.

In traditional church budgets, this whole category might be called, vaguely, “Evangelism.” But by making it concrete, and linking it to Jesus’ way of being in the world, and acknowledging that we spend money to make it happen, we count it as our collaborative work -- not something relegated to a committee, not something we talk about but can’t effect.

The budget continues with additional categories of work we find Jesus doing in the gospels: Preaching and Teaching; Healing and Shepherding; Worship and Spirituality; Friendship and Hospitality; Calling and Sending; Bringing Good News to the Poor; and Welcoming Youth and Children. We try to imagine all the things we need to accomplish these tasks of education, compassion, empowerment, and more -- the work Jesus began in his own ministry and then left to us.

There are no categories for “building and grounds” or “personnel.” Of course rent and salaries are represented but they are assigned to the actual category of Jesus’ ministry they help us accomplish. Our budget, then, keeps us tied to Jesus’s work and prevents us from losing our sense of missional priority. If we can’t imagine Jesus doing it, we won’t spend money on it.

You can take a look at our 2016 Ministry Finance Plan.

Check out Part II of Katie's reflection: How to Give? However You Can

More Information

Rev. Dr. Katie Hays is the Lead Evangelist and founder of Galileo Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), or “Galileo” for short. Galileo seeks and shelters spiritual refugees, especially LGBTQ+ neighbors and Millennials, and it happens in lots of places around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex -- living rooms, taco bars, coffee shops, and the roadhouse bar they rent for Sunday evening worship.

Stewardship Speaker Series: Join us on campus this summer -- July 21 and/or August 18 -- for breakfast as we hear from groundbreaking stewardship leaders practicing distinctive, top-notch stewardship. Come to one event, or both! All events are free and open to the public. For more information, and to register, visit www.luthersem.edu/stewlead

Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising: Luther Seminary, in partnership with the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving, is hosting a four-day intensive course, October 17-20, 2016. For more information visit: www.luthersem.edu/ECRF.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Heart Commandment Design image by Nathan Jeffers; Creative Commons image on Flickr.

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