I am preparing to teach a 4-week series on stewardship in my congregation. One of the resources that I am using is A Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri J.M. Nouwen. Not only is this a great, short read, but also a fantastic conversation starter on the issue of stewardship. In the context of the class I am teaching, I plan to quote this book to prompt thoughtful reflection on the issue of money and ministry. This book, however, is so much more than a book about money, it really is a book about discipleship and how we invite people to take part in the church. Fundraising is, and has always been, an issue with which the church has struggled. From the early patrons of the Apostles to today, funding is part of the ministry conversation. When we ask people to give, we are really asking them to participate with their money. Asking people to participate in something meaningful and important, you have to start with a passion and a vision. You do not just ask people to take part, and mean it, in things that are not important to you. If you are asking people to give to the church, you have to tell them why it is important. This book helps you reflect on the spiritual exercise of communicating that purpose and vision.
“…proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.”
Many communities have shied away from speaking about money. Mostly because churches have done such a poor job articulating their mission and vision that it left painful scars of mismanagement and dishonesty. To articulate why we want to fund something, we have to understand the impact it will have on lives in our community and world. If you cannot articulate that outcome, you do not need to be asking for money. Nouwen articulates, in a story in the book, a simple formula:
“I used the money well and told him what I had done with his gift. But money was not the most important thing part of our relationship. Most important was that we was able to share who he was and I was able to do the same in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.”
The ultimate measure of asking people to participate and give money or their lives is whether that invitation is calling them to a deeper relationship with God. People are not widgets in a wheel, checkbooks are not vessels to be siphoned, and time is too valuable to waste.
“We need to worry about whether, through the invitation we offer them and the relationship we develop with them, they will come closer to God.”
I encourage you to check out this short read (only 64 pages) and use it to spark meaningful conversation in your community. (Link to book on Amazon – CLICK HERE)