One of the great gifts about going to a conference is that you get to meet new people and this was definitely the case when I went to fundraising symposium presented by the development office of the Episcopal Church. People came from France, Canada, Jamaica, and across our country to look at the ways we have the opportunity to use secular tools for sacred fundraising.
Another gift of attending a church conference is to learn new things that help us see other perspectives of our lives together in community. So as I was leaving the conference the first night, I was trying to absorb all the new information when another conference attendee came up to me to ask a question. He was there to write an article for the Living Church magazine and he asked me how I felt about using some of the secular fundraising practices for fundraising at our church. He said that he was from a small family size church, where he thought they really didn’t even need a formal stewardship campaign. I could easily see he was uncomfortable with the broad array of tools displayed for strategic fund raising that we often see used for universities, private schools and large non-profit organizations. His questions reflect the struggle churches often face when talking about the relationship between money and living faithfully that is just one dimension for looking at stewardship.
Often we see in churches, the mere mention of money or stewardship can make people feel uneasy. So I found it refreshing to be in a room with faithful people who were passionate about providing opportunities for others to financially support the church. They spoke freely about the culture of abundance that runs completely counter to prevalent message of sacristy that is part of our culture of fear. They were passionate about the ways to connect with others to give to what they value most in life.
These conversations speak of the importance of naming our churches as “abundant communities,” where we give with open hearts of thanks for the all the abundance we see in our lives, both as individuals and as a community. Out of this abundance we seek to give of ourselves and all that we have knowing that the gifts we’ve been given will grow abundantly. We see that taking part in these “abundant communities” is central to our lives and the life of our community for we are joining with others who’ve come before us in carrying out the work God has blessed us to do.
As we approach All Saints, may we remember all those who lived in God’s abundant grace who show us the meaning of a person who is blessed and is in turn is a blessing to others. As we gather together for worship, prayer, service and community, God is preparing us for embracing Jesus’ message of a reversal of the expectations of the world. Abundant giving is not seen as one segment of our lives, but rather it’s the holy thread that brings it all together.
So as I reflect on this initial question of the looking at using secular tools for sacred fundraising, I now see the importance of being open to creative new ways of reaching out to others for offering opportunities that meet their deep desire to be generous that is centered on their love of God.