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Pastor shares joy of generosity in hard times

By Andrew J. Schleicher*
June 11, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

In the midst of economic hard times, one United Methodist congregation is finding joy in generosity.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., started speaking to the congregation about money as the world’s economy began to fall apart. He encouraged his congregants to save and not spend what they do not have. He also spoke about generosity and the happiness found in giving.

The result: Offerings are up, along with an increase in money set aside for the needy.

Hamilton now shares his ideas in his new book “Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity.” Abingdon Press last month released companion study and stewardship guides to help churches and their members in financial planning.

The groundwork for the book was laid in 2007 when Hamilton and the church staff began to see the need for teaching the congregation more about managing their money. “They were basically two paychecks away from being in ruin," Hamilton said.

“How do we help people so that they make wise decisions?" Hamilton asked. “There is a responsibility that we have as pastors to be helpful."

Hamilton preached a series that formed the basis for his book. “The response of people was tremendous," the pastor said. “We found that people would invite their friends."

The message also started to sink in.

Congregants began to downsize their living and get their finances under control, asking themselves, “Why is it that we think that if I could just have a little bit more than I would be happy?"

An attitude of gratitude

Hamilton shares six financial planning principles, each rooted in Scripture. The first is giving to the church. He encourages all to consider how much time they spend each week in Bible study and prayer.

After creating a budget, persons then need to simplify their lives and establish an emergency fund. “(I was) seeing people using their homes as ATMs," Hamilton said, “assuming that everything was going perfect."

The Rev. Adam Hamilton

He said that joy is not to be found in buying new things, but in a deeper relationship with God. In the back of each book is a key tag with Hamilton’s contentment prayer on it. “Lord, help me to be grateful for what I have,” it begins.

Hamilton encourages all to put this tag on their key ring and pray the prayer before any purchase. He hopes that through this prayer, one may find contentment with what one has and the strength to save and to be joyfully generous.

The series was so successful that he repeated it in 2008, just as banks and auto companies started asking for bailouts. Even in the midst of the questionable state of people’s finances, more members of the Church of the Resurrection made pledges than in the preceding years, with the total pledging now at 72 percent. In 2005, percentage pledging was at 56 percent.

“If people are having a right relationship with money, then the church will be OK," Hamilton said.

In the past year, about 200 members of the congregation have lost their jobs. Nevertheless, offerings are up slightly according to Hamilton.

The congregation has kept its budget at about 2008 levels and is not laying off any staff. Instead, it is taking special offerings and tripling the amount it sets aside for persons in need. The church has also made space available for job seekers to use phones and computers.

Hamilton includes in his book and companion pieces a variety of tools for people to examine their own finances. The study and stewardship guides come with DVDs that can be used in small groups or in worship. The DVDs include clips from Hamilton’s sermons as well as advice from financial experts.

The stewardship guide also provides tips for congregational mailings and sermon outlines. The book, study and stewardship program may all be purchased through Cokesbury (www.cokesbury.com) as well as other bookstores. More information about Adam Hamilton and his other books and studies may be found at http://adamhamilton.cokesbury.com.

* Schleicher is a writer, editor and communications consultant living in Nashville, Tennessee.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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