Inspiring Generosity: Should You Be Afraid of AI?


Should You Be Afraid of AI?

I am conflicted about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Alexa was banned in our house. But then again, I have fully accepted my little robovac (fondly called “Belinda”) running about gleefully picking up dog hair. I can even tell Belinda when and where to vacuum. And when I yell into the phone, “Hey, Siri,” well…she’s my right-hand girl.
Like it or not – AI is here. I had a friend email me yesterday to say that he knows people who are asking AI to write a grant application. What?
The Holy Post did a segment on a church in Germany where the entire worship service was AI-generated. Unbelievable.
But never fear! Get yourself AI informed. United Methodist Communications (UMCom) recently hosted Kenny Jahng on its MyCom Podcast, talking about Using AI in Ministry. Jhang even has a Facebook group, AI for Church Leaders.
Jhang and Carey Nieuwhof have developed: The Ultimate Guide to AI, Pastors, and the Church. It’s definitely worth a read.
Last month, my son helped to easily sign me up with Chat GPT (thanks, Luke!). Fun fact: the GPT in Chat GPT stands for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. I’m sorry I asked.
How might you use AI and Chat GPT to enhance stewardship?
I decided to ask Chat GPT to answer that burning question. My initial prompt was:
“Give me one paragraph for a blog post telling church people how they can use AI for stewardship or fundraising purposes.”
I thought the initial response was not very practical so then I wrote, “Be more specific.”
Another prompt: “Make it more spiritual.”
Two more prompts: "Write at an 8th-grade level" and "Add humor."
The humor was too cheesy – even for me. So, my final prompt was, "Tone down the humor," which apparently meant to Chat GPT, "take it out altogether."
So here it is in the final form (BTW, the "paragraph" I asked for was way too long so I have divided it thusly):

Embracing the Power of AI: Enhancing Church Stewardship and Fundraising Efforts
In today's digital age, churches can tap into the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to elevate their stewardship and fundraising initiatives. By harnessing the capabilities of AI, churches can optimize their strategies and engage with their congregants in more meaningful ways.
AI can provide valuable insights into the needs and preferences of church members, allowing for personalized communications and tailored fundraising campaigns.
With the assistance of AI-powered chatbots, churches can offer round-the-clock support, answer queries, and facilitate online donations, ensuring a seamless donor experience. Additionally, AI-driven predictive analytics can help identify potential donors, enabling targeted outreach and maximizing the impact of fundraising endeavors.
By embracing AI for stewardship and fundraising, churches can leverage technology to expand their reach and make a lasting difference in their communities.

That’s something I maybe might write. However, it didn’t capture my “voice” – no matter how many prompts I gave it. But it did get me thinking about the benefits of using AI and it gave me material that I could possibly edit.
If you’re interested in seeing how Chat GPT responded with humor to all my prompts, send me an email and I’ll pass it along.
As you decide if and how much you want to use AI in your ministry, ethical considerations about AI-generated content must be front and center. In the aforementioned The Ultimate Guide to AI, Pastors, and the Church, Nieuwhof and Jhang address this very thing.

Here are three questions they encourage you to ask:

  • Is the expectation of church employees to create all materials by themselves with 100% human-generated content? Much like attribution issues when pastors borrow illustrations or theological points from other pastors’ sermons, do staff members need to disclose when they leaned on A.I. to assist with any content to be published or sent to community members?
  • Is the spiritual impact compromised if A.I. is involved with writing religious content like devotionals or prayers? 
  • Is there a gap in the public’s expectations vs. what ministry workers assume themselves regarding the integration of A.I. for creating content and resources?

AI is raising lots and lots of questions. However, there’s no need to fear AI. It’s here. And you can use it for good.
Here’s me saying a non-generated AI prayer that you’ll find ways to increase your ministry in wonderful and ethical ways using artificial intelligence.
Let me know what you think. How are you using or going to use AI? Drop me an email.

Image by Cottonbro Studio from Pexels.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a Stewardship Consultant for the OR-ID Annual Conference. She is also a Senior Ministry Strategist with Horizons Stewardship. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous churches and non-profit organizations. She loves this non-AI generated song by Jonathan McReynolds, God is Good. What a beautiful prayer.
You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com, at CesieScheuermann.com, or at cesieds@horizons.net. Want to schedule a meeting? She’s got you covered!
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.