"This is my surprise face." A.Girodano@pixabay
G’day mates! We need a little inspiration these days, don’t we? I’m hooked on a series of raised bed gardening videos by an Australian bloke, Mark, of Self Sufficient Me. Crickey! I’m ready to take over my whole backyard with industrial-sized containers turned into raised beds. I have visions of sharing freshly grown produce with all my neighbors and the food bank. I dream of veggies on the barbie. Will that actually happen? Probably not. But I’ve already planted my seeds. So, wish me luck.
I certainly got a lot of inspiration from those of you who sent me examples of how you found joy and surprise with fundraising. Each example has its own story and lessons to be learned. So as Mark from Self Sufficient Me says (with a big enthusiastic thumb up): “Let’s get into it.”
Rev. Jeremy Hajdu-Paulen of Tigard UMC in Oregon didn’t have to think too hard for examples that brought him joy and surprise. Here’s his first one:
A couple gave $50,000 last spring to help us through the pandemic (this gift made me cry). Turns out we didn't need it...because our church folks were so incredibly faithful and generous...so we worked with them to designate the money to other projects.
Rev. Kent Kroehler (UMC retired) from the Eastern PA Conference, offered this very personal example:
My dad lived to be 100. In his 90s, I was his Power of Attorney and took over his finances. I was also his pastor. He was a retired pastor and he and mom had always been tithers, and in his retired years he never left tithing far behind. Some of those years, he gave away 50-75% of his annual income of $36,000.
Each fall, I would talk with him about his pledge to the church. He was giving $12,000/year and increased it every year. I knew what his income and assets were. I oversaw what he was giving, and I tried to help him be more settled with his extraordinary generosity. I would tell him, “Dad, you’re giving 1/3 of your income to your church, and you give lots more to others. You’re OK.” And, in each of several years, he answered me quietly with an astonishing question that was etched into my soul. He asked simply, “Why can’t I give more?” As a result, we added some to his annual pledge.
I have reflected on his question and decided that his question is an indicator of “being made perfect in love,” as Wesley had phrased it. Most of us wonder whether it’s possible to “be made perfect in love” in this life. When it came to generosity, my dad got there.
From Rev. Jeremy H-P:
Last July, I asked people to donate out of their COVID relief money so that we could help our neighbors who were falling behind on rent. I thought we'd get a few thousand. As of the end of March, we've received and have given away over $40,000 – mostly for rent/utility assistance, but also to help provide internet to kids in the school district, and also to host our new learning hub for 10 middle school students two days a week.
Rev. Ann Diebert from Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY wrote:
We have a big old building (like many mainline Protestant congregations) that needed a lot of renovation work as well as at least one new HVAC unit. Our congregation is much more focused on mission than it is on our building so a number of us thought this was going to be a struggle to raise the money we needed. We started with an original goal of $25,000. Our stewardship task force for the campaign looked at the numbers and what we thought individuals might give and came up with a goal of $45,000.
The work to be done was to renovate or restore all the windows in our sanctuary plus several more in the meeting/office space of the building and to replace one of the five HVAC units in the building. The campaign was "Windows to Mission." We talked about the multiple ways our building serves as a place where mission in our community is born or develops--not only through the work our congregation does in our community but also the number of community organizations who use our building for their work.
When the campaign was over, we had raised over $65,000! While we have no "exit polling" to show what motivated people to give, I think it was important that we placed an emphasis on how our building expands our mission and I also think people care more about the well-being of our building than we thought they did.
From Rev. Jeremy H-P:
A couple who were long time members left a bequest to TUMC. The woman in the couple died last year at age 99 (her husband died in 2018). At their family's direction, the money has been allocated a variety of ways, with a large chunk going to our endowment. The final check came about a month ago and they allocated it (just under $4,000) to the student learning hub we are hosting for 10 middle school students. So, two people who were faithful givers for decades continue to support the ministry of TUMC...even though they have died and gone on to glory!
Are you feeling inspired? I know I am. Each one of these examples shows such great elements of joy and surprise.
Here’s your takeaway:
People have generous hearts. As people of faith, that shouldn’t shock us. Sometimes, however, it does. As Rev. Kroehler mentioned in his email: “Generosity” is mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, NRSV). My Dad’s question, “Why can’t I give more?” taught me that it IS possible to “be made perfect in love” in this life with the character traits in the Galatians passage.
Offer people a reason to give.
Don’t assume who will or won’t give.
Ask them to give.
Then…get ready to experience joy and surprise.