Monday, February 25, 2008

Fundraising in Churches (Save the Church!)

I do not know many churches that do not engage in "fundraisers." I am not talking about capital campaings, appeals for pledges from congragants, or discussions about money from the pulpit. Rather, calling our church members to faithful giving as a spiritual discipline is both our most promising source of income as well as a move towards faithful discipleship.

What I am concerned about are fairs, car washes, Christamas tree sales, raffles--games of chance, etc. These have often struck me as taking away from the church's message that God provides abundantly and is bringing salvation to the world through Christ in the Church.

I am struck in particular by notions that even secularists in a small town or urban setting might participate in raising funds to "save the church." Is not the role of the church to offer salvation to a broken world? What happens when a broken church turns to the world and worldly means looking for salvation?

Perhaps the first sign of a dying church is not when it starts declining in membership, or even when the youth stop attending. Maybe we can see the church on decline as soon as its membership ceases to be able to maintain and support a vibrant life-giving ministry without relying on funds raised thru the buying and selling of goods. This isn't to say rummage sales are all bad--but what does it say when part of the Church's financial foundation is based on the sale of someone's trash?

8 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Excellent question! At my previous appointment, we had just one real fundraiser - a big church dinner that had been going on for 70 years. But everyone so enjoyed working on the dinner, i saw it more of a fellowship event than anything else. But there was always the temptation - do more dinners, sales, etc. I think you are right - they are signs that the church can't sustain itself and is looking to be 'saved.'

Eric Helms said...

Thanks for the comment. You bring up a great point. I served a small church that hosted a monthly country breakfast. In many ways it was a great community builder. People enjoyed working it, and this church that had an average attendance around 20 might bring in 70-100 people for breakfast.

The funny thing is we were actually able to support our budget on giving alone, but the perception was that the breakfast was our lifeblood. We finally started printing our monthly financial stats so people would see that the people would see that when you break it down, the breakfast supplied a very small percentage of our budget.

Pastor Blue Jeans said...

This is an excellent question and one that I have mixed feelings about.

In your post you make a distinction between Capital Campaigns and things like bake sales. I guess my thought would be why?

I agree that the concept of Stewardship in general and giving specifically is something that needs to be addressed.

however, isn't it possible to use these fundraisers as an opportunity to also reach into the community and to help build community as long as fundraising never becomes an excuse to not tackle the topic of stewardship?

Again, I have very mixed feelings about this, I just am throwing that out there.

Eric Helms said...

I may have misused the term capitol campaing--I was linking that to a stewardship campaign. A capitol campaign to fix something that is not part of the normal budget might be more complicated.

For instance if we need to raise funds to fix the steeple, we might find in the surrounding community people who are not church members but are ministered to by the presence of the steeple. Such people might desire to participate in its restoration. That does seem to be a separate issue.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

I guess I am of a different persuasion. I believe that a church focussed on healthy stewardship should be focussed on maximizing the building and their space for a maximum amount of time, in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. So, if a "church" chooses to buy a building. I would like to propose the crazy notition that that there be a business plan in place for the space during the week in a way that glorifies God and opens the doors of the church to discipleship opportunities. If a person can build a viable non-profit (like Worldvision and others), how much more can a church do proclaim the Truth of th gospel in a coffee shop or dinner or movie house or school or food bank or bowling alley or funeral home. Some ideas might be out there, but with the creative energy of the Holy Spirit why are our buildings sitting empty most of the time.

Let's talk about typical church - let's talk about poor stewardship! Then, instead of utilizing the open space and down time to make money and name a ministry of the church that is viable, we create these ridiculous fundraisers that consume 15 people at 8 hours to make $500, by selling things that... well you know. Stupid! Sorry, but that is worse than poor stewardship, it is stupid!

No viable cooperation (that is not called into account for it's stewardship in the same way God calls the church to account for) would ever let the majority of their space sit empty all week. What is the going rate for business square footage? It is ridiculous how much it cost to lease space. What is the church doing by not maximizing it's space all the time - not just once a month for a lovely flee market!

Sorry for my rant, but we talk about stewardship and don't even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to our own space and facilities.

klh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric Helms said...

Excellent point about the resource of space. I would contend that there are at least as many ministry oriented things we can do with our space that may not turn a profit as there are business opportunities, and I for one would love if those outside the community of faith saw the church as a place that used its space in foolish ways such as housing the homeless, free job skills training etc.

If you use the space for a coffee house, do you charge? Is there a Christian Theme? Is it part of our mission to make disciples, or does it pay the bills?