A Spirituality of Fundraising, by Henri Nouwen

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Okay, I admit it: I’ve been using the term “fundraising” for everything I don’t like about many secular financial appeal campaigns: lack of theological grounding, emotional manipulation, focus on the money, disregard for the donor as a person, and mechanistic gimmicks. But Henri Nouwen, author, Catholic priest, spiritual mentor, and model for so many Christians, uses the word “fundraising” for actually funding God’s work through authentic ministries in line with God’s vision for the world.

So I just read the new version of Henri Nouwen’s powerful little book, A Spirituality of Fundraising. What a dynamic witness it is to a whole different reality!

Nouwen says that when a person faithfully seeks to raise funds for ministry, he or she is telling the potential donor, “We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you — your energy, your prayers, and your money — in this work to which God has called us.” So he concludes, “fundraising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.”

What a healthy way to view our invitation to others to undergird God’s work! Nouwen speaks from his own experience of being asked to donate money as well as of having asked others to support his various ministries. Funding the church’s work becomes a partnership in ministry between the donor and the one who asks for support. In the process, both are called to greater faithfulness as they create a community of love. Nouwen says, “We must minister to the rich from our own place of wealth — the spiritual wealth we have inherited as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. . . .”

So much for begging, or selling, or appealing to loyalty. This volume could be the perfect antidote for church finance leaders who fear bringing up the need for money. Nouwen gives some discussion questions for would-be fundraisers about the power of money in our relationships and how money affects our sense of security, value, and personal worth. This spring is a terrific time to engage our church leaders in talk about the themes in this book. It could bring about a refreshing change in attitude as they approach the church’s fall funding effort.

Your partner in ministry,
Betsy Schwarzentraub
Written 2/15/2011

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