We’re coming to the tail end of the traditional stewardship season, and it’s highly possible that you are sweating pledge numbers that currently fall short of your ministry dreams for 2019. You might also have a treasurer or bookkeeper whispering anxious nothings in your ear about how much people need to give between today and the New Year’s ball drop to end 2018 without a deficit. It’s ok. After all, you didn’t have anything else to stress about as Advent looms large! [Sarcasm font]
Here’s the thing: we will always struggle with money – and our feelings about it – as long as it is only a means to an end: “We’ve gotta make our budget so that…” It’s not a sentiment that will make people whip out their checkbooks and credit cards and smartphones with money transfer apps. But you know what might? “God is calling us to do this exciting thing, and we don’t want you to miss out on being part of it!”
This is what Henri Nouwen called a spirituality of fundraising. He approached the ask not as an unfortunate necessity to be apologized for (a tack that makes so many stewardship sermons cringe-worthy) but as an invitation to others to join in the work to which God has called us. As such, fundraising is relational and community-building, not transactional. For Nouwen, fundraising was a “call to conversion,” an opportunity to re-orient our focus to the world beyond ourselves – to begin to see things as God sees them – as well as to transform our relationship to our own resources. In the process, we partner with God in bringing the reign of God here on earth. In taking this loftier view of fundraising, we are free to make the request out of our sense that we are ministering not just to the people we might serve but also to the givers themselves. To me, that is a compelling message. It is inclusive. It is formational. And it recognizes that those with resources have needs that can be met by relationship, so all parties involved are both giving and receiving.
So as you come to the end of this year and the brink of the next, I encourage you to view stewardship and fundraising as opportunities to grow disciples of Christ as we move together into the future God is compelling us. See what a difference this approach makes in your willingness to ask for money and in the generosity with which givers respond.