Recently I attended an interactive workshop held by Thrivent Financial for church leaders on how to engage different generations through generosity. As with most interactive workshops, the speaker had to find ways to encourage participation with the attendees through various activities and questions. The first exercise was to use a lump of Play-Doh to sculpt something that reminded you of an experience with generosity. I was shocked, not at my inability to sculpt something as simple as a grocery bag out of Play-Doh, but how quickly I recalled a powerful memory of generosity in my life. I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. Just a few months after Diane and I were wed, we were barely making it financially. One evening, as we were getting ready for bed, we knew the next few days were going to be tough since we were out of groceries and payday was still days away. I woke up the next morning hungry for breakfast knowing there was not any food. I opened our apartment door to get the newspaper and to my surprise found three bags of groceries! Diane and I were overwhelmed by the generosity of someone who allowed themselves to be used as the hands and feet of God, especially since we did not tell anyone of our situation. We had no idea who left this amazing gift, but that act of generosity made a lasting impression on us. It was in that moment the two of us were committed to someday being the hands and feet of Jesus to others who are going through tough times. Now we intentionally fund a “generosity envelope” and love to give anonymously to others in need. In Acts 20:35 the bible says,
“ … you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Through the workshop I learned that generosity is so much more than giving money. In fact, I was surprised to learned that there are five expressions of generosity: monetary giving, service/volunteering, hospitality, gifts, and emotional-relational support. It was so interesting to read the survey results on how different generations respond to the various expressions of generosity. For example, Millennials (ages 19-33) are far more likely to express generosity through hospitality or in emotional/relational support. Which makes sense since Millennials tend to show more openness, unqualified acceptance, and kindness toward others. Gen X’ers (ages 34-52) are more likely to express generosity through gifts. The Boomers (ages 53-71) seem to be a bit more well-rounded with higher percentages in demonstrating generosity through service, emotional/relational, and monetary, but weaker in hospitality and giving gifts. And not so surprising is that Elders (ages 72 +) top the chart for both service/volunteering and monetary giving as they typically have the most discretional time and financial resources. The truth is, regardless of the generation you fall into, all forms of generosity need to be sought if we want to show the world who Jesus is and experience the blessing that giving brings.
So what about you? I would love to hear what you would make with your lump of Play-Doh that expresses generosity in your life.