In the June Equipper we began looking at the theme of stewardship with a focus on generosity. We now continue that theme, focused on fundraising. The five articles in this issue are linked below. Enjoy! -Ted Johnston, Equipper editor.
Summertime is here, and children are happy! Carefree days without homework and rigid schedules, staying up late, family vacations and summer camps … what’s not to love! As children and their families enjoy their summer break, children’s church leaders and volunteers face unique challenges. Attendance tends to fluctuate, making planning challenging. Volunteers are on vacation. Some children’s church teachers take a well-deserved break. On the other hand, many children’s ministry leaders are busier than ever, conducting VBS and other outreach events.
One thing remains: Children’s church ministries contribute to young people’s spiritual growth. Helping children develop a personal relationship with God is a delicate balance between guidance and personal exploration. As we teach our kids Scripture, doctrine and values, we also need to encourage them to discover God, fueled by their own motivation and initiatives. When their relationship with Jesus develops organically through understanding and experiences, their faith grows from the inside.
Encourage independent study
In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the apostle Paul talks about how he and his protégé Timothy were Christ’s ambassadors. Children need to be taught that these verses speak to all of us, including them—God seeks to use us all (children included) as his ambassadors. Explain to children repeatedly that studying God’s Holy Bible is a way of listening to God. Learning who God is, who we are in him, and what purpose he has for our lives prepares us to be his ambassadors to others.
Help children read the Bible and other spiritually rich books on their own. Set small goals such as remembering Bible verses and spiritual concepts, then provide rewards and acknowledgement for their efforts. A while back, a children’s church teacher gave Susi’s two children fun bookmarks with the books of the Bible printed on them. He promised them a king-size candy bar if they could memorize the names of the books by the end of summer. This simple gesture led to a fun challenge with a delicious king-size reward! There are a host of children’s Bibles available for all ages, many include devotionals and guided studies.
Encourage two-way communication
Prayer can be intimidating to children. Naturally we want to model prayer as we share needs, feelings, thanksgiving, fears and joys with God. But we also want them to learn to listen to and hear God.
Journaling is a great way to help kids hear God. In our church we bought inexpensive, blank-papered journals, and allowed the kids to decorate and personalize the outside. Each week we journaled after the lesson (journals remained at church). Children of all ages participated, whether they could read and write or not. We encouraged creativity, assisting the youngest with writing down their thoughts. With time, the kids realized how God was answering their prayers, easing their worries and revealing himself to them. If you’d like to explore the topic of kids journaling, here are two helpful books: Writing to God: Kids’ Edition, by Rachel G. Hackenberg, and Praying in Colors: Kids’ Edition, by Sybil MacBeth.
Break the routine
Summertime is perfect for breaking the Sunday school routine. Allow for discovery and exploration that encourages children to experience God anew. Take them outside to observe the busy ants, marvel at flowers and plants, find shapes in the clouds, listen to the birds; all along teaching them about God the creator (Matthew 6:26-28; Psalm 50:11-12, and Genesis 1:20-23).
Surprise the children with a Popsicle party. Have them guess the flavor, then point out how awesome God is to give us taste buds, allowing us to feel cold, hot and sticky. Ask them what they think God’s favorite color is, and what flavor he might have picked. Help them see how interesting they are to God (Psalm 139:13-18).
All because he loves
Children who are encouraged and taught to seek, discover, communicate with, think and learn about God on their own build an important foundation that provides a life-long anchor. God who is Father, Son and Spirit, is a real, living God that invites children of all ages into a loving, personal relationship. Helping children see the world, themselves and others through God-colored lenses is a precious calling.
Happy and safe summer!
P.S. Looking for a fun summer activity for the kids in your children’s church or Sunday school? Click here for one Susi recommends (adjust the questions to match the age-group you’re working with).
Here is a sermon from Equipper editor and Regional Pastor Ted Johnston. It’s based on the second chapter of Haggai.
God has led GCI on a remarkable journey: from legalism to grace; heresy to orthodoxy; self-sufficiency to radical dependency. With this came a renewed sense of purpose—a growing understanding of our divine mission: “Go” says Jesus, and “make disciples.” And so we got going.
But when we think of mission within our denomination with its very small churches, it’s easy to get discouraged, even overwhelmed: competing needs, things to do, pressures, demands, expectations and tasks pushing from all sides, assaulting our schedules and sapping our energy. Do this! Be there! Finish that! It can suck the joy out of being part of the body of Christ.
Here is the age-old challenge to the people of God to remain on-mission in the face of adversity—to bestrong, willing and committed.
About 2500 years ago, God spoke through the prophet Haggai to call the people of God (Judah in that case) back to active participation in God’s work in their time. Haggai was a man who understood what God was doing, and how God’s people should respond:
In 604 B.C. the Jews had been conquered and taken to Babylon.
