Inspiring Generosity


We Can’t Do That. My Church is Full of Old People.

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Thank you to those who wrote such kind responses to last week’s post: The Difference a Life Can Make. The Church, for all its frailties, is a place where people can share their joys and sorrows. I was blessed to have it be a presence in my life 50 years ago and I am blessed 50 years later to have it – and you – be a part of my life now.
On to this week’s post.
Yesterday, I was talking to someone about raising funds for a project that will benefit not only the environment but a church’s fiscal bottom line. He was working to build interest with a number of churches from a variety of denominations.
He was meeting with a few clergy about the project and its cost. The upfront cost is not insubstantial but would quickly pay for itself. Two of the clergy were clear in their reservations (and one turned down the project): “I have an older, dying congregation. There is no way we can do this. No one will step up.”
Forgive me. I understand that there are a variety of reasons to say “no” to a project. But this is not the first time that I have heard this excuse.
I am one of those people who is apparently and shockingly growing older.
The “I have an older, dying congregation…no one will step up,” line makes a bit ‘o steam come out of my ears (and that’s quite a sight).
Here’s why:
The assumption that “no one will want to participate.” This is small thinking. Granted, there will be some people who won’t want to participate because they can’t afford to or aren’t interested. There will be others – yes, elderly people – who will want to be a part of an exciting venture. And the people who can’t afford to give? Maybe they can put you in touch with some of their friends who have the resources they don’t. Give the Opportunity to Give.
“Old” people won’t want to give to the future. This is a cynical view of Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) and the Matures (those born before 1945). The “older” generation cares deeply about the world that will be here once they head to the Great Bye and Bye. Some of these folks have scrimped and saved for decades. They may not look like they have wealth but looks can be deceiving. Legacy matters. What they leave for others makes a difference to them. Giving by Generation: Something to Smile About.
There’s no vision. You have to move past, “I’m working for a dying church.” I try not to be too Pollyannaish and I fully understand that there are churches that are in a downward spiral but continually saying “my church is dying” is a sure way to make it so. If you want a different outcome, find the vision. Whether it is this particular project or another one, find a reason to do more than merely exist. Change: Will You Be James Taylor or Bob Dylan?
There’s no ask. A sure way not to receive is by not asking – and by assuming you already know what the response will be (especially of “old” people). Please do not make the decision for anyone else about a project before they have a chance to hear about the project and the vision. It just might be what God is calling them to give to. Your people deserve to be inspired and given the opportunity to respond. Afraid to Ask? Give People Joy, Let Them Give.
I get it.
We make assumptions about people each and every day.
It’s natural.
Sometimes it keeps us sane.
But because of it, we can lose out on unexpected and wonder-filled miracles that may just blow our minds.
Be open. Give people – all people – the opportunity to give.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. Talk about young and old people breaking stereotypes: How about this story about a grandson and his 92-year-old grandma on a quest to visit every national park in the U.S.? You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.
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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.