“Campaign” is an interesting word when discussing ministry. We just endured political campaigns with a continuing campaign in Georgia. Military operations are called campaigns involving specific geographic areas.
I don’t know who invented the term “Stewardship Campaign” but for decades congregations have engaged in such annual programs to create their budget for the next year. Deborah Rexrode wrote here for NEXT Church that most Stewardship Campaigns involve “filling out a pledge card to make a commitment to the annual budget of the church where we are a member.”
Yuck. I am not inspired.
Stewardship Campaigns often have themes: Growing in Grace, Stepping Up and Out, Digging Deeper, Now is our Time. I’m guessing that the average 30 year old is not moved by the pithiest of theme names. It’s possible that the average 60 year old is not moved either.
I want to be a part of an organization that makes a difference. As a follower of Christ, I specifically want to be part of a spiritual community that makes a difference to the glory of God in the name of Jesus. I will not give money to support structures for the sake of supporting the structures. The Church is not the ministry. What the Church does is the ministry. The Church is the tool to do ministry.
Speaking of hard truths, I wonder if we should never again have a “Stewardship Campaign.” We are not trying to conquer anything or safeguard anything (like a military campaign.) We are not trying to “win” (like a political campaign.) We are trying to expand the reign of God. How’s that going?
In our post-Christendom culture, it’s obvious that many of our churches will close in the next 5-10 years. And it’s not just about church size. I know many thriving congregations with less than 50 members changing the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ. They feed twice or three times the number of people who sit in their pews on Sunday mornings. They provide needle exchanges for addicts who outnumber their membership rolls in their rural counties. They provide social and educational gatherings for disabled neighbors who never make financial contributions to their budgets.
Churches that serve only themselves need to close. You are a social club – and you might be a meaningful and beloved social club of people who appreciate getting together each week. But you can do that at a diner.
People support impactful and inspiring mission with their money and their time. I want to be a part of a vision that changes the world for good. I want to raise my children in a community that shows what the love of God actually looks like. That’s how they learn it – not by being lectured to or criticized (“Kids today are lazy/selfish/uncommitted.”) We don’t learn it by being on committees that discuss the same issues (e.g. the boiler, the carpet, the people who toss trash in the parking lot) month after month.
Jesus moved people. Thriving churches also move people because they look like Jesus.
So instead of a “campaign” how about sharing what we’ve done this year and what we hope to do next year that has and will move people in the name of Jesus and ask for buy-in.
We want you to be a part of this ministry to immigrants that’s changing lives. We want you to join us in serving those who need a safe place to sleep. We are sharing fresh vegetables to 250 people every week and we want to keep loving our neighbors this way. We are providing space for laundry facilities for the homeless, meeting space for the addicted, safe space for Trans kids, garden space for immigrants, financial education for young families, spiritual direction for children, day care for seniors.
And we have a vision that our church can be a light in darkness and a haven in this difficult world and a way station for those passing through in need of support.
It’s not a battle or a contest. It’s a vision sparked by the Holy and it makes us feel closer to God and to each other. It’s a vision that looks like what Jesus was all about: healing, befriending, forgiving, welcoming, holding accountable, loving. I want to be a part of that church.