Growing Generous Souls Book Reviews
A Perfect Book for Generosity Students
Are you looking for that perfect holiday gift for the person who has everything? Apparently, you can buy a banana and some duct tape, stick it to a wall, and call it “art.” Then, you can sell the “gift” (not once but three times) for a cool $120,000 per pop. Wait, scrap the gift, let’s call it a new church fundraiser! Debt be gone! See, this blog is full of practical ideas. You’re welcome.
But if banana art isn’t your thing and if you or your favorite person wants to delve into a comprehensive study of stewardship in all its forms, Dr. Betsy Schwarzentraub’s, Growing Generous Souls: Becoming Grace-Filled Stewards is highly recommended. This scholarly work will have you, as one of the descriptions say, “…focusing on being rather than on compulsive doing and consuming…it helps people become more fully grace-filled stewards of all God has provided.”
Thoroughly researched, this book is full of surprises. Little did I imagine that I would be grappling with Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine again in the chapter, “What is a Soul?” In another chapter, “Generosity as a Way of Living,” I learned about the Greek word for grace, charis and three Biblical dimensions of it. There are enough endnotes (the “Gratitude” chapter has 103 of them) to keep one busy with additional study for months. I plan on following up with some of the resources Schwarzentraub has made available in Growing Generous Souls.
While there are many examples of programs and churches where people are practicing generosity (Oregon’s Learning and Serving Together – L.A.S.T gets a shout out) it’s not a traditional “how to” book. This is a book that raises and answers multiple questions:
Why should one care about generosity?
What does the Bible say about generosity?
How is generosity exhibited in relation to earth care or care of self?
How do stages of faith resonate with different generations?
Two chapters particularly ring true during this Advent season – “Scarcity and the Lure of More” and “An Ethic of Enough.” During a time when consumerism is overwhelming nearly everything, Schwarzentraub reminds us, “The regular practice of simplicity can help us find our quiet center, strip away excess baggage and non-essentials, and focus on our relationship with God.” These two chapters alone make for a great study during December.
Although anyone can read it, Growing Generous Souls seems particularly designed for clergy, seminarians, or focused small groups that want to dig deep into why being Biblically-centered and grace-filled stewards is so vitally important. Schwarzentraub has also developed a helpful seven-week study guide along with additional resources that can be found on the Growing Generous Souls website.
So, pass on the banana art this year, and instead give your favorite generosity person a gift that will truly keep on giving. You may not have to pay $120,000 for the book (it’s $21 on Amazon), but by reading it, your investment will undoubtedly grow great dividends. And bonus! It’ll keep its content and shape for years to come.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann, Stewardship consultant for the Oregon-Idaho Conference, The United Methodist Church
New Resource: 'Growing Generous Souls'
Tired of settling for fundraising instead of promoting biblical stewardship and multifaceted generous-hearted living? Growing Generous Souls, Betsy Schwarzentraub’s new book, helps people connect deeper faith issues with daily rhythms, including:
- How to put God first in their relationships and hectic schedules
- How to live and teach a balance of work and rest and
- How to deal with money limits and the pressure to constantly consume.
The book makes an excellent tool for pastors and lay church leaders. Challenging the ethic of scarcity, it encourages us to adopt an ethic of enough, find a deeper sense of contentment, and reorient our understanding of stewardship from a church program to a way of life that nurtures grateful people, to rediscover that generosity grows from the refreshed soul rather than the harried life.
Reflection questions in the book, together with a seven-week Small-Group Study Guide and other resources on www.growinggeneroussouls.com, encourage readers to study the book’s themes in the context of their own lives and congregations.
. . . . Growing Generous Souls is also available through Amazon (www.amazon.com).
Instant Connection, CA-NV United Methodist Conference, 5/23/2019, ww.cnumc.org/news
Growing Generous Souls by Betsy Schwarzentraub is an excellent resource for church leaders and for anyone seeking to grow in grace. It challenges the notion of stewardship as fundraising and instead focuses on the importance of generosity as a spiritual quality that can be nurtured and developed but is always a response to the grace of a generous God.
This book is both comprehensive and practical in its approach to stewardship as soul work. It gives examples and offers suggestions for the personal practice of generosity in many areas of life, including caring for our bodies, fostering forgiveness in relationships, focusing on “being” rather than “doing,” developing an “ethic of enough,” and practicing environmental stewardship. This book abounds in stories and suggestions to help congregations foster generosity among its members and take communal actions of generosity based on Jesus’ teachings to love God and neighbor and to reach out to anyone who has need. I highly recommend this book. It outlines a way of life based on gratitude for the “amazing grace” offered to us by God, a grace that flows to us in forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love, but also flows through us for the sake of the world.
Sharon Delgado, author of Love in a Time of Climate Change
I learned from [Betsy’s] book that there are many stewardship specialists that have been writing and teaching in recent years on this subject. The challenge seems to be that churchgoers too often are not appreciating the importance of treating church stewardship as a top priority for two reasons: it is for the local and national church, and it is also for our souls.
Betsy is very direct about the latter. Her first several chapters talk about how most of us feel that our family budgets are too tight already, and we are too busy already. Next she provides a theological lesson about the soul and an existential lesson on who we are. Then she systematically addresses thankful living, joyful living, simplicity as freedom, and the rewards of learning to live generously. I especially like what she has to say about joyful living and about training oneself to enjoy a simplified lifestyle.