In 586 the armies of Babylon destroyed the temple in Jerusalem—the focus of God’s presence with his people.
In 538 King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. About 50,000 of them traveled back and many of them got to work.
But by 530 that work had stopped—the Jews had forgotten their purpose and lost their priorities as opposition and hardship set in.
But in 520, God raised up Haggai to call his people back on mission:
Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:3-4)
The people of Judah were more concerned with their own lives and comfort than with God’s work. So Haggai stirred them to action:
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. (Haggai 1:7-8)
Today I’m addressing people who have faithfully followed God forward on an unprecedented journey of reformation. I thank God for you, and I praise you for your faithfulness, resiliency and determination. And today I call upon us all to heed God’s admonition through Haggai to be strong, willing and committed to the mission to which we are called.
1. Let us be strong
On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?'” (Haggai 2:1-3)
Viewing the new temple in contrast with the grand appearance of the old, made some of the Jews feel weak, insignificant, overwhelmed, dispirited. We could feel that way too within the house that God is rebuilding here. We are small, with limited resources. Our challenges are great. But hear God’s word to the leaders of the rebuilding in Haggai’s day:
“But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,” declares the LORD. “Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,” declares the LORD, “and work. For I am with you,” declares the LORD Almighty. “This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” (Haggai 2:4-5)
We can be strong in the face of adversity knowing that God is with us and that he is who he says he is: a mighty God! It’s a matter of faith and vision—and note the command to be strong. It is, in part, a choice—a decision. We can choose to focus on our weaknesses or we can choose to focus on and lean into God’s strength. It was God who challenged Zerubbabel through Zechariah, another prophet of the same period, to look not to his own strength, but to choose to work in God’s strength in order to finish the task the Lord had given to him:
This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)
“But look how puny this new temple is!,” the Jews protested. Or we might say today, “Look how puny we are as a church!” But hear Zechariah’s words to the Jews as they gazed upon the emerging new temple:
Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. (These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range throughout the earth.) (Zechariah 4:10)
God often begins small—like the tiny mustard plant seed Jesus says grows into a tall plant. And so God’s challenge to us as we participate with him in rebuilding our congregations and denomination is this: Don’t be discouraged—BE STRONG! And what does that strength look like? Relying on God, and in doing so being about his work—sharing in what he is doing. And what does that look like? Making disciples who make disciples. That’s what Jesus is doing, and he calls us to participate with him in that work in the power of his Spirit. It’s not about how puny we are, it’s about how great God is, and the glory of what he is doing! And so let us be strong.
2. Let us be willing
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the LORD Almighty. “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty. (Haggai 2:6-8)
Note the repetition of God saying “I will,” both here and in Haggai 2:19, 21, 22, 23. God is an I will God: a God of purpose, passion, persistence and power. HE WILL!! But how about us? In the power of his Spirit are we I will people? Well, let me say this—it’s not about us. It’s not about our plans, power, will, ideas, or accomplishments. Rather, it’s about us seeing and being motivated by a vision of what God has promised that he will accomplish through us:
“The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” says the LORD Almighty. “And in this place I will grant peace,” declares the LORD Almighty. (Haggai 2:9)
It’s about what God has done and will yet do, and about our willingness to do it with him. Look, we have no idea exactly what God will yet do. As those Jews worked on the temple, they had no idea how God would fulfill his promise of greater glory. They had no idea that over 550 years later the Lord Jesus would walk into that temple and his personal presence—the presence of God in the flesh—would infuse that space with a glory far greater than the Shekinah glory of God present in Solomon’s temple. They certainly did not understand the greater glory of the ultimate temple—the body of Christ, in which the living Lord dwells by his Spirit in his people. We are that temple, and we are called to choose to be willing to participate with Christ in the work he is doing in and through that temple!
And so we are challenged to trust God, leaning into what he will accomplish in and through us. Even if we never see the finished product, we’re privileged to help lay the foundation.
Let us, therefore, hear and submit to the Lord:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. (Psalm 32:8-9)
God who includes us in his love and life, wants all of us—all we are—including our willing heart—a heart broken by his love and motivated by that love to be active in what Jesus is doing to fulfill the Father’s mission to the world in the power of the Holy Spirit—a work our Lord is doing in and through his body on earth, the church. So let us be willing.
3. Let us be committed
The issue for us to consider today is acknowledging and being committed to our calling—to God’s sovereign appointment upon our lives:
The word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.”
