Growing Generous Souls Book Reviews
Excellent Resource for Individuals and Groups
In Growing Generous Souls: Becoming Grace-Filled Stewards, author Rev. Dr. Betsy Schwarzentraub delivers an almost encyclopedic review of the literature, philosophy, and biblical principles of Christian stewardship. Building on her own experiences in ministry and incorporating resources from a wide range of leaders across denominations and disciplines, Growing Generous Souls provides churches with tools and real-world examples that will help them encourage generous attitudes and habits as an integral part of spiritual development.
The questions and notes at the end of each chapter can help a congregation run small group studies on generosity. Shared this way, Growing Generous Souls can help a congregation turn money from a taboo subject into a spiritual issue and help people put God first in their daily lives. The author not only encourages open congregational discussion about money but contends that it is crucial to a resurgence of Christian generosity and shows how discussions of generosity are essential for building Christian communities.
For Schwarzentraub, stewardship is expressed in the way we live our lives in response to the Good News of God’s love and is, therefore, a key measure of our spirituality. Exploring the contrast between a life of frenetic “doing” and a life of meaningful, spirit-filled “being with God,” Christians are challenged to bring our attitudes and actions in line with what we value and believe, including what we value in ourselves, what we believe about our Christian identity and how we experience fellowship with God.
The book provides discussion of activities to teach children generosity and points to a bookshelf of additional available resources from other providers. The author delves into the most up-to-date theories on the stages of faith and how each stage affects what people can learn about generosity. Seeing generosity as a habit as much as it is an attitude, the author explores multiple resources to help families and educators instill “muscle memory” for giving in young believers. As much as I enjoyed reading the entire book, each section stands on its own and it could just as easily be used as a resource in which the reader peruses only the sections that pertain to their interests or activities. For instance, a Sunday School teacher could focus on generosity education as outlined in the chapter “Growing as Becoming.”
The author reminds us that “In the Bible, money is inherently connected to helping people in need” and that the lives of other people are influenced by our money habits. Using stories of real people living out their real-life experiences of generosity in their churches and the world, the book explores attributes of character that lead to generous living. These stories illustrate spiritual growth as a process of becoming over time, moving from one season to another across a lifespan. The author assumes that generosity is part of the process of sanctification and that it takes a lifetime to fully learn how to let go of a scarcity mindset, live a life of simplicity in daily relationship with the Holy Spirit, and consciously practice the living out of our gratitude for God’s gifts.
The author’s well-researched approach to each topic in the book’s fifteen chapters shows in the extensive footnotes. The book is an excellent resource for individuals and groups who are interested in discipling Christians, regardless of age or stage of faith. Growing Generous Souls is not just about faithful stewardship: it is a book of Christian spiritual formation. Pastors, and lay people alike will all benefit from its insights. It is well worth reading, and I highly recommend it.
Jim MacDonald, Development Manager for Stewardship and Planned Giving for the Presbyterian Church in Canada
Growing Generous Souls: Becoming Grace-filled Stewards, by Betsy Schwarzentraub, is a book that weaves one’s biblical knowledge with the importance of being good stewards to their church. It says that “stewardship” is whatever we do, by our actions, with all that God has given us.
All faiths can benefit from her knowledge of faith-based teachings and how they can be applied in our present day. Her related website offers a book study and other book resources for new formats being taken during these COVID times.
Reverend Schwarzentraub’s research on each topic within her chapters provides the reader with opportunities for growth in their spiritual journey. Beginning each segment with a reflection of how one might currently perceive their path and expanding on how one might proceed. Then ending each chapter with a set of questions for reflection and discussion.
Her knowledge and experience and incredible research on the subjects addressed are most impressive. I highly recommend Growing Generous Souls for one’s reading enhancement.
Joan Hans-Stafford, Women of the Table Chapter President
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