All Our Eggs in One Basket? – A Talk about Giving

From a talk given to the congregation by Ross WHITE, PCC Member

I have been given the opportunity of speaking about money – in fact about giving money in church – and of what that can achieve right here in Leybourne.

It’s a subject that people struggle to talk about and also feel uncomfortable listening to….but that doesn't’t bother me at all as I have spent the last 25 years in the charity world.  And in that time I have seen, first-hand, lives transformed, people helped through the most challenging of times, and communities grow stronger through the generosity, prayer and commitment of others.

How I came to be standing here today was through going to my first PCC Committee meeting. The PCC is something I have successfully managed to avoid for over a decade until my arm was twisted recently.  

This church and all of the work that goes on here costs just over £74,000 to each year, although it would be considerably higher if we didn't’t have volunteers.  

I was scratching my head looking at the finance report and asking the question – is this all we have in the bank?  It was this moment that brought me to be standing here today!

It was the realisation that we had days (not weeks, nor months) of money in the bank, and yet great plans and a vision for this 1,000 year old church building and for our work here in the parish of Leybourne.   Just one unexpected bill (and ancient churches seem to attract them) would mean that we have nothing left at all!

The committee spoke of providing opportunities to sponsor various aspects of the work of the church, and all of this has value, but I felt we were missing the point – we have to talk about giving, think about giving, pray about giving….and then give!

Let me tell you a story………Five years ago I was in Kenya with a fantastic charity called Mildmay which undertakes incredible work amongst people living with HIV. Unlike the UK where village life is generally prosperous, villages in Africa experience the most serious poverty you could imagine. 

I visited a household headed up by a proud grandmother. This was a most immaculate mud hut I had seen, and I heard her story translated from the local dialect into English.  She had three sons who all married, and they had produced seven grandchildren.  HIV/AIDS then took the lives of each of her sons, and their wives, leaving the grandmother to look after 7 HIV positive grandchildren.  She was too old to earn a living, and they were too young!

I met a grandson called Isaiah who was eight years old - at the time just slightly older than my own daughter.  He showed me a basket of eggs, and explained that he had a chicken. He told me that when he had sold enough eggs he wanted to purchase a goat. Goats breed and produce milk and when he had sold enough, he eventually wanted to purchase a cow. It was a perfectly good business plan, fuelled, not from entrepreneurship, but through hunger and abject poverty.   On the way out I gave the equivalent of £5, enough to purchase a second chicken, and climbed into the vehicle for the long ride back to town.

About 30 minutes later I started to feel bad – in fact really bad!  You see, I had in my wallet enough money to have purchased his first goat! And by the time I got to Nairobi I wouldn't’t have even noticed that the money had gone. And I had literally left Isaiah where he started - with all his eggs in one basket!

I came back to England, and for 18 months this gnawed away at me until a colleague went out to Kenya to visit the same village. This time I gave enough money for Isaiah to buy three goats and two more chickens (still only about £115).  And before I changed jobs in February 2018, I learned that Isaiah had purchased his first cow!

You see, my first gift was transactional.  I had visited their home and it seemed like the polite or expected thing to do.  I remember agonising as to whether I should give £5 or £10.  In fact I seemed more concerned with what was left in my wallet than what I could actually bring about with the money I had with me.   As I mentioned above, it didn't’t bring me great peace and far from feeling wealthy, I felt impoverished. 

My second gift to Isaiah’s family, however, was not transactional, it was transformational! 

I only had a sense of peace when the money had been received by the family and it gave me total joy to learn that Isaiah’s family have food on the table, produce they can trade, and a life above the poverty line.   I recently learned that Isaiah is attending school too – something that has to be paid for in Kenya.

So my question to us here in Leybourne is whether our giving (either through regular standing order or into the offering) is transactional or transformational?  I imagine that most of us would have to agree that it is the former in reality! 

But wouldn't’t it be amazing if we all just started making the shift from transactional giving in the direction of transformational giving?   Think about what more we could do in this rapidly growing parish…strangers welcomed, the bereaved comforted, the heavy-burdened given help and support, young people nurtured in Christian values and teaching, worship that recognises the young, teens, adults and the more senior, teaching that guides and inspires us, a 1,000 year old church that is 21st century fit – in fact we might even have some money left to help another family like Isaiah’s!