With the continued spread and rise in infection of COVID-19 over the world, and economic fallout that is worsening, church leaders are naturally thinking about what the effect will be on giving. Let us look at some of the narratives.
- The giving reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic has indicated charity at its best. The groundswell of support of the community from individual donors, institutional, corporate, and community and church organizations rally to uplift the vulnerable. Besides record donations there was a rise in volunteerism. A daily in the Philippines reported the “entire PH military donating parts of salaries for the COVID-19 fight.”1 Many church employees likewise donated a percentage of their salaries to assist church members and the community.
- Even before the outbreak of COVID-19 but during the aftermath of Ebola, a press release by the World Bank in 2015 came out quoting their president as saying that the “World is ‘dangerously unprepared’ for future pandemics.”2, and a similar article in 2019 reported that “experts warn world ‘grossly unprepared’ for future pandemics.”3
Despite all the warnings and proposals for preparedness, governments and individuals alike easily forget and then always react in the state of surprise and shock when another similar emergency happens.
Is the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) adequately prepared for global emergencies? The reality is that just a few weeks after the initial quarantine measures imposed by the government authorities, reports came to SSD about the economic challenges faced by church members and even our institutions, particularly the health and education sector. SSD promptly responded to the urgent needs, yet obviously cannot adequately address all the pressing demand for more. How can we be better prepared when a similar emergency happens again in the future? As in disaster preparedness, the church and its members will be better equipped if we move away from a reactive to proactive, then people-centered approach.”
Would Planned Giving be an avenue that church leaders and members should seriously consider as one of the proactive approaches? The crucial concept of planning in stewardship is critical to the Planned Giving program of the church, which therefore fits exactly with the planning approaches to emergency preparedness. Planned Giving provides the financial fuel to support the overall emergency plans.
Planning is a critical process to be better prepared for the future. Assuming you have not yet considered a planned gift in your stewardship goals, now might be simply an opportunity to examine why, or even better: why not? Planned or estate gifts may appear complicated, seem like they can be done later, or that these arrangements are only for older, more mature individuals to consider. Nothing could be further from reality: planned giving is for all ages, and with the right information and appropriate guidance, simply requires some thoughtful planning.
There is certainty that planned giving and special gifts are vital for development and reserve, and for the growth and sustainability of the ministry of the Adventist Church. Planned giving places resources where they are needed, improves budgetary dependability, and permits initiative to expand the vision for the church far into the future. What a golden time right now for all to consider how they can more effectively take an active part in this program for the glory of God.
In Romans 12, Paul records seven spiritual gifts, including prophecy, serving, teaching, mercy, and giving. It appears as though that in the SSD territory, planned giving is least thought about and embraced as a spiritual gift we should pray for and develop in our Christian growth. Our office sent out a planned giving survey to all the employees of one of our higher organizations. The survey results revealed the following.
You will note that while 82.5 percent already practice planned giving, only 37.5 percent give regularly and a mere 15 percent already have a will. The upside is that there is still plenty of opportunity to grow in this area of stewardship.
The General Conference Working Policy states that “Planned Giving promotes that each church member should have their own plan that will honor God and give glory to him. Honoring God will include providing for the needs of family, partnering with God in completing his mission through the proper utilization of all his gifts and resources. A God-honoring plan will pass on faith in God, possessions, and values to the generations to follow.”
In her book Counsels on Stewardship, Ellen White states, “Many manifest a needless delicacy on this point. They feel that they are stepping upon forbidden ground when they introduce the subject of property to the aged or to invalids in order to learn what disposition they design to make of it. But this duty is just as sacred as the duty to preach the word to save souls. … Should not Christian [people] feel interested and anxious for that [person’s] future good as well as for the interest of God’s cause, that [they] shall make a right disposition of [their] Lord’s money, the talents lent [them] for wise improvement?”4
Consider this: How does a young Christian learn and experience the truth that it is better to give than to receive? Where can they go to see what giving looks like in the life of a believer blessed by the grace of Christ?
“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity” (Luke 6:38, The Message).
Let us encourage one another toward giving!
- INQUIRER.net / April 07, 2020
- worldbank.org/ January 27, 2015
- theguardian.com/ 18 Sep 2019
- White, E. G. (1940). Counsels on Stewardship (pp. 323 324)