A Culture of Generosity

Nancy FisherNancy Fisher reflects on a new job, a new role, and the emphasis on a culture we can all be proud of here at First Church. 

One of the things most exciting to me in my new role as Director of Stewardship here at FUMCFW is discovering the distinct differences between what I’m doing now for our church and some of the “fundraising” I’ve done in the past. The difference, you see, is at the very heart of what we do here — as a church, as a faith community, and as people seeking to “be God’s people in the world.”

Out of all that I’ve done so far to “get my feet wet” in this new gig, one of the most thought-provoking tasks is analyzing the successes of other churches to glean ideas and models for our church. I’ve talked to a lot of people who do what I do in other churches, I’ve searched countless church websites, and I’ve researched the work of many whose job description is similar to mine.

What is the most important thing I’ve discovered? Beneath the current trend of using “generosity” in place of “stewardship” or “giving” lies an underpinning that strikes me as quite profound. Echoing and illustrating perfectly, I think, the reminder from Bishop Robert Schnase that “generosity extends beyond merely the use of money; there are generous spirits, generous souls; people who are generous with their time; with their teaching; with their love,” I find the word “generosity” to be an innate human core value we all share.

In fact, social scientists find that children, even as infants, are predisposed toward altruism and kindness. And, at some point from early childhood through elder adulthood, most of us realize that generosity is something that just naturally feels good. In their book, “The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose,” Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson reveal through their analysis of all kinds of measurable data that people who are generous with their money, time, and associations are happier, healthier, and more resilient than their less generous counterparts.

In my line of work it’s essential to love numbers, data, and empirical evidence. In this new role I’m embracing with our church, anyone who talks to me for more than a few minutes can see how excited I am to discover that what social scientists have “discovered” about generosity confirms Jesus’ teaching that “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

In that light, let’s take a look at Smith and Davidson’s findings about generosity:

  • Generosity fosters positive emotions that promote happiness and health.
  • Generosity triggers the chemical systems in our brain that reduce stress and suppress pain.
  • Generosity promotes our sense of personal agency and self-efficacy.
  • Generosity provides us with positive, meaningful social roles and self-identities.
  • Generosity reduces our tendency toward maladaptive self-absorption.
  • Generosity reinforces our perception of abundance and blessing.
  • Generosity expands our social networks and relational ties.
  • Generosity expands our intellectual and emotional horizons by exposing us to the needs of others.
  • Generosity is associated with a more active lifestyle.

Look for our coming series, “Profiles in Generosity,” which will highlight how FUMCFW is already embracing this new transformational culture of generosity.

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