I can remember in Bible college getting a book about pastoral ministry which had a chapter entitled, “The Oh So Delicate Subject.” I turned to the chapter assuming it would contain some wisdom on preaching about sex, to find it was actually a chapter about money and asking for money for church. After many years of preaching I think that book was right; I can’t think of a more delicate and difficult subject to preach about than money – especially asking for money.
The difficulty surrounding talking about and asking for money in church probably stems from a couple of factors. Firstly, there are cultural factors at work. In our culture money, how much you have and how you use it are profoundly private matters and talking and asking about them feels like we are invading people’s privacy. Talking about money in the UK makes both the preacher and those listening feel very uncomfortable, so we tend to avoid the subject.
I think the other reason we tend to avoid talking about and asking for money is because we want to avoid guilt by association. We all know the scandals surrounding television evangelists and we recoil when we hear them greedily trying to fleece gullible people in Jesus’ name to fund their luxury lifestyles. In our determination to distance ourselves from these church charlatans all too often we avoid the subject of money at all. So in our attempt not to be seen as greedy money grabbers we end up being silent about money. The problem with our silence on money is that according to Scripture, money and our attitude to it is one of the most important indicators of the condition of people’s hearts. The danger of our silence is that if we ignore the subject of money, both the mission of the Kingdom of God and the spirituality of God’s people will ultimately be impoverished.
Over the decades that I have been a preacher, I have struggled with the subject about how to talk about and ask for money with integrity but clarity. Recently I found a little gem of a book by Catholic theologian and spiritual writer Henri Nouwen called The Spirituality Of Fundraising. It’s only 64 pages long, but this book has given me a better perspective on this subject than anything else I have read. I thought I’d share some quotes from Nouwen’s book to give you an insight into where he is coming from but mostly to encourage you to get a copy for yourself. If you are a preacher or involved in fundraising for the church or missions, you should have this book in your library. Nouwen’s book isn’t a “how to” book but rather a “why” book. It won’t give you strategies when it comes to fundraising and challenging people to give sacrificially, but it will show why you should and will give you more confidence to do so.
So here are some nuggets of inspiration from Nouwen:
“Fundraising is a very rich and beautiful activity. It is a confident, joyful and hope-filled expression of ministry. In ministering to each other, each from the riches that he or she possesses, we work together for the full coming of God’s Kingdom.”
“Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.”
“We will never be able to ask for money if we do not know how we ourselves relate to money. What is the place of money in our lives?”
“Are we willing to be converted from our fear of asking, our anxiety about being rejected or feeling humiliated, our depression when someone says, ‘No, I’m not going to get involved in your project’?”
“The Spirit of love says: ‘Don’t be afraid to let go of your need to control your own life. Let me fulfill the true desire of your heart.’”
“Fundraising is also always a call conversion. And this 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.”
“We must claim the confidence to go to a wealthy person knowing that he or she is just as poor and in need of love as we are.”
“I ask for money standing up, not bowing down because I believe in what I am about. I believe I have something important to offer.”
“We do not need to worry about the money. Rather, we need to worry about whether, through the invitation we offer them (the donor) and the relationship we develop with them, they will come closer to God.”
“When we give ourselves to planting and nurturing love here on earth, our efforts will reach beyond our own chronological existence.”