Charities

4 steps to a generous community

Imagine your city as a place in which Christians are meeting people’s needs and partnering together to live with open hands, making Jesus’ name known by the generous spirit that exists among them.

Now, what if you can imagine this, but it’s not a reality where you live? What do you do?

Cameron Doolittle of Generosity Path interviewed leaders of the generosity movement – from three different countries – who are building generous communities right where they are. Marius began in Romania, Dusan and Adam started a group in the Czech Republic, while Laurie planted seeds that grew into a “band of brothers” in South Africa.

They noticed that four things really worked:

1. Starting with a small core team of trusted/respected business leaders

2. Organizing regular prayer and fasting, asking for God’s vision and for divine connections

3. Building community through consistent meetings, organized by a convener

4. Focusing on bringing God’s kingdom through action

These leaders all also recognized that the early disciples lived lives of radical generosity and wanted to emulate that. In the early church, generosity was not an isolated act of kindness. It was their standard behavior, a consistent characteristic among the people in their community. We can see this lifestyle lived out in Acts 11:28-30, 1 Corinthians 16:1-3, 2 Corinthians 8-9, and most explicitly in Acts 2:44-45:

“All who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Can these kinds of communities exist today? If so, how can Christians come together to form them? Here’s what four leaders – Marius, Laurie, Adam, and Dusan – did.

 

Step 1: Start with a core team of trusted business leaders

In Romania, Marius gathered 15 business leaders from among the churches in the city of Cluj to ask, “How can we impact Cluj for Christ?” The group decided that it would not be a branded community, like a global ministry had tried to start amongst them. Instead, through a monthly breakfast together, the Cluj business leaders tasked sub-teams with hosting Journeys of Generosity (JOGs), overseeing a Global Leadership Summit, and undertaking other initiatives.

“I’d start with a small group and take it from there,” Marius says. Since all of the members’ main job was business, his group needed some structure, but not too much. He started with a few families and grew out of that group. It began with Christian business leaders or people in managerial positions – people of influence.

He laid out a “path,” putting together some philosophical ideas of what he wanted to accomplish. He advises aiming at changing something and not just gathering for the sake of meeting together. 

In the Czech Republic, Adam and Dusan convened a group of givers from across the country for fellowship. Out of that emerged a semi-annual, two-day retreat called the Czech Donors Forum, a safe, informal, and neutral gathering where participants receive biblical teaching, discover where they might collaborate, and practice strategic giving.

Dusan recognizes that his core group came out of years of donors building a relationship with him through a ministry that aims to equip young disciples in Central and Eastern Europe, Josiah Venture, combined with the “magnet” of Adam’s prominence. “They wouldn’t have come if I invited them. But Adam was ‘entrepreneur of the year.’ So Adam let me invite them in his name. The role of the host was key” to making his vision of collaboration a reality, Dusan says.

Laurie also enlisted friends whose influence helped draw together the band of brothers that she had envisioned to change the South African business environment and, ultimately, the whole African continent.


Step 2. Organize regular prayer and fasting

All of the groups meet and learn together, but there is something very important about prayer and fasting from the beginning, in order to seek God’s vision and divine connections. Laurie emphasized that praying and fasting were key to her group’s success and to the original, very specific vision that God gave her for a transformed business community in South Africa.

Dusan credits the Holy Spirit and the role of prayer at the outset of the community for getting his group up and running.

The groups also make fellowship a priority. The communities are spiritual before they are financial. Christian business leaders feel the need for fellowship and business contacts, and these needs reinforce each other. Christian business leaders love learning about other Christians in business near them.

Step 3: Build community through consistent meetings 

Though all of the participants in these groups come from a faith background and from a church, none of the groups came out of just one church. Each is a mix of churches and denominations. Prayer and sharing stories bring the groups together.

Dusan says that listening to the others share their own stories is the best part. “One giver shared powerfully about his struggles,” and the feeling that he was alone in them. But he was not alone. Other people struggle with the same things. “We aim for relationships. It’s hard to find safe environments where they’re among their peers.”

Each of these communities has ways that they stay in touch consistently, though each has a different rhythm. The Cluj city team uses WhatsApp to assign tasks and set meetings. Marius says,We meet regularly, probably once a month or so for a breakfast from 8 am to 9:30 am. There’s a restaurant downtown that we chose. Everyone pays their own bill. There’s no financial pressure and no budget” for the meetings.

