Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Growth and its financial counterpart

Today I drive 9 hours south of Wellsboro to Burke’s Garden VA to spend time with my friend who is Lutheran pastor for two congregations. I left myself plenty of time to get down to Virginia, mostly so I can stop in one of those malls that I know I will pass on the way. Today I plan a tourist route because who knows when I will get back to Virginia again?

I needed this time off. As I look at myself, I see a tired woman, struggling to keep up with the schedule she set for herself. Thursday through Sunday were horrendous 12+ hour days each. Thursday, I was the unpaid staff for Olan Mills photos at church. It was a positive experience as I had a bit of time to talk to each member of our congregation as they came in for their photos. It was awesome, too, in that we have sufficient numbers to more than meet the minimum number of photos needed to put a book together. The last time the photos were taken, two churches got together to compete one book. This photo directory is tangible proof that the congregation is growing. We are not flourishing and financially, we are floundering.

To help with the financial part, I enlisted six members of the congregation asking each to raise funds to keep us going. I gave them packets containing a letter and a brochure and asked them to send ten letters to friends they know who support our progressive church but who either don’t go to church at all or who attend another congregation. The letter asks for financial support. To a person, the six were horrified and though we brainstormed names, I am not confident they will send the letters.

I am doing my part. As I put together packets of letters, brochure and a business card, I too was hesitant to send out this fund raising appeal. It is so reminiscent of heading a nonprofit organization where this time of year many fund raising letters reach out to supporters pleading: “Please help keep us going.” I sent the letter to 15 people I think will support this church - most of them live out of state. After Thanksgiving, I will send out 15 more. But not to pastors as I assume they, like I, already tithe to their own congregations.

In the religious sphere, we don’t think the church should do this fund development. Group think is: “God will provide” if we are faithful. At the risk of offending some of my congregation who may read this or offending other pastors, the counterpart is “God helps those who help themselves.” This applies to raising sufficient money to run a church.

In order for Soul Link to survive, we need those who our support a progressive congregation to help us. Our congregation IS church (I got that from Sharon Watkins, President and General Minister of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) when I heard her preach several times. She starts out “Good morning CHURCH” to remind us that we are). Soul Link, too, is church - we are diverse and not at all the most segregated hour of the week. We include those with some money, those with lots and those with none. Each contributes weekly. But, frankly, there is not sufficient money in the annual offering to pay a pastor, to print a bulletin, to turn on the lights.

Many pastors don’t talk about financial support of their church - we segregate ourselves into old thinking: the Stewardship committee takes care of finances and pastors take care of souls. Well, if this church is to survive, we need a different model. This pastor will do stewardship and do it by reaching beyond the walls of our church.

A comment on Facebook by Diana Butler Bass included a quote from Sharon Watkins (see above) "God never told the world to go to church; but God did tell the church to go to the world." We strive to go to the world - that is my (almost) weekly message. Like everything else, going forth requires money. If you are reading this and can support us, please contact me through Facebook and I will tell you where to send your tax-deductible contribution. If you cannot support us with funds, please keep us in your prayers.

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