When our boys were younger, I wanted them to see how much we were giving to our church. I wanted to model cheerful generosity, and to demonstrate that this was normal and very intentional. If the truth be told, I was secretly hoping that our generosity would be contagious, as well.
Practising intentionality in giving may be less common than we think. But with careful and deliberate planning, our generosity can rise to the top of our to-do list.
Recently I heard a gifted speaker, Kathy LeMay, deliver an impassioned talk on the importance of developing an “intentional generosity plan.” LeMay suggests that this plan should answer the following six key questions:
- My vision for the world or community is . . .
- My charitable priorities are . . .
- The amount or percentage I contribute to charity annually is . . .
- The amount or percentage I would like to contribute next year is . . .
- The charities that I am most interested in supporting are . . .
- The most important reason for creating and implementing my generosity plan is . . .
These questions encourage us to look at our motivation as well as our goals for generosity.
Here is a simple generosity plan that my wife and I created several years ago. We decided to focus on three categories of giving:
• First, we are committed to giving the first fruits of our income to support the ministries of our home church. Some might refer to this as a tithe. The Apostle Paul simply instructs that everyone has the opportunity to decide in his/her heart what amount to give (II Corinthians 9:7). However, let me suggest that 10 percent of gross salary income would be a minimum target, not the ceiling.
• Second, we like to give gifts and offerings to other good causes, such as relief agencies, mission work and Christian education. This is where we want to follow our passions. We want to give to five or six causes that are most important to us. This allows us to comfortably say no to other causes that don’t match our current plan. Importantly, our intentional generosity strategy also includes charitable gifts through our estate plan.
• Third, from time to time we want to offer random or reckless acts of generosity. These gifts might end up with recipients we know little about, but it just seems right to provide help. There are no chari-table tax receipts for these gifts. Even if the gift ends up not being used for the best of purposes, it simply is good for our souls to be randomly generous once in a while.
Our plan provides clarity that empowers and informs our generosity activities. Intentionality helps us to keep the course with unwavering confidence.
What has God entrusted to you that really was meant to flow to others? Do you have a plan for distributing these resources? Why not take a few moments and draft a plan?
Reviewing Lemay’s questions may be an ideal place to begin. Think about causes that you are most passionate about. Take your time. Once you’ve gotten started, you can correct the course and improve your gifting strategies at a later date. So plan to give with exhilaration and joy as a grateful response to God’s greatest, indescribable gift of salvation to you!
Arnie Friesen is a stewardship consultant in the Abbotsford, B.C., office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.