Generosity Starter Kit
By Ken Sloane
I recently received this letter in the mail from my good friend David Bowles, President & CEO of the Kentucky United Methodist Foundation. Inside the envelope was a smaller envelope labeled “starter kit” which included a $1 bill, a $2 bill, and a $5 bill. It struck me as a creative way (especially in the midst of a pandemic) to remind me that little acts of generosity have a way of growing when they are set loose on the world. David gave me permission to share this teaching tool. I’ll update this post later when I can share what I’ve done with my starter kit. - Ken
I am enclosing what you may think of as a starter kit. There are many fun things you can do with the starter kit. There are also perils and cautions. This is why the starter kit is intentionally small.
Something that seems like a fun way to use the starter kit would be to go to the local Baskin-Robbins and get a cone stacked with eight individual scoops of your favorite flavors. That only seems fun, however, because in actual practice, you get dripped on, have several scoops slide off onto the floor, and you end up with a big tummy ache (see Proverbs 23:3; Proverbs 25:16).
Our forebears might hide a starter kit under the mattress. This still remains an option, but you don't really want Jesus mad at you (see Matthew 25:14 ff).
Each item in your starter kit will fit nicely in your pocket. That way, the items can go wherever you go, and they are ready for action. They are versatile. They can each work individually, or they can work as a team.
If you like, they can team up together to make microloans. Actually, in this case, they would be more like nanoloans (see Matthew 5:42). Such a loan could enable someone to accomplish something that he or she otherwise could not do. The wonderful thing about this approach is that it's like a yo-yo. People go out and do their work, come back later, and then go out again on another trip to accomplish something else. Think of a carousel - whee!
Individually, people can find useful work on their own. Mr. One can supply a cold drink to a thirsty person (see Matthew 10:42; Proverbs 25:25). And, who knows, you might be the good news from a land that is not so distant after all.
Ms. Two can furnish a sandwich to someone who is hungry (see Isaiah 58:7; Proverbs 22:9). It could have been your sandwich, but you'll get a special feeling inside if you let that sandwich nourish someone in need. And that special feeling inside is not like feeling full after a meal; it is more like feeling both free and connected all at the same time.
Mrs. Five can get someone all the way across town to a doctor's appointment (see Proverbs 19:17; Romans 12:13). That is a true blessing to a person who is uncertain or worried because he or she needs to see the doctor.
All together as a team, you can use your starter kit to do a “hush-hush” thing. Make sure the starter kit is in your pocket; then find a coffee shop or soup kitchen in town that has a "pay ahead" wall. Now, you are a special envoy on a secret mission – a mission from God. Being careful that others are not watching, quietly approach the counter and slip them your starter kit items in return for a pay-ahead receipt to pin on the wall. Once you are out the door, you are not undercover any longer; you can go merrily on your way. But I'll bet it won't be the last time you visit there (see Proverbs 3:27; Matthew 6:1-4).
If it happens that some of your starter kit is still in your pocket when you get to church, you can put all or parts of it into the bucket. The church is like a "bus station for doing good things." People come from all directions with starter kits of their own (and more!) and crisscross for encouragement and then they will go out in all directions across the community (and beyond) to be helpful. Our starter kits are kind of like water. If they sit still for too long, they get moldy and start to smell bad. It's a mistake to get too attached to your starter kit (see 1Timothy 6:7-10). If they circulate all around, they stay fresh and life-giving. We all need water each day to make it through. Don't you feel refreshed after a cup of cold water?
Well, let me know how it goes with your starter kit. I know it can seem a little odd at first, even awkward sometimes. Just remember that you are Jesus' helper. Jesus doesn't have any hands and feet, except yours and mine. It's kind of exciting to realize that you are a "little Jesus,” growing each day more and more into a bigger Jesus. And let me know how you feel. I'll bet you'll even surprise yourself.
By the way, after you feel comfortable and proficient with a starter kit, it is good to know that the kits come in even larger sizes (see Luke 12:48b).
- David Bowles
Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.