For Heather Bingham Smithson and her husband, Chris, stewardship is a foundational lens through which they view life together as a family. Living, giving, teaching their children and investing wisely are all part of it.
Both are veterinary doctors in the Tampa Bay area and active at Hyde Park United Methodist Church. Everything about their lives, they say, is an extension of their faith as Christians.
“We hope that our faith influences all the decisions we make in life — whether they are regarding something as small as what charities we donate to, something as big as how we raise our kids, or our investment decisions,” Chris said. “We want to be good stewards of the blessings we have been given and try to use them wisely and to God’s glory.”
That’s one reason the couple felt the Florida United Methodist Foundation’s Development Fund was such a good fit when they decided to designate part of their investment portfolio for cash reserves. They see their investment as long term, but with the accessibility and flexibility they need.
“We recently withdrew a considerable sum,” Heather said, “then returned it when our plans shifted. The ease of moving money is important, and the process was seamless. It is a solid fund.”
Growing up in a pastor’s home, Heather has long been familiar with stewardship and capital campaigns. Her father, the Rev. Richard Bingham, served United Methodist congregations in Fort Myers, Clearwater and Tampa.
After graduating from Tampa’s Academy of Holy Names, she studied veterinary medicine at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, where she met Chris. The couple returned to Tampa in 2004.
“That’s when we joined Hyde Park,” she said. “My father, who is still an investor in the Development Fund, recommended we look into the (foundation).”
It’s an attractive option, Heather said, because of how the money is put to work.
“I don’t want to fund things we don’t agree with, so knowing this is all going to the work of the church is great,” she said.
“We want to be good stewards of the blessings we have been given and try to use them wisely and to God’s glory.” — Chris Smithson
After Chris took a financial planning course at Hyde Park, the family adopted a more focused approach to money management — fostering stewardship, debt elimination, growth and generosity.
“This fund is separate from our retirement and college savings for the children,” Heather said. “But it is all related to our faith. We love generosity and tithing. And I am so grateful we have the opportunity to be generous.”
It is an intentional mindset, she said, that teaches generosity to the couple’s children — aged 16, 12 and 8 — and exposes them to people in the community experiencing profound need.
“We don’t shield them,” Heather said. “God loves all people, and we are called to help care for them. These lessons are sticking.”
She also has this advice for people considering the Development Fund among their investment options.
“Be like Nike and just do it,” she said. “It’s just so easy, and I don’t worry about it. It has the added benefit of knowing the good purpose along with a good return.”