 

The Czech group is spread out geographically, so they gather in person for a retreat two weekends a year.  And Dusan stays in contact. I’m in touch with each of them at least one time between meetings. I reach out to see how they are doing,” he says. And the strategic giving subgroup, comprised of five families, also has a weekly call.

 

South Africa’s approach is more idiosyncratic and personal. Laurie is in touch with the growing “band of brothers” through meetings, emails, and phone calls. American business leader Pete Ochs hosts periodic calls, as he has led some of them through business training.

 

While each country’s rhythm differs, each is building trust and fellowship. Each connects Christian business leaders with one another, reducing isolation and forming community. Dusan’s group overcomes the lack of frequency through more intentional focus on stories and testimonies when the group comes together.


Step 4: Focus on bringing God’s kingdom through action

Marius was particularly adamant that, though they do pray, “this is not another small group or prayer group, but an action group.” He takes them through a JOG and then invites them to get involved hands on. “It’s not just about generosity, but about being a resource for ministries that happen in Cluj.”

His group doesn’t start with an agenda. They spend time talking, and the agenda emerges out of their time together. “Most of us are ‘action people’ and want to be structured; we don’t have the patience for a mission statement and all that.”

When interest forms around an initiative, the group commissions a task force to separately gather the information needed to move forward.

Laurie focuses on business leaders transforming a region for Jesus. She says, “The foundation of [God’s] throne is righteousness and justice.” But, she says, “that doesn’t characterize business in South Africa. The Lord brought me here with a vision…. What will God do to change the country?” So she starts with “relationships and trust and a heart connection. Any chance we get to partner, we do it … [to start] sharing Jesus.”

“There’s a whole community of people who will be used to bring the kingdom. Business is a huge part …. As they seek the King, they’ll become generous, because he’s generous.” When people go through a JOG together, they create a bond. “They’re in battle together,” Laurie says. They become that band of brothers she so desired to form.



Homegrown vision – God’s kingdom in their spheres of influence

While each of these groups began with fellowship, communities advance because God gives vision. Marius explains how this happened in Cluj. “In 2017, we were exploring JOGs. There were two other initiatives among business people. One of them didn’t catch on. It was too impersonal. People didn’t want to become a local team.”

“Our approach is better – no pressure,” Marius says. We’re here to learn from each other and help, but not form a pool of fundraisers. This gives us more freedom and flexibility. It makes it more attractive.”

His group decided to form a sub-team which would go together to the Prague EGCC Summit. “We explore local ministries and how we can help. It slowly grew from five or six to a group that we now call City Team with 15 families.”

Note that these leaders united around a general, homegrown vision and rejected a branded, organized effort from a global ministry. They like the global ministry, but these business leaders are entrepreneurial; they don’t want to just be tools in a charity’s strategy. They want to develop their own strategy and use us (Generosity Path) as tools to accomplish their strategy.

For Laurie, the vision was that band of brothers to bring righteousness to South Africa. For Marius, the vision was business leaders impacting Cluj. For Dusan, the vision was healing the isolation wealthy Christians experienced.

Once the communities formed around these visions, conveners offered Generosity Path tools as a way to fulfill the underlying vision. “I believe JOGs will be part of what God is doing in this community,” Laurie says. “I don’t know that there’s one singular vision. Some have a vision for education and how it brings the kingdom. For others, it’s bringing the kingdom in a factory setting. It’s going to be God and his Spirit prompting … people. I aim to be a reminder” of the kingdom, she says.

Marius echoes that approach: “My personal plan is … not to overdo the generosity piece. I don’t want to do 10 generosity events a year, but I want to do two. People need time to let things settle in, so that they can process and respond and get involved. People come experience the idea of generosity and then they react and move into action.”

There’s a progression, he says, from a trusting community to collaborative giving. Before analyzing projects, a vision must be cast. Dusan says the Czech group met for years, first building a network of relationships and trust. “For some people it’s enough to just be connected relationally [and not necessarily give]. But in between meetings, there’s a core group that’s formed around the strategic giving.” And that strategy is turning vision into action.

You can read more about global givers at joygiving.org.

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