By William C. Green, United Church of Christ, 2007
The Big Secret of Giving: Hidden Treasures in Life and Church is a booklet of 27 devotions related to financial giving, but grounded in a holistic understanding of stewardship as our response to God’s generous grace. While the booklet was written in part to encourage giving to the United Church of Christ, its content addresses common ecumenical understandings of the Christian faith. The meditations contain quotations from people in different centuries as well as Bible texts, and end with a question for individual reflection. The author, William Green, was the executive for the Center for Faith and Giving when the book was published, and now is a consultant in congregational fundraising and education.
Each day’s meditation centers on a different approach to life that brings Christian value to our everyday experiences. For example, “It Is Very Good” emphasizes looking for what is useful and of positive value, instead of focusing on what we think we lack. “The Big Secret” reminds us that God is always present, enabling us to accomplish far more than we can ever imagine. “Don’t Just Do Something” prompts us to allow stillness and be attentive to God, instead of continually rushing from one activity to the next.
The book also includes “Six Best Practices” that can help a person make decisions about giving. It encourages us to:
• Remember that God will meet our needs with exceeding generosity (Philip. 4:19). Even in hard times of real trouble, God’s grace is bigger than any situation we may face.
• Pray about the decisions you need to make, including details about finances. Ask, and listen for guidance.
• Tithe intentionally (giving ten percent of what you have to God’s work), or give proportionately with tithing in mind (2 Cor. 8:12).
• Focus on what’s distinctive about God’s work through the church. The church is not only a single congregation, but also its wider mission in the world.
• Diversify the ways in which you give. Annual financial giving is one way, but people can give beyond their lifetimes through a variety of planned giving vehicles. Wills and trusts, life insurance, gift annuities and more, can speak to our unique situations without drawing from current income.
• “Trust everybody, but cut the cards.” Good giving requires responsible use to ensure good results. Once we have sought God’s guidance and done due diligence about the cause, we can give in an open-handed way, trusting in God.
This booklet prompts some substantive questions for personal pondering. It could be used at any point during the year with additional information about your congregation’s mission giving, or as the text for a month-long small group on Christian Values and Stewardship. It’s well worth reading for individual spiritual exploration.
Your partner in ministry,