by Betsy Schwarzentraub
The main objective of this course is to assist students as they engage and critique the culture in which they live, in their society and church. Class participants will:
As a result of this course, students will be able to speak more boldly on stewardship themes within culture, talk about the tension between following Jesus Christ and succumbing to the current consumer culture, and advocate a lifestyle that works with others to transform human systems to honor God.
Required for CEUs:
Christine Roush, Swimming Upstream: Reflections on consumerism and culture Selected articles from generousstewards.wordpress.com
Adam Hamilton, Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity
Betsy Schwarzentraub, Afire With God: Becoming Spirited Stewards
Lynn A. Miller, The Power of Enough: Putting Stuff in Its Place
Watch four instructional audio-graphic videos, accessible from the Virtual Classroom.
Online Class Forum
Participants are asked to use the Class Forum weekly. Weekly postings will enable timely class discussions and instructor responses. Each person's post should include:
Five conference calls are scheduled: an introductory call on Monday, January 9 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and then four Saturdays for in-depth class discussion: January 21 and 28 and February 4 and 11, all at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.
Conference call on January 9, 8 p.m. Eastern Time
1. Become familiar with the Course Home Page and the informational sections.
2. Bible Reading: Romans 12:2 and Ps. 46:10
3. Watch Video 1, "Achievement, Productivity, and Rugged Individualism"
Required for CEUs:
[At generousstewards.wordpress.com, scroll down on the left to find article categories. For a complete list of where all this course’s articles are, go to the transformingthechurch.org Class Forum and click on “Where to Find Handout Articles at generousstewards.wordpress.com.”]
5. Class Forum
1. Given the iceberg model of a culture, how would you describe the internal culture of your church? In what ways does it reflect an outward (community and society) culture of achievement, productivity and rugged individualism? In what ways is it counter-cultural?
2. As you consider your faith community, what is the right balance of achievement, programs or effectiveness on the one hand, and being still and resting in God, on the other? Is it possible to be “both/and” and not “either/or” in this? When do you sense you’re getting to the tipping point?
3. Of the six best practices discovered in the Canadian study of local churches, which one seems strongest in your church? Which one is the greatest challenge? What about in your wider, outward community?
4. What elements might be part of a plan for your congregation to build a more vibrant culture of generosity?
5. What are the most important things in life for you? Make a list. How can money affect each of these positively and negatively?
6. Comment on one idea from the video that captured your attention.
Conference call on January 21, 1 p.m. Eastern Time
1. Bible Reading: Luke 12:13-21
2. Watch Video 2, "Consumerism: Shattering the Myth of More"
4. Class Forum
1. The story in Luke 12:13-21 is often called “The Rich Fool.” Is there anything in this story that would be considered smart in today’s majority culture? What was foolish about his thoughts and/or actions? Was the problem that he was rich, or some other aspect? Is there anything in your church’s work that moves in a foolish direction?
2. Several stewardship leaders these days talk about the importance of clarifying the difference between needs and wants. Where is the confusion of those two an issue within your church culture? In the outward culture in which you live and work?
3. Adam Hamilton refers to both “diseases” of Affluenza and Credit-itis. Where do you see these in your cultural circumstances?
4. This course encourages you to develop or strengthen a year-round plan for growing a generous-hearted culture in your church. Who would you talk with about joining you in such a project? What of these or other resources might you study together first, to get on board with one another?
5. This presentation refers to church participants seeing themselves as “consumers” of the congregation’s services. How might you and others help turn that perception around, to being stewards of the gospel and laborers in mission together?
6. Comment on an idea from the video that jumped out at you.
Conference call on January 28, 1 p.m. Eastern Time
1. Bible Reading: Matthew 6:24-34
2. Watch Video 3, "Technology, Selfies and the Market of One"
4. Class Forum:
1. How can or does your personal practice of first fruits living help counteract materialist tendencies in your own life? How can you help your church leadership emphasize it as a practice throughout the church?
2. With all the instant communication and global marketing that has come with new technology, how can your church reach out without sounding like just one more competing company with something to sell?
3. How does “the market of one” change the playing field for religious groups in North America these days? What would be a healthy, helpful response?
4. With immediate cell phone connections and other new technology, how might your church culture be drawn into doing worship, mission and/or advocacy in different ways?
5. As you begin to construct or update a Local Church Generosity Plan, which of the essential elements are you and other church leaders working on? Which ones are important to develop next?
6. Comment on one idea from the video that you might like to pursue.
Conference call on February 4, 1 p.m. Eastern Time
1. Bible Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21
2. Watch Video 4, "The Church as Counter-Culture: Building a Culture of Generosity"
4. Class Forum:
1. What difference might it make to move from an emphasis on presenting programs in the church, to growing lifelong stewards of the gospel? What behaviors would you see among the church leaders and people in their interactions and attitudes? How might you help such a transformation to happen?
2. What difference could awareness of the Commitment Circle make in recruiting volunteer church leaders? Would the nominations process be different from the way it often is now? How could this be part of good stewardship?
3. What steps has your church leadership made to widen the concept of “stewardship” from just the financial pledge campaign to a more holistic understanding? What further steps might you take?
4. What images and assumptions do church leaders use for stewardship in their communication within your denomination or faith community? To what age group does that language most naturally apply? How could you speak about stewardship and generosity with other age groups in a different way?
5. If you are using the Generosity Plan worksheet and Essentials Checklist, what goals or elements have you begun to identify? What will be your next step?
6. Comment on one idea from the video that caught your attention.
Conference call on February 11, 1 p.m. Eastern Time
Thank you for your commitment to this experience.