Friday, June 12, 2009

Evangelism as Fundraising: Let's Not

I belong to the Emerging Leaders' Network (how's that for self-aggrandizing!) and a friend there started a discussion about the risk of doing outreach & evangelism as a fund raising strategy when the church is having a hard time making budget. I just had to offer my two bits on that and thought I'd share it here as well:

Here's a small step we're tying to make where I serve.

In our little brochure about membership and in conversation as it comes up, I always present membership this way: Everything of value that this Congregation has to offer, it provides free of charge to anyone who wants it: Baptism, Communion, Sunday School, Bible Studies, worship services, pastoral care and so on. So "membership" provides no additional benefit. Rather, becoming a member is what you do when you want to get on the "supply" side of the equation and join us in keeping all this stuff available to others for free, just like it was for you when you arrived. The only thing you "get" with membership is extra responsibility.

I compare it to enlisting in the Army or Peace Corp: a voluntary choice to join an organization that serves others, because you believe in its mission and want to take part in achieving it.

That also sets up a great point I love to share with prospective new members. When you "enlist" in an organization like that, then they have a responsibility to equip you for the work you will be doing - basic training, as it were. So we as a congregation have begun to provide "Equipping Workshops" for new members (open to everyone, of course) to fulfill our responsibility to them when they join.

On a completely different track, though, and with apologies if I'm being a gadfly, I can't read your post without thinking that there would be a lot less temptation to link evangelism and finance if we could break our dependence on buildings, programs and professional clergy (like me), as if that were the only or even a relatively effective way to be Church. I spend a lot of time thinking about the house church model, which you can easily imagine, would have a very different outlook on both evangelism and stewardship.