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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Funding the Mission Edition

The pastor, speaking on stewardship, says:
"I have some good news, and some bad news.
The good news is that we have all the money we need to do the work God is calling us to do!
The bad news is that much of that money is in your pockets..."

Our question this week asks about funding congregational mission, especially in challenging times:

Dear ATM,

I'm not clergy but on the governing council of my church. My question has to do with fund-raising...EVERYONE's favorite topic...! Ugh. My church, perhaps like many others, has completed a stewardship campaign and found that our pledges are very, very far down this year. So much so that we will not be able to operate next year with the current amount pledged...we have approximately half of what we need. It's clearly a result of the fear and malaise that has hold of many in these troubled times.

One member of our council gave a very frank speech to the people at each service on Sunday. We felt it was important that people knew where we stood, and we hope this may "arouse the careless" if they are out there. In the meantime, our council is looking for a fund-raiser that can become an annual event...hopefully both bringing our neighbors into this community of faith (outreach) and eventually helping raise funds for the church. Does anyone have suggstions for what has worked well for their churches (or has not!?) Thanks for your thoughts, and please keep us in your prayers.

Praying ... and nervous ... and praying.

Two of our matriarchs responded with similar perspectives...

From Mompriest, who blogs at seeking authentic voice

The most important thing to remember is that we, each person and each community of faith, needs to remain invested in what God is calling us to do and be. I know this sounds trite in the face of this severe economic reality. But it is true.

When our anxieties over money become the dominant reality we project that into every thing. And no person coming to church looking for solace or to make meaning out of their struggles will want to be in a church that gives the impression that people are wanted first and foremost for their money.

This is true even for fundraisers. Maybe more so since they clearly say we need more money. My point is that while we need to understand the truth about our financial picture we also need to stay focused on something bigger than that in order to direct our anxiety in a positive way.

That said fundraisers can be a lot of fun, grow community, live into the mission of the congregation, and raise money. It may be best if your community considers a couple of events instead of one big event. One could be aimed at merely raising awareness that the congregation exists and is doing good work in the community - such as preparing and serving a holiday meal for free.

One church I know of does this every Thanksgiving - reservations are required, but there is no charge to have a meal in the parish hall OR to have the meal delivered to your home. They serve 200 Thanksgiving meals a year and make the front page of the local paper. All the food is donated by the parish and prepared, served, and delivered by them too. It's a lot of work, but very rewarding. This of course won't raise any money for the parish, but it will raise awareness and eventually bring in new folks.

One of my favorite options is a Fair Trade Market with a wine tasting (or something like that to draw in outside folks). The Market could feature Fair Trade merchandise to be purchased for gifts (Valentines Day, Mothers Day?) and a wine tasting of some seasonal wine by a local winery...the proceeds meet several objectives: support the artists of the Fair Trade, raise awareness of the global economic picture, help the parish, and offer some fun social time too.

Another option is a silent auction. These are great fun but take time to organize. You need to have parishioners gather donations from around the community: spa days, discounts on car repairs/tires, meals, gourmet meals prepared in your home by a parishioner, a bike, etc. and also have folks donate items to make themes gift baskets: coffee, or Mother's/Father's day, golf, etc. Sell tickets that include a meal (chili or some easy to make in large quantities) and a beverage plus admission into the auction. Have sheets of paper at each item with a suggested opening bid, let people write their names and their bid. Folks will monitor the bids themselves, although it needs to be staffed by parishioners to make sure it stays fair. Close the bidding at a certain time and them have a means to announce the winners and a place for them to pay for and collect their purchase.

My small church did this one year and raised over $8000.00. Of course it was all going to Katrina relief not the parish, so that was an incentive. It will help if your parish designates the money raised as well - for our youth, or for outreach, or for the new furnace, or simply, for "our mission in God's world - which is to care for others"....or some such thing.. It is usually difficult to raise money for the general operating expenses.

Many prayers for you and your community as you live through these tough times.

And from Jennifer, who blogs at An Orientation of Heart

It’s good to be prayerful about such things. Sorry that you’re nervous! I’m not in a good position to respond this question, as the church I serve does not engage in fundraisers to support the annual budget. Our youth host fundraisers to help underwrite their summer mission trips, but that’s the only “fund-raising” that takes place, and it doesn’t benefit the annual operating budget of the church. The long-standing feeling here, and at other churches I’ve served, is that fundraising can dilute the pledges and tithes toward the annual budget of the church. Not all congregations feel similarly, so hopefully you’ll receive some substantive responses from others.

How about it, you others? We welcome substantive and simple responses from you! Please use the Comment function to add your two cents, or more, if you have it...

We can use some more questions in the queue as well! Please send them to

And as we look to a new year, may you live each moment of it in God's amazing grace+


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Welcome, Alena! Thanks for letting us know you were here. Hope to see you back soon and often.

    This was my question - I wrote it, and am writing this, anonymously because I didn't want to speak for my whole church in my question.

    I want to clarify that our pastor maintains all the confidence in the world that God will provide for our needs, that we will get through this, etc. He is being a great "non-anxious presence." However, he also charged the governing body with finding and spearheading a fundraiser for the reasons mentioned! thus my question.

    Thanks for reading.


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