This past summer, I was invited to speak to a gathering of denominational ministers (non-Baptist) about our church’s system of fundraising. In a climate where the vast majority of churches are experiencing a decline in giving, we have become an anomaly. For the last six budget cycles—including 2019—we have carefully managed our expenditures and have over-given challenging budgets. (Let me take this parenthetical moment to say ‘thank you’ for your generosity and faithfulness. We fully funded our budget this year AND fully funded the Lenten Capital Campaign. Amazing!) I was asked to answer two questions: What is our fundraising methodology, and how might it be replicated in churches and institutions of different sizes? Sigh… Only time will tell if they were satisfied with my answers.
I shared three thoughts with them. First, I do not believe in ‘fundraising’ within the life of the church. Fundraising works well in the life of educational institutions and other non-profit agencies, but it is not the best model for the church. Our giving is a spiritual practice…a spiritual discipline…a direct reflection of our love for God and our covenant commitment to the community of faith. Giving is a natural part of our faith. Second, because it’s a natural part of faith practice, it is a natural part of my speech patterns. I do not avoid talking about giving any more than I would avoid talking about prayer or Bible Study or communion or church fellowship. Third, we are intentionally good stewards of every dollar given – we do good work, and we do it with a frugality that does not dip into stinginess or fear. We have regular donors to our church’s ministries that are not even members of our church! They hear of the work we are doing, find it consistent with their graceful view of God and God’s world, and they support our work. Again, amazing! My conference listeners were expecting a step-by-step program with timelines, printable forms, donor levels and marketing tools. Instead, we talked about spiritual practice.
Because of your generosity in 2019, we fully funded our ministry endeavors, and we continued our work of creating beautiful, inclusive, graceful space for God to do God’s work inside and outside our church walls. Our 2020 Mission and Ministry Plan (budget) is the same amount as 2019. I encourage you to give again what you gave in 2019…or give just a little bit more. Allow your giving to be an expression of your love for God, God’s church and God’s world.