Henri Nouwen and a Spirituality of Fundraising
Straight out of college, I tried (at least unconsciously) to find a way to drive my non-church-going conservative mother over the brink. And what better way to do it? By becoming a United Methodist US-2 missionary, moving across the country, and making $450 a month. My poor, poor mom.
During my two years as a US-2, I lived in a Christian community in Richmond, VA where I was introduced to the writings of Henri Nouwen. I gobbled up everything he had to say. One of the most profound things he ever wrote was a 1981 article for Sojourners magazine on the “Downward Mobility of Christ.” (It’s now in book form, The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life)
Nouwen’s proposition was that everything that Jesus did in his life was essentially a downward spiral – from performing miracles, to triumph in the temple, to being betrayed, to ultimately being crucified. In a culture that puts upward mobility on a pedestal, Nouwen’s words continually remind me that, as a Christian, I need to look at the life of Jesus and constantly check and readjust my life priorities.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered a little Nouwen book (less than 60 pages) called A Spirituality of Fundraising. I was taken aback because I thought Nouwen was above thinking or talking about money. I was sure he never gave money much thought. I was wrong.
A Spirituality of Fundraising is a gem, packed with many of the thoughtful, mind-changing ways that Nouwen looks at things. In just one of the light-bulb moments from this book, Nouwen sees fundraising as an opportunity for conversion:
Fundraising is always a call to conversion. And this call comes to both those who seek funds and those who have funds. Whether we are asking for money or giving money we are drawn together by God, who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration (see Isa. 43:19). To be converted means to experience a deep shift in how we see and think and act. To be converted is to be clothed in our right mind, to come to ourselves the way a younger son did when he was starving far from his true home (Luke 15:14-20). It is a shift of attention in which we set our mind on divine things (Matt.16:23) (emphasis added).
Fundraising is a call to conversion for both “those who seek funds and those who have funds.” What an awesome privilege, what a responsibility, and what an opportunity it is for us to be involved in the work of conversion – for ourselves and the people with whom God has put in our lives. Rather than as something that you “have to do,” may we all embrace fundraising as a call to a more fulfilled and fulfilling spiritual life.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise nearly $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.