When leaders from All Shores Wesleyan Church came to a GenerousChurch Generosity Encounter, they were poised for change. They were already positioning themselves for a larger geographic footprint by changing their name. What they didn’t realize is that they were also positioning themselves for re-imagining generosity.
This Spring Lake, Michigan church is known as a church that encourages people to join no matter where they are in life. However, they are also known as the church that blocks traffic trying to get to the beach every Sunday. The leadership realized that their members wrestled with the distracted and highly recreational lifestyle of a beach community. All Shores wanted serving and giving to become a lifestyle of its people.
Conversations with GenerousChurch lead Pastor Pete Yoshonis and the All Shores team to dream of ways the church could demonstrate the generosity of the Kingdom of God through their people.
God had a surprise in store for them. He first wanted them to experience His generosity. During the low-attendance summer months, the team launched out in faith to fund three church socials to bring a sense of community to the church. The leadership team was amazed as God provided the almost $10,000 expense completely through donations. They witnessed God’s generosity in such a big way, they couldn’t wait to shovel it back out.
The church demonstrated their generosity by reaching out into the community through a “beyond the 4 walls VBS” and a food drive in partnership with a local grocery store that netted $20,000 for the food pantry (6x more than the usual drive).
Many members adopted this phrase, “How can I be a giver not a taker?” Rather than waiting for the church to develop a program, they began solving problems. In addition to helping each other with around-the-house projects, members also found ways to raise money for missions efforts. One five-year-old boy joined his grandmother in an initiative to raise money for clean water in Guatemala. They, along with many others, rode their bicycles for this fundraiser and the five-year-old rode over 30 miles on a single Saturday morning! Their efforts contributed $12,000 of the $300,000 raised by All Shores’ members for local and global missions.
During the fall, Pastor Pete launched a sermon series “Lavish” to give new language to their generosity efforts and the way that they would engage the world around them (Lavish series here). The series was accompanied by a prayer focus and serving opportunities for individuals and groups with 12 local non-profit organizations.
They began to embrace a whole life definition of generosity:
From the moment our feet hit the floor until our heads hit the pillow, we are called to be generous, to ask The Lord, what do you want me to do today through my heart, my gifts, my resources, my very life, in order to bring your love to others.
Using research from GenerousChurch’s survey, Pastor Pete did a follow-up series addressing the barriers to generosity (watch here).
After a year of living generously, All Shores leaders reported growth in every area of whole life generosity:
- 75% had served sacrificially outside the church
- 60% grew in daily intentional acts of generosity
- 55% increased their financial generosity
Operations Director, Julie Burns reports that giving to the church has been “unbelievable.” Without any unusual push, the All Shores Christmas Eve offering grew by 50% over last year. In January, All Shores partnered with an Ethiopian village in sponsoring 150 kids through Children’s HopeChest. Pastor Pete noted that the focus on whole life generosity has been unlike any financial teaching they have done in the past; “Following God’s generous ways has given us a new spiritual depth. It is changing our everyday lives.”
Remarkably, this kind of growth in generosity has not been limited to individual families. All Shores is witnessing groups coming together to serve their community and to express new levels of thankfulness for God’s generosity to them.
As All Shores began intentionally focusing on Biblical generosity, they also were in need of a second driveway at their facility. In the words of Pastor Pete, this project came together “supernaturally” and a second driveway was approved. God’s generosity toward the church led to something the staff had never experienced previously. In an outpouring of gratitude, the staff came together and knelt together in a prayerful time of worship and thanksgiving. Church members noticed that this growth in the culture of generosity has led to a remarkable increase in the spirit of gratitude around the church community.
All Shores has entered new season of spiritual growth and financial health. They have found that imitating God’s generosity is fun, exciting and a dynamic way to unleash generous disciples. As Julie Burns, the Operations Director said, “God’s goodness is so evident to us, we can’t wait to share it.”
What we love about this story at Wesleyan Sermons is the integrated nature preaching played in the ongoing corporate formation of the life of the body. The preaching series was not a stand-alone effort dropped into the status quo programming of the church. There was a leadership effort that led up to the sermon, and culture changing efforts that led away from the sermon. The public celebration of the shift in generosity for the church after the fact only plays into the longer-term effect. Cycling the stories of shifts toward generosity of life in future sermons keeps the synergy going.
Though we have edited this document for posting on Wesleyan Sermons, Sharon Epps and the GenerousChurch team wrote the original post and gave The Wesleyan Church permission to distribute. For more on Sharon Epps and the Generous Church team visit generouschurch.com. ~ Dave Ward, General Editor of WesleyanSermons.com.