Transforming Generosity: How Author and ORU Sophomore Drew Formsma Is Empowering the Act of Giving
Hometown: Orange County, California
Authoring a book at 16-years-old is a rare achievement. Putting your thoughts on paper, meeting with publishers, revising manuscripts ... these aren’t the typical activities of a teenager. But at 16-years-old, ORU sophomore Drew Formsma decided typical wasn’t for him. So, he wrote a book.
But writing a book wasn’t atypical enough for Drew. He also chose a subject that might not be expected. Drew didn’t write fiction or history or self-help. Instead, he wrote his book about the act and the power of generosity.
“Generosity isn’t just about giving money. It is about kindness in our actions and words. It’s about thinking about someone other than yourself.”—Everyday Generosity: Becoming a Generous Family in a Selfie World
"Everyone, no matter who they are or how old they are, can change lives through contagious generosity.”
Discovering Spiritual Growth as a College Student
Drew Formsma came to ORU from Orange County, California, motivated to grow spiritually and to discover a deeper connection with the Holy Spirit. ORU, as America’s premier Spirit-empowered university, places the Holy Spirit at the center of student education and student growth. And for Drew, having a relationship with the Holy Spirit is critical to his faith.
“The Holy Spirit is the secret weapon in my life,” Drew said. “He’s the soft still voice which allows me to be most like God in my everyday walk, but it takes intentionality, stillness, and openness to hear the Spirit. The Spirit flows from me most when I set time apart in devotion to God, and the Spirit gives me peace, direction, and hope in this crazy game of life.”
At ORU, college students like Drew have the opportunity to grow spiritually through weekly worship, missions work, and faith-based leadership. It’s not an opportunity students find on most college campuses, and it’s one of the main reasons Drew traveled 1,400 miles to discover his college home.
“I believe ORU’s the best Christian university in the country,” Drew said. “The community is focused on self-growth, and there are a lot of big-hearted people. I saw this big-heartedness my first week here. I’d just moved to campus, and a girl I didn’t know came up to me and said, ‘You’re going to create amazing things. You're going to innovate.’ But she also said I needed to spend intentional, one-on-one time with God as He will guide my steps as I hear His voice. It was so impressive.”
But it’s not just the community that has impressed Drew; it’s ORU’s growth too. This fall, the student body grew for the thirteenth consecutive year, and ORU recently broke ground on four new buildings. With so much growth and expansion, Drew describes ORU as a “new campus.”
“The ORU campus is growing fast,” Drew said. “Today, there’s close to 5,000 students, and construction’s happening all across campus. And over the last decade, there’s been even more expansion and more construction. The momentum at ORU continues to increase. It's amazing to look up and see so much growth.”
Discovering Personal Growth as a Generous Giver
“Generosity changes us spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and even physically. It changes our attitudes toward ourselves and toward others; it changes our desire to do things that aren’t just for our own benefit, but for the greater good.” —Everyday Generosity: Becoming a Generous Family in a Selfie World
Before coming to ORU, Drew—at 16-years-old—co-authored Everyday Generosity: Becoming a Generous Family in a Selfie World. Writing a book would be a difficult goal for any teenager; in fact, it’s a difficult goal for most adults. But for Drew, a moment with the Holy Spirit placed this big goal in front of him, motivating him to start writing.
“I literally had a dream,” Drew said, “and in that dream, I wrote this book. In that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, telling me to share the biblical message of generosity—which is His message—with my peers and parents across the world.”
Everyday Generosity was a natural outgrowth of Drew’s family and their commitment to living generously. In 2010, Drew’s dad and coauthor, Brad Formsma, started I Like Giving, a nonprofit founded to inspire generosity through films, stories, and educational programs.
“My dad,” Drew said “realized the world needs to become more generous. So he started talking about generosity and sharing stories, something Jesus often did. And these stories inspired generosity. When we hear a story, we think, ‘Wow! I might not be able to give a car, but I might be able to pay for someone's lunch.’ When generosity is on our minds, we do it more often. Generosity is simple to do, but it's one of the hardest things to implement.”
Soon, Drew’s dad was sharing his generosity principles at conferences, businesses, and churches, and Drew was tagging along. At 14-years-old, Drew took the stage for the first time and shared his own generosity story to a church congregation. Drew remembers it as a “shaky minute,” but it launched his passion for teaching about giving.
“Science shows,” Drew said, “that if you do three or more generous things a week, you’ll live longer. Overall, you’ll be happier. So just based on the science, giving is good for us. And biblically, we all have a responsibility to be good givers. Being a cheerful giver is one of the things God loves.”
Discovering Generosity in Our Everyday Lives
Two years after stepping on stage, Drew published his book Everyday Generosity, which teaches readers the skill of generosity and how to implement it in everyday living. He asks the question “What’s holding you back?” and offers advice on how to move forward confidently. Drew writes that we can come up with excuses for why we aren’t living generously, but, as he points out, “that’s all they are ... excuses.”
Since the publication of Everyday Generosity, Drew has gone on to co-host the Wow Factor podcast and produce worldwide giving films, including “I Like Teachers” which showcases the power of generosity in schools. Today, there are over 20 giving films with over 130 million views in 170 countries. It’s this kind of generosity—generosity learned at an early age—that Drew sees as highly important to a giving lifestyle.
“I Like Giving is working to reach over 2,000 schools this year,” Drew said. “We've taught generosity to parents, grandparents, and everybody in between, but when generosity is learned at an early age, there’s no flawed perspective. In schools, we’re teaching kids that when it comes to giving, everyone can participate. Everyone, no matter who they are or how old they are, can change lives through contagious generosity.”