A recent article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy once again affirms New England's place at the very bottom when it comes to generosity (see "America's Generosity Divide"). The single most important factor in this is that New England is also the most secular region of the country. Active participants in religion are significantly more generous than their secular counterparts. We can feel discouraged by these reports, or we can look at the opportunity in front of us.
When the Reverend Michael Slaughter came to the Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio, he came to a small church located outside of Dayton, one of the most depressed cities in Ohio. His approach was to say "what a mission field!", and he refocused the 70-member congregation towards ministering to the poor. Today, the congregation is over 5,000 strong and gives away more money to help the poor than it spends for its own needs.
When we New England church people look around us and see so many people who have no relationship to God, no community of faith, no sense of greater purpose in their lives beyond themselves, our response should be, "What a mission field"! We have good news about a different, a better way of life. A way of life lived in community, steeped in faith, and dedicated to generous sharing of our time and money. We spend a lot of time helping the people in our congregations to grow in generosity. Perhaps we also need to think of ways to help those in our communities to also experience the joy of generous giving.
If you would like to learn more about giving in your community, use this tool to search by zip code for total giving or giving as a percentage of discretionary income.