“On that day,” declares the LORD Almighty, “I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,” declares the LORD, “and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,” declares the LORD Almighty. (Haggai 2:20-23)
A signet ring was a symbol of authority, the evidence of the Sovereign’s appointment. In this case it was God’s appointment of Zerubbabel to be the principle builder of the new temple. To what has God appointed us? What is the calling we share? In general outline, it’s the same for all who follow Christ:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
Do we see Jesus, and in seeing him, see our calling? Are we committed to living out that calling in the place where God has placed us? To do so is to be actively involved in what Jesus is doing here—in this place; now. It means having a sense of divine purpose, appointment and expectancy. It means living on mission with intentionality, passion and vision.
Dear ones, in the power of Christ and his Spirit, and for the sake of the world that God loves, let us together be strong, willing and committed!
[Note to pastors: Following this sermon, you might hold a town hall meeting to lead your congregation in discussing its understanding of its part in God’s mission in your particular community.]
You’ve probably had occasions when you answered a knock on your front door to find standing there a couple of well-dressed people holding religious literature in their hands. Through experiences like those you’ve probably learned that cold-call evangelism doesn’t work too well. Perhaps you’ve had similar bad experiences with cold-call fundraisers. But don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater”—there are biblically sound, effective ways to raise funds to support your church or ministry. Let me share what I have learned about a key aspect of fundraising: networking.
Over the years I’ve had several business owners offer financial support for a variety of ministry endeavors. With rare exceptions, I’ve not directly asked for contributions. What I’ve done is establish personal relationships that then include sharing various aspects of ministry and out-reach that I’m involved in. Yes, it does take time to establish a connection with your printer, or an attorney in the community, or even the owner of the auto repair shop you frequent. Perhaps it means joining the Chamber of Commerce (and actually attending!), or becoming a member of the local Kiwanis or Rotary club. Doing these things will pay off in ways that go far beyond raising funds.
An occasional cup of coffee here; sitting together at a chamber of commerce Business After Hours event there—before long you’ve developed a network of acquaintances who become your friends. Just as you become interested in what is happening in their lives, they become interested in what is important to you. A network based on true friendship is formed.
On one occasion, I shared with the owner of a printing company some of the financial challenges my worship team was facing due to antiquated equipment. That led him to ask this question: “What would it take to upgrade?” I responded that we were trying to scrape together seven grand. His response was, “I need a tax deduction or two. Why don’t you let me cover that for you?” On another occasion, showing excitement and sharing stories from our local GCI youth camp led to a thousand-dollar check showing up in the mail, unsolicited.
My favorite examples are the times when, rather than directly asking for support, I have asked people if they know of other business owners who might be willing to help with goods or services for some event we are hosting. More often than not, I come away with not only viable references, I also usually hear, “Let me help out as well.”
Establishing a network of relationships merely for the purpose of raising money is a bit like the predatory evangelism practiced by some churches. But when the friendships are real, the results often go far beyond the occasional check. As an example, the above mentioned owner of the printing company (who had not attended church in over 40 years) is now a member of my congregation. That’s far better than a check, any day!
Fundraising—it was the last thing I wanted to do! Asking people for money was, for me, like pulling teeth—painful and unpleasant.
That was how I felt until 12 years ago when the congregation I pastored in Michigan started a food pantry. We moved our meeting location with the intent of engaging a particular community. About six months after the move, we started the pantry in partnership with a large food bank in the area. They provided perishable items, and once a month we provided non-perishable personal care items.
We started slowly, serving only 25 families. We wanted to be able to
sustain what we had started. But demand was high, and it became apparent that we needed to grow. So we began looking outside the congregation for financial support—we had to involve ourselves in fundraising if we wanted to be successful. But by that time, something had changed drastically in our thinking. Fundraising no longer felt like pulling teeth. We had something we were passionate about—something that fit well our congregational giftedness; something that was making a real difference in the lives of needy families. We had a story to tell and
we felt empowered to invite others into that story, sharing the journey with us. So what had once felt painful and unpleasant, was now a joy-filled expression of our passion and purpose.
As we made contacts and told our story to many people outside our congregation, funds came in. As a result, we were able to increase the number of families served from 25 to 125. As the result of our networking, we received grants from institutions and gifts of cash from families, friends and former members. From area businesses we received both cash and products with which we re-stocked our pantry. Through our fundraising efforts, we were enabled to operate the ministry with about 90% of its cost funded by outside sources.
Here are some of the lessons we learned along the way as we engaged our community in practical, caring ways:
Once we saw the value in what we were doing, participation and giving among our members increased. There was a heightened sense of purpose that changed how we viewed every aspect of the ministry. As a result, fundraising became something we did as a natural part of our ministry.
We found out quickly that people will give generously when they can clearly see value in what is being done, especially when people are helped.
