With the news headlines and the upward leap in food and energy bills, the cost-of-living crisis is impossible to ignore. For charities, the current financial crisis looks set to be both deeper and longer than Covid, says the Charity Excellence Framework. Yet in villages, towns and cities across the country, church communities are bringing warmth, light and stability in the storm. Christians are organising prayer events, mobilising research and finding ways to help.
Christine is part of a church that set up an emergency food bank during the pandemic, they kept it going ‘for such a time as this’. Hearing individual stories from those using the food bank, Christine began to realise the extent of the poverty on the doorstep. “Yes, I saw that the church is at the forefront of responding, but it was still distressing.” Sometimes we can see the need around us and find it paralysing. We feel more distress or guilt than motivation. Perhaps we feel our own struggles mean we have nothing of value to give, or the need is just too great.
How can we continue to give as the need keeps increasing? How can we find joy in it whilst stretching further and further? The first step to finding joy in generosity might surprise you: it’s simply being prepared to talk about it!
It’s an important part of faith, but talking about money can make us feel awkward. “Many of us experience anxiety when it comes to the topic of our own personal finances, whether we have a little or a lot,” says Jesse from Generosity Path. “I think it might help if we were able to see biblical generosity as an invitation to greater freedom and joy - to freedom from fear and loneliness, and from being overwhelmed.” For this reason, perhaps we should be talking about it much more.
Generosity Path began in the 1990s when giving appeared to be low amongst Christians. Four friends set out to find out how to turn the tide. They started by talking to people they knew who were living outrageously generous lives and noticed that each carried a sense of incredible joy as a result of their giving.
The group of friends began hosting a ‘journey of generosity’ (JOG) in their homes: an opportunity for a group of friends to talk about giving and generosity. There are now JOG groups in over 70 countries around the world, who use stories of generous givers, discussion guides, Bible studies and even a podcast to explore generosity together, in all its forms. What they have in common is this: there is no pressure to give, no one is asked for money or told what to give, or how much. This gives freedom for honest conversation, and for listening to God’s voice for our individual situations. It also serves to encourage each other in the adventure of giving.
When we look to find them, and take time to discuss them, the Bible is full of fabulously inspiring examples of generosity in practice, of people sharing their talents and hospitality, their homes and even their lives. As we look at the life of Christ, yes, he encourages sacrificial giving of belongings, but we also see him pouring his time and attention into people, both friends and strangers. Generosity of time and attention can be underrated. We can be generous in our conversation too.
Sometimes the biggest gift we can give someone is creating a safe space for them to speak and explore what God might be saying. There is an opportunity in a time of poverty for those of us who have known God’s generosity to us in so many ways to create spaces for honest conversation. Why do we want to give here and not there? How, like Christine, can we find a way through our distress to knowing what to do next? What has been the outcome? Christine’s church had a gift day in November for the food bank and other projects. The amount given was abundantly more than anyone’s expectations.
The team at Generosity Path say, “We believe that radical, Jesus-like generosity leads to communities united, the homeless housed, the hungry fed, the vulnerable protected and the unreached embraced. This is the adventure that will forever change our lives, communities and world.” As Christians seeking to be salt and light in our neighbourhoods, perhaps this can be the year we start talking about all of the many ways we can be generous and discover a new cheerfulness in giving, too.
If you would like to find out more about hosting a ‘Journey of Generosity’, see https://experience.generositypath.org/