Engagement, Mission and Generosity

            Yes, mission trips can have a downside (if travelers are patronizing or culturally clueless, for example), but plan on doing one in the New Year anyway. We can learn how to improve the hands-on mission, but the learning for the missioner can be priceless.

            In an excellent Inspiring Generosity post on Nov. 7 of this year, Cesie (pronounced “C.C.”) Delve Scheuermann cited important results from a research study by the Barna Group. They found that 95% of those who had traveled outside the U.S. to serve the poor donated to address child poverty. And 89% of those who had volunteered to help reduce global poverty did the same. These and other findings show that firsthand experience helps us see “others” no longer as a distant category, but as sisters and brothers.

            In the old Baby Boomer days, we used to say that doing an act of advocacy (praxis) prompts us to understand the world differently. In other words, many people act their way into new ways of thinking and new perspectives. But that Barna report says it doesn’t matter which comes first: action or concern for others. Either way, they say, it’s an “encouraging cycle of engagement and compassion.”

            Speaking of engagement, personally volunteering to respond to a need or help an organization makes a difference, as well. In an August 21 report, the Barna Group found that people who had volunteered at some point within the past six months believe volunteering is an act of generosity. The respondents measured generosity not only by what or how much people gave, but also by the personal cost of their giving, such as reaching out to a homeless stranger. The reverse is true, as well: only 48% of those who had not volunteered in the past six months considered volunteering as an act of generosity, and only 23% of those who never volunteer believed that.

            So the bottom line is that personal engagement grows our generosity, whether through going on a mission or volunteering here at home. It helps us see our family connection with other people, extends our sense of compassion, and encourages our generous behavior.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

See also: Connectivity