Henri Nouwen’s reflection on A Spirituality of Fundraising informs my work and teaching around generosity. When thinking of annual stewardship campaigns, I keep close to his wisdom: “Fundraising is precisely the opposite of begging. Rather, we are declaring, ‘We have a vision that is amazing and exciting.’”
These words can be critical as preachers plan the “stewardship sermon” and lay leaders offer testimonials.
The best sermons and testimonials I hear address one of two questions:
- Why does this church matter?
- Why does generosity matter to my life as a Christian?
Why Church? Simon Sinek, an expert on organizations and leadership, notes that many can describe the activities of their organization (or church) but rarely talk about why they do them. (Listen to Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action).
During the stewardship season we can clarify why our faith leads us to do certain things.
Instead of talking about activities and programs, try to answer questions like these:
- Why does the world need a church like ours?
- Why does God care that our congregation exists?
- Why are we motivated to engage in our particular mission?
Good stewardship sermons and testimonials make clear the purpose and values behind what we do. The stewardship theme materials from the UCC can help you name the “why” of your congregation with the phrase “rooted in love.” (Available here). This theme encourages you to talk about a commitment to love as the root of all that you do. Regardless of your theme, help your community understand the “why” of your congregation.
Both Reformation Sunday and All Saints Sunday provide great opportunities to name the core commitments that underlie the work and witness of your congregation. Both liturgical themes can be moments to reflect on how inspiring people of your congregation’s past help envision the work God continues to call forth in your church.
And here’s a link to my attempt to answer the “why” of a congregation I served. (PDF attached here)
Why generosity? People will only learn how to be generous if we teach them the spiritual practice of giving. Sharing your story of how you became more generous can inspire people in their own giving. Instead of focusing on the church’s needs (“we have to pay the light bill”), lift up the joy, meaning, and purpose that you find in generosity. Sharing how giving changed you helps people imagine what it can mean to their own lives too.
I’ve recorded four videos with leaders of the United Church of Christ speaking about their own experiences of giving – see opening videos in the Extravagant Generosity series (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6VgfHt6zEy6Y7JqbfjhHQtffgpGad0I9).
The upcoming lectionary readings about Ruth and Hannah provide ways to speak to the practice of generosity. Despite the reality of famine and being an outsider, Ruth placed her confidence in God’s abundance and acted generously. Hannah, treated dismissively in the Temple, saw her life as part of God’s great liberation movement. Her song – echoed by Mary in the Magnificat – points to how a generous life connects us to God’s on-going transformational movement.
Through preaching and testimony this stewardship season, lift up the vision of your congregation and the vision of the generous life.
Yours in faith,
Director of Development
Wisconsin Conference UCC
Memorial Funds: Gift or Stumbling Block
Saturday, October 23, 2021 9:30 am Eastern via Zoom (8:30 am Central)
Memorial Funds can provide much needed financial resources for congregations to engage in a special project, repair, or mission. At the same time, Memorial Funds can be controversial and contentious or be left untouched. How can we make the best use of Memorial Funds?
Join Rev. Andrew Warner (UCC Generosity Outreach Officer, teaching stewardship skills to pastors and leaders—previously served as a local pastor in Wisconsin) to think about your congregation’s approach to receiving, holding, and using Memorial Funds in ways that best honor the memory of a church member and move the mission and ministry of your congregation forward.
To receive the zoom link for this informative session, please contact Patty Rehrig at the Penn Northeast Conference (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Generous Thoughts is a collaborative effort of UCC stewardship, generosity, fundraising, and development professionals to provide our conferences and congregations with information to aid them in their fundraising efforts. The SNEUCC is represented ...