Ministry work and fundraising seem to perpetually be stuck together. This is a brief note on why that isn’t a bad thing.
Some students have put a support team together to help them pay for a theological education with less or no student loan debt. I think this is a great way to go. If you intend to go into occupational ministry, you need to become more comfortable with fundraising – but why?
The answer to that question isn’t restricted to ministry – in fact I came across the answer 10 years ago reading Seth Godin’s phenomenal blog. He is described as an ‘author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker’, but I like to see him as a thoughtful person who is willing to share.
Seth’s post a decade ago was on a New York Times article from Ben Stein (shout out to Win Ben Stein’s Money hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (!)) in which he questions Yale’s persistence in asking him for money. If you haven’t followed it since 2005, Yale’s endowment is now over $24 Billion. That’s easily enough to never charge tuition again much less ask their alumni for donations that pale in comparison. So why do they do it? Godin answers:
Michael Motta answered that question for me when he quoted Ben Franklin in an email today. “he that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than whom you yourself have obliged”.
In other words, Yale wants Ben Stein’s money so that Ben will be inclined to do the things that Yale really wants: send over great students, hire graduates, talk up the school and maintain its place in the pantheon of liberal arts colleges. And donors are far more likely to do that than disconnected alum.
Therein lies the reason fundraising is an essential part of all ministry work from now until the end of time. There are a lot of things that your personal ministry “really wants” much more than money. It’s nice to ask for ‘prayer’, but I’m certain that people that actually support you with their real dollars are far more likely to support you with real prayer.
So what is it that you ‘really want’? If you’re in Seminary, there are a lot of things more important then money that would be deeply helpful for you: housing, prayer, a job, people with whom you can actually minister, babysitting, an audience for your teaching, wise counsel, theological reflection, and much more.
A friend of mine recent gave my car a jump start when I was stranded in a distant neighborhood. It was a friendship that started and grew through a business transaction. Finances have a way of connecting us in cool ways.
I truly believe that God has promised to meet all my needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. So I don’t need to do fundraising to meet my financial needs, but I think one reason God gives us financial needs is to connect us with fellow travelers through jobs, fund raising, giving, lending, and helping each other with physical needs. We are hard wired to want to help each other. And through financially helping one another we find ourselves helping each other with the things that really matter – the stuff money cannot buy.
Going out and asking other people to support your cause*, specifically including financially, is an important part of the spiritual order of the universe. It really is a blessing to you AND to them.
*BTW, if you’re diligently asking and people aren’t supporting your cause it may be because you aren’t communicating its importance in a way that they can understand. Or perhaps you are communicating it properly, in which case maybe you should quit that cause ASAP.