In this episode, the first of our Holy Donor Series, Andrew visits with Greg and Julie Stevens. Greg and Julie live in Lincoln, Nebraska. They both attended University of Nebraska-Lincoln and were very involved at St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center. This young couple has an approach to tithing and charity that is remarkable and a little counter-cultural, even among faithful Catholics. Through this conversation, Andrew was inspired to evaluate his attitude towards giving, even with over 15 years in the development industry. Hopefully you will walk away inspired as well.
Greg is a Physician’s Assistant in dermatology and Julie is a stay at home mom to baby Isaac. They are both are cradle Catholics and they both went to Catholic school and University of Nebraska Lincoln. And Greg continued on to University of Nebraska Medical School.
Growing up, they both remember seeing their parents involved in the church and give every Sunday with writing the check and putting the dollar in the collection baskets. In addition, Greg’s mom has run the perpetual adoration program at her church for close to 20 years.
Julie's parents also encouraged their children to give back, not just monetarily but with their time as well. As alter servers, in the choir, with retreats, etc.
How do they give now?
Greg manages their giving with an excel spreadsheet. And they look at the 10% as divided 5% to the local parish and 5% as flex spending. Being able to support programs like the Newman Center or the Pink Sisters. And he will update the spreadsheet every few months. This keeps the process from being automatic and makes it an enjoyable experience to do with family. Every time they sit down, they get to decide where they want that flexible 5% to go.
Plot twist – in 2020, they are bunching their tithing to give once so that they don’t over reach and to help with tax purposes. But Greg continues to keep track in his spreadsheet.
Julie, before having Isaac, gave of her time. Even now, she wants to be open to any opportunities she sees where she can be helpful and give of her time.
Greg, has more fun figuring out where to give their money.
How did they navigate combining finances?
Julie wasn’t used to giving 10%. It took a lot of trust for Julie to be okay with giving that percentage each month. Fortunately, Greg’s enthusiasm spread to Julie to the point that she was excited to give from her first paycheck. And to sit down together and decide where they wanted to give, whether it was to the Newman Center or the Pink Sisters or somewhere new.
Greg tries to normalize giving that 10%. If they don’t have very much, then 10% of not very much is not very much.
You can’t work up to paying your taxes, so why work up to giving 10%?
For Julie, it was a lot about crunching the numbers, tightening the belt and knowing that they can make it work. It’s not something to be afraid of and it’s doable.
Single, largest gift they’ve made to charity
The largest monetary gifts went to general funds but one that stands out for them was giving to a Husker Catholic fundraising event. It may not have been the largest but it stands out – it was fun to be able to participate and to bring friends into the experience.
As you see those checks being cashed and seeing that bank account drop, you have to keep remembering that "we planned for it – it’s going to be okay."
There is that challenge to encourage others to tithe but not to flaunt what you give. Being able to stay humble, but also wanting to show that giving is important.
Transition to Giving
In the beginning, when money was tight, it was very hard to stick to that 10%. But when you hear the voice of the Lord, you need to push forward into what He’s calling you towards.
Because of the timing of their marriage and medical school, it was definitely weird tithing and, at the same time, receiving student loans.
Having a personal investment in knowing where your money is going to go, makes such a difference.
How should priests speak on stewardship?
Need to speak into being deliberate in giving. And be clear that not all of your 10% has to go to the local church. A good rule of thumb is 5% to the parish, 5% flexible.
We need to remember that, as Catholics, we aren't called to do the bare minimum and think that’s enough. We need to invest in the Kingdom here on earth. Being deliberate with your spending.
To give of what you’ve been given is freeing.
"In a conference, what I'm really looking for is the practical TOOLS on how to do your job well and the MOTIVATION to go out and be ready to get back to work. I've gotten both of those things from Petrus. I'm really excited to get back home and HUSTLE and really put my all into it."