When we struggled with manpower needs as we grew, we asked for help from our pantry recipients and they stepped up to help. When we engage in serving and caring for God’s children we have a greater sense of purpose and when we invite others in the community to join in, they experience the joy of that purpose as well.
Fundraising is all about an opportunity and privilege to participate in what Jesus is doing though our church, in the community. It should never be viewed as a mere chore.
These are some of the valuable lessons learned by some skeptics (of which I was chief). We are skeptics no more.
I have significant experience as a church pastor and the director of a non-profit ministry. In those roles, I’ve talked with many people about money and I’ve raised a lot of funds. Yet, perhaps like you, I’ve not thought of myself as a fundraiser.
As a principal leader in your church or ministry, you know your organization well, and that knowledge positions you to be a chief spokesperson in raising funds to help supply the financial needs of your organization. The goal of most of the articles in this issue of Equipper is to acquaint you with fundraising and to offer tips and tools to assist your fundraising efforts going forward.
When it comes to fundraising, there is a problem: most of us don’t like to talk about money! But are we aware that money is Jesus’ second most talked-about topic in the Gospels? (The first is the Kingdom of God.) I’m sure you’re aware that the Bible calls the love of money “a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), but do you know it also calls money “the answer for everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19)?
Like most of you reading this, I learned quickly that it takes money to do ministry. Knowing I was called to do ministry, I gradually learned to become comfortable talking about money. I encourage you to do the same. Here are two important things I’ve learned that I think will help you:
Understand the importance of “WHY”
Every congregation and ministry needs a clear understanding of the “why” of their calling. Every leader then needs to cast and recast a clear and compelling vision that addresses that “why.” The greater the clarity of that vision, the easier it will be to know where and how to expend ministry resources (treasure, time and talent). Clarity also enables leaders to effectively share the vision with others, as noted by Simon Sinek in this helpful TED talk:
As director of Metro Atlanta Youth for Christ, I inherited a three-headed program. We were attempting to engage teens on school campuses via after-school clubs. We worked with teen moms to help keep them in school and to strengthen their self-worth. And we sponsored a program for deaf students. Though all three programs had merit, trying to articulate with clarity what we were about was difficult. Our message was convoluted; watered-down. The director who replaced me five years ago recently shared that they have narrowed the organization’s focus and now are working exclusively with the after-school clubs (focused on middle-shoolers). Getting that focus has been liberating for the ministry and has brought clarity to their vision-casting. And that has led to more effective fundraising.
Knowing why we do what we do in ministry makes it much easier for us to ask others to participate through giving in the form of finances, donations of goods and services, and the giving of their own blood, sweat and tears.
Understand the power of networking
Who in your congregation knows the owner of a pizza restaurant who would gladly supply free pizzas for the occasional youth meeting? (When I ministered in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Tony was our guy.) Who knows the owner of a company who would gladly finance the purchase of sound equipment to be used in your congregation’s outreach? (Read the article in this issue from Tim Sitterley.) Who is connected with the local fire department? (Our congregation in Grove City, Ohio will be working with the fire department giving away smoke detectors and batteries—Pastor Jeff Broadnax knows the Fire Chief.) Also read the article in this issue from Sam Butler concerning how his congregation raised money for a food pantry. These are just a few of the ways GCI churches are involved in building relational networks within their focus communities in ways that lead to outreach and fundraising opportunities.
A marvelous example of focused vision and networking skill is Brandon Antwine, a GenMin camp director, and featured speaker at this year’s Converge West conference. In the video below, Brandon explains his ministry as a teacher who runs multiple after-school clubs for kids in the economically-challenged community where he grew up.
I have a question for you: If Jesus looked to you as one of his disciples, and said, “Go get a colt,” or “Go secure an upper room where we can share the Passover meal,” would you be able to make it happen? As a pastor or ministry leader in the 21st century, fundraising is a skill that is very much necessary in order to be active in the ministry that Jesus is doing. Fundraising involves securing the resources that are necessary to do what God has called you to do in your community. Surveying the congregation to know who your members know (their existing networks) is a good place to start. Couple that with crafting a clear vision, and you are well on your way to reaching out and giving others opportunity to participate with you in what God is doing in and through your church or ministry.
Would you like to learn more about fundraising? A good place to begin is to read The Spirituality of Fundraisingin which author Henri Nouwen points out that fundraising is more about asking someone to participate than asking them to contribute. If you’d like to receive training in fundraising practices (that are effective and biblically sound), GCI Regional Pastor Randy Bloom leads cohorts (small groups) of leaders that meet online to learn together how to raise funds. If you’d like to be part of one of these cohorts, please email Randy at Randy.Bloom@gci.org.
May God bless your ministry through your fundraising efforts,