MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — As CEO for Thrivent Financial, a Fortune 500 membership organization of Christians, Brad Hewitt eagerly awaits his annual two-week getaway in Colorado with his family. Together they spend two winter weeks cuddled up in a time-share style townhouse in the Rockies.
“I count on it to sweep me into God’s presence and renew an appreciation of all His good gifts,” Hewitt said. “But even as those wonders fill me, they can also put my heart into a frenzy faster than I like to admit. One minute I’m thanking God for his blessings. The next I’m gawking at new, bigger and better vacation homes and thinking, I want one.”
Hewitt admits, though, he doesn’t need a bigger, better place to vacation.
“At the moment those misguided desires well up inside me, I face a choice,” he said. “I can continue to stare at the thing I want. I can obsess over it all the way home. I can calculate what a fancy new place costs. I can loudly convince myself and my family (that) I need it. Or I can act to break that cycle.”
Generosity is how he breaks the cycle. Serving alongside his wife, the couple volunteers for a nonprofit that repurposes blighted properties into homes for people in need.
“One day we were assigned the task of removing soiled, wet mattresses from an old building. Needless to say, it wasn’t much fun, but it was necessary,” Hewitt said. “Not one time while I was volunteering that day did I ever stop to think about buying a new vacation home. Instead, I left the day feeling grateful for God’s provision in my life, and asking how I can do more to help others.”
That is a living motto for the not-for-profit Thrivent, which provides insurance and other financial services for its owner-members. Founded more than a century ago as a fraternal benefit society serving Lutherans, the organization voted four years ago to extend its offerings to the broader Christian community.
“We believe all we have is a gift from God, and we are called to be good stewards,” Hewitt said.
By the end of 2016, Thrivent’s assets were more than $116 billion, with $9 billion in surplus.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for our organization because we truly believe we can help Christians make wise money decisions that reflect their Christian values, which is really important during a time when the world tells us we always need more in order to be happy,” Hewitt said. “It’s easy to start to think money is a goal in life. After all, our society measures success by how much money you have—but at Thrivent we believe money is a tool to live out our faith; it’s not a goal for our lives.”
Last year, Thrivent and its members tooled more than $217 million to churches, nonprofits and individuals in need. Also in 2016, its members volunteered more than 11.3 million hours.
“For Thrivent, generosity is an important component of being wise with money,” he said. “I often say generosity is both the prescription for and evidence of a healthy relationship with money.”
Much of that volunteerism comes through two of the organization’s generosity programs, a partnership with Habitat for Humanity and Thrivent Action Teams, where members apply to lead a one-time fundraiser, service activity or educational event that responds to unmet community needs and can be completed in 90 days.
Thrivent’s mission to help people have a healthy relationship with money prompted Hewitt to partner with Jim Moline, a leadership consultant and psychologist, to write “Your New Money Mindset.”
“I have found most financial planners give advice about the mechanics of money management and tactical goals, such as debt repayment, retirement planning, college funding and the like, without talking about the heart motivations,” Hewitt said.
Over time, the CEO noticed that Christians, including himself, often struggled with the concept of money and joyful generosity.
“It became clear to me we need to talk about money in a different way,” he said, adding that marketing messages often derail best intentions.
“Our hearts establish our motives and priorities,” Hewitt said. “Without examining our relationship with money from a heart perspective, we run the risk of continuing to make financial decisions that don’t align with our faith and values. The heart often illuminates the void we are hoping money will fill more than the head does.”
Hoping to further model the concept of the generosity, all proceeds from the book will be going to Thrivent’s fraternal programs, including Thrivent Builds.
— by Lori Arnold
Arnold is an award-winning freelance writer from San Diego, Calif. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Thrivent, visit http://www.thrivent.com.