Gardenside Chat with Bill Evertsberg
September 16, 2020

Bill talks with Ami Campbell about generosity and the positive effects of giving.

God Is The First and Biggest Giver

Bill: Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg and I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church, and this is Doogie, my assistant minister. As you can see, I’ve got a very wonderful guest with me today. This is Ami Campbell.

Ami has had a wonderful career in small nonprofit development, and a couple of years ago, Kenilworth Union Church contracted with her to help us with our stewardship campaign every fall. Actually, she works right around the clock with George Wishart, the trustee in charge of stewardship. I thought maybe we ought to bring Ami out from the background into the foreground because you’re very important to our church Ami, but a lot of our members might not know exactly what you do. So tell us something first of all about your professional and your family life.

Ami: I live in Wilmette, so I know Kenilworth Union as a neighbor and I have been married for 23 years to a wonderful husband, Chris, and we have two college-age daughters. Professionally, I write, speak, teach, and consult on the topic of generosity.

Bill: So how did you get into that? You obviously feel a call from God to think about generous individuals and helping institutions with their giving and with their income and so forth. How did this call of God come to you? Tell us something about where it all came from.

Ami: I suspect like you, I really believe that God is the first and biggest giver and we see that in the Genesis story, where God creates all of this, and then proceeds to hand it over to us, humankind. And in that same narrative, we learn that we’re made in God’s image. So if God’s a big giver, guess what: we are too. And that’s why—and I know you’re a student like I am of people—it’s why study after study shows that generous people are healthier, they’re happier, they live longer, they have more empathy, they have all these benefits and it derives from the fact that we were created to give.

Which begs the question, Bill, of why is it hard for us as humans to give? What gets in the way? And I think that’s where my calling comes from. For much of my life, I was interested in behavioral economics, I spent a lot of time in marketing, and I really felt God was asking me to take what I had learned about behavior change and combine it with my heart for Jesus, and help people to rediscover and reclaim their giving selves.

Bill: Great. Because it looks to me, Ami, as if God has been constructing your career for a long time. You have this beautiful background in business and also this vivid relationship with the Lord that’s been nurtured at LaSalle Street Church. So maybe you could tell us, take your pick, either about the business background or about your church life.

Ami: Well, and they merge, right? So as you said, I go to LaSalle Street Church which is downtown on LaSalle Street, just south of Division. And it’s a church rooted in social justice and incubating ministry. And early on, within my first few years of being at church, I became the treasurer, and it seemed to me like the treasurer should be able to speak to the topic of stewardship, so I started to study it. And I read books, I read curriculum, and I started teaching classes on stewardship both to teach this congregation, but really as much to teach myself about the topic. And over a dozen years we had a third of the church participate in one way or another in these classes, and I really felt like I got as much out of it as anyone who was participating, and that’s really where my stewardship journey started and I’m still on that journey, but a lot of the maturation happened in those classes and in those years.

And then in 2014 as you know, LaSalle came into a big windfall, $1.6 million, which was double the church budget at the time. And the church decided to tithe the first ten percent of that to congregants, so $160,000 out the door and in the form of $500 checks to each congregant, the only instructions being to go and do God’s work with it.

And that campaign was called “Love Let Go” and the senior pastor, Laura Truax, and I realized that there was a story that needed to be told, both about that campaign but more broadly a story about God’s generosity and how we have all been gifted with talents, with gifts, and lots of things have gotten in the way of us giving those away. So how do we, again, rediscover and reclaim that identity as givers?

Bill: Ami, thank you for taking what you learned in your business career and LaSalle Street out here to Kenilworth Union, we love that concept of Love Let Go. A little commercial: Monday nights at 7 p.m., Ami is teaching about generosity. So how is the stewardship campaign going so far at Kenilworth Union this fall?

Ami: It’s great. As you know, we laid a lot of groundwork this summer and last year, really, and so tactically the campaign launches on the 27th and most of your congregants if not all have received their packets in the mail.

But also as you know, that’s just one component of a larger effort to really help us all understand stewardship in its broadest sense, and really weave generosity into the fabric of Kenilworth Union even more than it already is.

Bill: Beautiful image. Thank you, Ami, for joining Doogie and me for this chat and for joining, essentially, the staff at Kenilworth Union and helping us be more generous people. And thanks for listening, guys. May God bless you and keep you and be gracious unto you. See you soon.

September 16, 2020

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