Church adopts idea of spending less, giving more

HOUSTON It's called the Advent conspiracy, and one Houston church is adopting this idea of spend less, give more.

It happens every year. The worrying if I don't spend enough money, someone will think I don't love or appreciate them.

"Running over people on Black Friday to get some stupid deal that half the time is the hype of the experience anyway, not really the thing that you need or want or anybody else needs or wants," said Pastor of Ecclesia Church Chris Seay.

And that may be why the so-called "Advent Conspiracy" movement is exploding. Hundreds of churches in at least 17 countries have signed up to participate. One of them is the Ecclesia Church in Houston.

"Christmas is just not a cultural celebration, but a spiritual celebration that the birth of Jesus ought to be about things that Jesus would be about," said Pastor Seay.

That means spending less and giving more; more time, more charitable donations, more compassion.

Pastor Chris Seay urges his followers not to grab a gift at the mall, but to give a gift that has true meaning.

"I'm going to give my dad a bag of coffee beans, but instead of just a bag of coffee beans, I would say, 'Dad, I want to drink this coffee with you. Let's just let this coffee just be for us. Let's drink it together,'" said Pastor Seay.

Pastor Seay says consider this. Celebrating Christmas by giving to a cause might actually save you money at Christmas time.

"Last year, we wrap gifts at Borders every year, set up a table and the kids were trying to think creatively about how they could give back," said John Starr, who believes in the Advent Conspiracy.

Over the past four years, churches that support the advent movement have donated millions of dollars to dig wells for clean water in developing countries, a present that, unlike the passé scarf or dated room décor, will never go out of style.

"You can give water and that is always going to be the thing to have," said Pastor Seay. "We're saving money because we're making things that are cheap or buying cheap if at all, and even after we do that and give to advent conspiracy, we're spending less than we would have originally."

But change isn't always easy and some church members weren't quite sure how to react.

Cori Brantner admits it's tough to stop gift-giving entirely.

"It's a really hard thing for me to do because I love to buy very appropriate presents for people during the holidays," she said.

Another big concern -- the kids. How would they feel about giving up all those gifts?

"I don't mind," said 11-year-old Noah.

"That would make me feel really good," added 11-year-old Chloe.

"They don't really have as much as we do and they need stuff," said 9-year-old Andrew.

"I think we underestimate our kids and we make them the excuses for us to dig deeper into consumerism and the truth is they usually get it better than we do," said Pastor Seay.

And if that model of generosity catches on, it could bring you the most relaxing Christmas you've ever had.

And if you're still not convinced of the popularity of this idea, consider this. The movement boasts nearly 45,000 fans on Facebook.

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