Are You Blocking Your Ministry’s Money Blessing?
by Bernice Sanders Smoot, Saint Wall Street
This is the first of a series of articles introducing Bible-based Best Practices for ministry fundraising. It contains truths that may be disturbing for some Christian ministry leaders. Prayer before reading is advised.
If you’re like most Christian ministry leaders, you’re finding it harder these days to raise money sufficient for the work God has called you to do. You’ve tried community fundraisers, grant writing, and perhaps even soliciting companies for donations, but nothing has worked. You could blame the shortfall on today’s financially troubled times, except you know that God is your source and He’s never broke. So, what’s the problem?
In 2004, according to empty tomb, Americans donated $88.30 billion to religion, while spending $705 billion on entertainment and recreation. Statistical data reported by The Barna Group and Generous Giving, two more groups that monitor Christian development trends, suggests that perhaps Christianity is losing its place in our wallets, because it is losing its place in our hearts.
* Only 51% of Americans today say they are Protestant, compared to 53% in 2001. (That’s a loss of about four million believers.)
* Of the one in three Americans raised Catholic, one in four says they still are.
* One in four young adults (18-29) claims they are affiliated with any religion at all.
* A largely un-churched generation is currently inheriting Baby Boomer wealth at a rate of $1 trillion-$3 trillion per year.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that membership in Atheist Alliance International practically doubled in 2007. That same year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation said its membership grew by an unprecedented 50 percent, twice its 2006 increase. And, a report from the Christian Broadcasting Network recently announced the United Nations held a meeting supporting a one-world religion that doesn’t include Jesus.
When Peter was called into ministry, the people he had to rely on for support weren’t a faithful bunch, either. In fact, they had just crucified Jesus. The rulers were probably still celebrating his good riddance. Nonetheless, Peter, an “unschooled, ordinary” man managed to so inspire their support that they funded his ministry until “there were no more needy persons among them.”
We like to believe that successful leaders are self-made. By sheer determination, as the theme music from the movie Rocky plays in the background, they take charge and get the job done. However, I submit to you that had self been in charge, Peter would have used that money for his own benefit.
Self is sinfully programmed to do what makes self feel good, regardless of the impact on others. This is why today we have so many leaders we’re inclined to chase instead of follow.
When, in 1997, I first started helping ministries with fundraising, I actually believed all Christian ministry leaders were devout and totally selfless followers of Christ. While I found that, indeed, most are, I was completely surprised to discover “the others.” These leaders were blocking their ministry’s money blessing!
First and foremost, I encountered Christian ministry leaders who insisted on being in absolute control of everything! They micro-manager their ministry's every function, from fundraising to filing. Some are kind, but firm in their absolute authority; others are shamelessly bullish about it. Both types relegate only menial tasks to others. Leaders who operate this way always struggle harder and accomplish less. As people want to support solutions, not struggles, this kind of self-centered behavior works to keep the ministry under-funded.
Next I encountered ministry leaders with super-sized egos. Greater than their desire to meet human need is their desire for personal power and praise. Consequently, they make self-serving decisions, exactly the kind no charitable giver wants to support. It is said that “ego” stands for Edging God Out. Leaders who operate God-ordained ministries in the name of self succeed at dismissing both God and His financial blessings
Finally, there are the ministry leaders who are just plain greedy. They can’t seem to help but use ministry funding for their personal benefit. Illegal and unethical, fraud breaches the public trust. Leaders who worship money over God not only kill public support for their ministry, but they compromise it for all Christian ministries, courtesy of guilt by association.
Key to a ministry worth funding is leadership worth supporting.
Before it was possible for Peter’s ministry to flourish, Peter had to let go of self. Although he loved Jesus, he had three times demonstrated too high a regard for his own life. Perhaps this is why, in order to be “reinstated” to ministry, he had to three times reaffirm to Jesus his commitment to serve. (John 21:15-17)
Jesus knew from personal experience that, in order for called leaders to grow successful ministries, they would have to overcome the temptations of selfishness, ego, and greed. Matthew 4:1-10 reveals how Jesus overcame these same temptations from Satan, who came calling right after Jesus was baptized in preparation for ministry.
Satan first tried to have Jesus place his physical need above his faith in God.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
After 40 days of no food, surely Jesus was hungry. But, rather than act in his self interest and make bread, he relied on God’s Word to see him through this time of need.
In the second temptation, Satan tried to unleash ego in Jesus.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'
Here, Satan challenged Jesus to be Superman, to see if God would save him as he jumped off a building for nothing more than a devil dare. But, Jesus didn’t jump. He refused to take such an egotistical leap of faith, knowing it would seek to reduce God to serving him.
Saving his best for the third and final temptation, Satan sought to inspire greed in Jesus:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' "
In foregoing what amounted to wealth beyond any man’s wildest dreams, Jesus exemplified an unshakable commitment to serving God, faithfully and selflessly.
Beyond fundraising skill, integrity builds relationships that pay.
Faithful, selfless people have integrity. Integrity is defined as the “steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code” or “the state of being unimpaired.” It is such a sought-after quality it actually led the list of the most looked-up words in 2005. (source: w-m.com.)
Integrity is also the very quality it takes to inspire public trust and support.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a $53.4 million ministry. Since 1954, it has challenged coaches and athletes to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. In 2006, FCA touched more than two million lives.
FCA’s Statement of Values leads with a commitment to integrity and Christ-like service.
We will demonstrate Christ-like wholeness, privately, and publicly.
We will model Jesus' example of serving.
A ministry will grow only to the size of its leader.
Once Peter decided to serve ministry unimpaired by self interest, Jesus gave him one simple instruction. In John 21:19, he said to Peter, "Follow me." Steadfast adherence to this instruction enabled Peter to raise faith among the world's non-believers and create thousands of believers who poured into his ministry all the money it would ever need.
If your ministry is being led by you, support for it is being limited by you. You are literally blocking your ministry’s money blessing!
Thus, the first Bible-based Best Practice under what I call “Peter’s Principles for Extreme Fundraising” is simply that you and your board: Commit to follow the leader.
(It may not be easy to do, but it’s free!)
To discover what Peter did next, catch the upcoming article, “Keep Your Eye on the Doughnut.”
Bernice Sanders Smoot, president of Saint Wall Street, has helped hundreds of nonprofit and faith-based programs across America improve funding eligibility and support. Drawing upon more than a decade of research and experience serving minority and urban ministries, she now specializes in sharing the Bible-based Best Practices critical to increasing support for Christian ministry. Ms. Smoot’s trainings have been hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, Christian organizations, and Pepperdine and Regent universities. All have received a 99% Excellent rating from attendees. Development projects have produced six– and seven-figure funding for minority-owned nonprofits. Ms. Smoot’s background further includes corporate marketing, small business-development training and national market research consulting. She’s also a co-founder of the Affinity Chapter of Faith-based Capacity Builders under the national Alliance for Nonprofit Management, and has been a featured radio guest on topics affecting Christian ministry and minority community development.