I have 16 square feet of garden in my front yard. It comes with romantic ideas of my barefoot children crunching organic carrots, devouring sugar-dripping strawberries, and begging for more fresh broccoli just snipped from our garden. Just the thought of it makes me feel closer to Wendell Berry, making my suburban existence more palatable.
Last year I stuck a few plants in the ground, threw out some carrot seed, and hoped for the best. I got fat rabbits, weeds, and mud-pies.
This year, I have a plan. I want produce. And for that small plot to be productive, I need a plan. I’ve researched what might grow, how to enhance the soil, and how to arrange the seedlings to maximize results.
A plan for giving
Having a plan is an important step in giving generously, joyfully, and expectantly. God gave Noah a plan to build the ark and through it he repopulated the earth. The Israelites had plans to build a temple, and they carried it out to God’s glory. God said He had plans for his people, good plans to prosper them, to give them a hope and a future.
As we look to maximize our giving and create a plan, here are three steps to explore on the journey:
1. Know what you have
You can’t give away what you don’t know you have. If you’re single and need help assessing your assets, reach out to a financial planner with a demonstrated interest in helping clients organize their finances and plan for their futures.
If you’re married and you want more input into your family’s generosity plan, you may be searching for ways to influence your spouse or your family towards greater generosity. Here’s one idea.
Regardless of your earning role or marital status, assess your assets as well as your span of influence. This might feel uncomfortable, so ask for help. God knows what you have—He has given all of it to you and He rejoices, regardless of amount, as you work to joyfully give.
2. Give intentionally
Some of you love plans. You and your checklists, research, and analysis put the rest of us to shame. But in my experience advising donors, many of you—even those who love a good plan—prefer the “spray and pray” model of philanthropy.
Perhaps you like the freedom and spontaneity to give while praying that the Holy Spirit is at work. Or maybe you think strategically about your business but are afraid if you learn too much about the inner-workings of a nonprofit, your business brain will explode and shut down your proclivity towards generosity because these “investments” are just too risky.
The truth is, you likely have a plan for your savings and investments. Based on your goals and risk tolerance, you are intentional about how and where you allocate your investments. You should also be intentional about how and where you give.
3. Be curious about the results
By now, you might be asking, “So if I have a plan, you’re telling me I need to measure the results of it?” I’d say, definitively, maybe!
Just like an investment portfolio, your giving plan may include different types of giving rooted in different inspirations and aspirations. But the questions raised by Jesus’ telling of the parable of the talents in Luke 19 prompts us to ask if we share in God’s interests in his Kingdom on earth and in heaven, are we concerned for others, and are we giving to people and efforts that encourage growth and produce results?
At the very least, be curious about the fruit—in your heart, in your community, and in God’s world. If there is no fruit or there is some other indication of fruitlessness, change course. You can, when you have a plan.
Ultimately, “it’s not important who plants the seed, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:17 NLT)