Where Generosity Breeds Generosity

 on March 28, 2024

It was an autumn day and, looking out over the Church cemetery, I saw him riding his bike through the historic graveyard with a tartan jacket. We called him, ‘Tartan Tom’. He wasn’t a day under 80.

He had booked an appointment with me and was right on time—as was his habit. I knew he wasn’t going to be driving his car.

“Well, vicar [not everybody called me vicar, but he did] I’ve got to say I’m impressed with this congregation. I never really am sure what you are on about, but you must be cooking some- thing. I’ve been a part of this congregation my whole life and I know something is different right now. I don’t even particularly believe in God, but one thing is clear, the people who attend here do,” he said. “I want to be honest with you. I’ve never really been that devout, but this Church has been good to me and my family. And the reason I am here is because I think it is about time that I make a more serious contribution to what is going on. I thought I should do something like put the church in my will.”

Now ‘Tartan Tom’ was on a roll. There was no chance for me to get a word in. Time to listen some more.

“I’ve seen this church go up and down over the years, and it’s clear to me that the church is always just one generation away from extinction. So, I want to help. I want to give back. I want to leave something that will help this community thrive well into the future. I’m prepared to make a planned gift and that has some real wisdom. But as wise as that is I want to see some of the return on investment myself. That is—before I pass away. To be honest I have got to tell you how impressed I was by that Mr. Bosman character. I want to do something similar.”

Well, dear reader, you wouldn’t know our Tartan Tom was referencing a Mr. Bosman in the congregation who had made a matching gift offer of $50,000 over and above his regular offering. In less than six weeks the congregation found another $50,000 to match his gift. Mr. Bosman had said he had been so touched by God’s grace by attending a congregationally led Alpha class in the local pub. It turned his life around. In due time he was a full member attending bible studies and serving on the parish council. Tartan Tom was inspired not just by Mr. Bosman but by the zeal and passion of the congregation.

“So, vicar I’ve got a proposal for you. I want to do what Mr. Bosman did. I want to do the same thing and offer my own matching gift.”

Well of course you can imagine how pleased I was to hear such commitment and conviction. This man was filled with hope not just by the vision of the parish but by the sense of life and vitality he saw among the people of God. People like Mr. Bosman and his generous spirit inspired Tartan Tom. He could see The Spirit of God at work.

So, my next question was gently put. “What kind of figure are you thinking of?” Tartan Tom paused, “I’ve decided not to put any figure on the line. All matching gifts given by parishioners, over and above their present offerings, to the end of the fiscal year will be matched. Dollar for dollar. How does a December 31st deadline work for you, Vicar?”

I then cleared my left ear as I have had some hearing impairment and asked him to repeat what he just said. “Ya, no limit. I think the parish will respond well.”

I immediately had to remind him of the adage, ‘Caveat Emptor’—buyer beware. “Tom, you do understand this could cost you a great deal of money as this congregation has been growing and there are a lot of people?” Tartan Tom’s response, “I know the markets have had quite a tumble of late and many are feeling the pinch, but if parishioners knew that every dollar they donated over and above their regular commitments would be doubled, I think they will rise to the challenge. It’s not just good stewardship, it’s good business! How often do people get a chance to double their money?”

I responded, “Well God bless you, but I sure hope you are certain about what you are proposing here.”

“I am prepared to eat cat food at Christmas if I must. It’s important that the work of this Church continues. I’m really excited about it, and I want to see what we can all do together.”

On January 1st Tartan Tom walked into my office once again. Few words were said as he slid a cheque across my desk for $301,000. The smile on his face said it all. The parish realized a gift of $602, 000 over and above our operating budget. These funds went directly to the parish vision—partially to renovation, upgrading technology, but significantly to human resources—the hiring of new staff to enable and support new ministries. Interestingly, no one ever knew his name. He was just Tartan Tom.

What we found, and I feel this story gives credence to, is that generosity breeds generosity. Little did I know how deeply parishioners were prepared to see their dollars maximized and invested in the future. The truth of the matter is that planned gifts, matching gifts, pre-authorized monthly giving—all transform the life of a congregation. Parishioners get inspired by other parishioners. Kingdom work inspired by the Holy Spirit is infectious. I saw it with Mr. Bosman and Tartan Tom—their generosity inspired an entire congregation.

Proverbs 13:22 encapsulates the essence of planned giving: “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children.” This biblical wisdom should encourage us all to think beyond our immediate concerns and consider the enduring influence our financial stewardship can have on future generations.

I encourage us all to live into our diocesan vision, “Called to Life, Compelled to Love”” through our local and diocesan mission action plans and the ministries they support. When the people of God know their priorities and have clear goals and objectives experience tells us the resources necessary to bring them to fulfillment mysteriously appear—one dedicated, inspired, and generous believer at a time.

If you have questions about making a gift, please reach out to Drew MacDonald at drew. [email protected] and visit niagaraanglican.ca/stewardship

  • Drew MacDonald

    The Reverend Canon Dr. Drew MacDonald is the new stewardship & campaign advisor for the Diocese of Niagara.

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