Seminar on attitudes toward money

This is the outline of a seminar on Friends' attitudes toward money, held at San Francisco Monthly Meeting, 8/20/06. This Sunday after meeting for worship, I'm supposed to be facilitating a followup session on stewardship of the Meeting's resources -- and of our own personal resources if I have anything to say about it!

So I thought I'd procrastinate instead of doing further planning for that, and post this outline here from the previous workshop instead.

Friends' Attitudes Toward Money

Brainstorm: what one word comes to mind when I say the word “money”? Then after we’ve thrown up fifty or so words, together, we evaluate each as positive, negative, or neutral. If one person says positive and another negative, then it is recorded as both.

  • Positive words: 34 // 8 of which where the word was only positive
  • Negative: 36 // 10 of which were only negative
  • Neutral: 22 // 5 of which were only neutral
Ruth, our facilitator, noted that our meeting is more balanced than some where she has led this workshop. Others have been more noticeably tilted toward the negative.

Small group discussion

  1. Query: What were attitudes toward money in your family of origin? // Discuss // Reportback
  2. Query: Where did your attitudes to money come from? // Discuss // Reportback
  3. Query: Woolman said, “[Let us] turn all that we possess into a channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives.” How does this resonate with you? // Discuss // Reportback

There was some really great discussion in our small groups. Each group definitely had more words to add to the list from the original brainstorm. "The Depression" was a particularly important one, reflecting our parents' or grandparents' experience.

Ruth read three quotes: Book of Matthew (where your treasure is, there will your heart be); Mary Cross, from The Price of Faith; and something by Jacob Needleman.
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What do you and your Meeting have to say about money?


RichardM said...

"It's not disgrace to be poor....but it's no great honor either."

As in almost every area of life the middle course is the most sensible. The queries of our Yearly Meeting (NC conservative) address this balance. In our ninth query we are asked to consider if we are becoming richer at the expense of others. In the fourth whether we use the resources that we have at our disposal for the service of others. We live in a material world in which most of us must work so that all of us may live. A healthy attitude towards the material conditions of life will not raise money up to supreme importance but it will also recognize its proper place in a well-ordered life. We should give the need to earn our living neither more nor less attention and effort than it is due.

My wife and I carry no debt beyond the mortgage on our house. We live simply but earn enough to put the kids through college. One uses time to make money and we could earn more than we do at present. But this would require eliminating some of the things we do which are valuable but don't produce income. For example, both of us devote time to volunteer work in the community. John Woolman set the standard. Work enough so that your material needs are met but not so much that you have no time left to devote to service.

Anonymous said...

My meeting just devoted a couple of days to talking about stewardship -- our individual practices and ideals, and our corporate practices and ideals. I'll say that we had no unified idea about corporate stewardship. In my opinion (not shared by all, I am sure), we are torn between wanting to live like the early Christians, devoting our resources to that which Christ demands of us, and living in the spirit of individualism encouraged by secular culture. A big focus of our meeting is whether we as a meeting will give large donations to other organizations, or whether it is up to individuals to decide how to give charitable contributions. An unfortunate (as I see it) side effect is that the monthly meeting itself is seen as a charitable organization to give to, and not as a place that we are all responsible to keep up, like a home.

Kathleen K.
Philadelphia, PA