Rudy Dyck, church librarian
Be-ing rather than doing. Becoming as an end state rather than arrival. Generosity growing from the refreshed soul rather than the harried life. Communities of faith that help to make this happen. Dr. Betsy Schwarzentraub writes about that upon which she has long studied and reflected. . . . Dr. Schwarzentraub’s thorough treatment points the way back for anyone tired of the hassled, consumptive, soul-emptying life, instead of the life that really is life.
Dr. Mark L. Vincent, CCNL, EPC – Founder, Design Group International;
author of A Christian View of Money, The Whys and Hows of Money Leadership, and Money Mania
Here’s a book that can help begin to change the culture from fundraising to embracing the connection of faith and money, generosity, as a core value of spiritual life. . . .
Dr. Michael Reeves,
author of Extraordinary Money; co-author of Faith and Money, and Extravagant Generosity: The Heart of Giving
In this book you will find a tough-minded criticism of the tendency to do stewardship according to the rules of the regime of money, productivity, and profit but, at the same time, a hope-suffused confidence in the power of God's grace to shape us for living with money in the "economy of grace.” . . .
Dr. M. Douglas Meeks, Cal Turner Chancellor Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies, Emeritus, Vanderbilt Divinity School;
author of God the Economist
Betsy Schwarzentraub skillfully weaves wisdom from the ages, biblical and spiritual guidance, and decades of experience as a stewardship theologian and practitioner into a rich fabric that holds the treasure of the spiritual discipline of faithful generosity. Sit with this book, drink deeply from the knowledge and insights on its pages, and be ready to put into practice its many thoughtful and practical suggestions for growing a generous, grace-filled soul.
Marcia Shetler, Executive Director/CEO, Ecumenical Stewardship Center
This is a blockbuster of a book. . . . I love its inclusion of the disciplines, the importance of teaching stewardship based on stages of human development, and integrating the teachings of the contemplative movement. . . . [This] book is invaluable because everything church leaders need to know about the subject is between its two covers.
Rodger R. Rice, formerly with Barnabas Foundation
Betsy’s wealth of experience as a pastor, teacher and leading voice in the stewardship arena makes Growing Generous Souls a critical resource for pastors, and an excellent small group study for churches. . . . As Betsy articulates so well - living a life of generosity is about so much more than money! In light of God’s grace, how can we be anything but generous? Growing Generous Souls offers a roadmap for living differently.
Rev. Dr. Christine Roush, Mission Engagement Specialist for American Baptist Home Mission Societies;
author of Swimming Upstream: Reflections on Consumerism and Culture
Dr. Schwarzentraub has produced an outstanding Stewardship/Generosity resource that will help grow faithful, generous believers for all generations. Growing Generous Souls is a great read for clergy and laity who want to lead and develop cultures of generosity and faithful stewardship in the life of their congregation and community.
Rev. Melvin Amerson, Resource Specialist, Texas Methodist Foundation;
author of Celebrating the Offering, Stewardship for African-American Churches: A New Paradigm, and Fruit for Celebrating the Offering
Growing Generous Souls contains a wealth of wisdom and practical reflections. Betsy Schwarzentraub sets forth an abundance of spiritual and strategic insights for nurturing grateful givers. I recommend it to anyone serving in stewardship space in the geography of the Kingdom.
Dr. Gary Hoag, teacher, author, and spiritual counselor for stewards; founder of generositymonk.com
Growing Generous Souls . . . overflows with the author’s own spirited enthusiasm and authentic deep love of God. Betsy’s latest book is a genuine reflection of her own life and ministry. . . Reading Growing Generous Souls is a joy-filled experience from beginning to end!
Susan Peters, CFRE, Executive Director, California-Nevada United Methodist Foundation
Dr. Betsy gets to the heart of the matter. She helps us focus on where it really counts long term and not simply quick fixes of generosity. . . . It’s not enough to do or get with a program; Dr. Betsy challenges us to embrace generous hearts that come directly from the heart of God. . . .
Jerry Coleman, Director of Speakers, The Francis Asbury Society; former Area Director for continental Europe, The Free Methodist Church
Betsy Schwarzentraub has brought forth a breakthrough resource to undertake a very different course that is not only biblically based and theologically sound, but also scientifically relevant. . . . She creates the opportunities for personal reflection, study group discussions and professional growth that move the reader from simply “doing church” to “being church” wherein all dimensions of generosity combine into life practice.
Rev. Sanford Coon, Vice President, Horizons Stewardship; former President of the New Mexico Conference Methodist Foundation
If you are looking for . . . a comprehensive collection of ideas about how a person or a church might develop exciting ministries in this area, Growing Generous Souls is the book you want. . . . Betsy Schwarzentraub has given the modern Christian church the stewardship equivalent of Calvin's Institutes or Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica.
Rev. Lynn Miller, firstfruits educator; author of Firstfruits Living and The Power of Enough
I thoroughly appreciated Dr. Schwarzentraub’s breadth of research and ministry insight. . . . Her Questions for Reflection at the end of each chapter are brilliant, as well as her closing Soul-Making chapter. As a spiritual director, I will undoubtedly refer to her wisdom and applications.
Jenni Hoag, Soulcare anchoress; founder of soulcareanchoress.com