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‘People delight in the feeling of making a difference’

1001 New Worshiping Communities webinar explores ways to continue fundraising, even during a pandemic

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian Mission Agency

LOUISVILLE — Leaders of worshiping communities may be hesitant as they seek to bolster funding during a pandemic. But there are ways to do that by inviting people to do what they want to do anyway, the Revs. Jon Moore and Princeton Abaraoha told about 40 people participating in a Thursday webinar “Funding your Ministry in a Time of Crisis,” put on by 1001 New Worshiping Communities.

“People want to give. People delight in the feeling of making a difference,” said Moore, a mission engagement advisor for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “Nowhere is that more true than in the time of a disaster, a time of great community need.”

The Rev. Princeton Abaraoha

Giving can take on many forms. Abaraoha, field staff for African Intercultural Ministries in Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries and a pastor in the Houston area, said that about 15 years ago, a man at his church was unable to make a pledge. Instead, he promised to come to church early each week to set up the sound board, make coffee and perform other welcoming chores. “He was embraced and loved and has brought others to church,” Abaraoha said. “He never misses a Sunday giving of himself to the church.”

Rather than pre-emptively cutting their budgets, churches and worshiping communities might start with going to their donors, explaining the situation and asking if they’d be willing to increase their giving, Moore said. He referenced Paul’s encouragement to be generous found in the apostle’s second letter to the church at Corinth: “During a severe ordeal of affliction, their (the churches of Macedonia’s) abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints.”

“You sense in that passage that desire that is born out of being in a desperate situation is their desire to give,” Moore said. “Nowhere is that more true than with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Every time there is a disaster, the financial balance sheet of PDA swells. People give much more because they are interested in making sure they can make a difference through their giving.”

The Rev. Jon Moore

Not everyone can give, or can give more, he said. Some can’t, and some won’t. Some would but they can’t, because they have lost their job “or there are other places they need to support.” But “those that will are the people that we need to find, and you do that by asking. Few people will give if they aren’t asked.”

The first person to ask for stepped-up giving is yourself, he said. That’s followed by the community’s strongest givers, because “they value the community and derive the most meaning in their lives from the community.”

The next group is the leaders, who “understand the community.” Then it’s time to reach out to the community itself. “People may give when they hadn’t, or may give more than they have,” he said.” Lastly, it’s time to reach out to people outside the community — your own network, the networks of leaders in the community and the network of donors outside the community.

The request “is best done one-on-one,” he said. Despite the current impossibility of sitting down with somebody to talk, “we have to find the means for having these conversations with people.” Moore said for him the best means are old-fashioned telephone calls and Facetime.

“This is a time of mutual concern,” he said. “We are trying to find out how things are going with them. We find out what they are struggling with before we move on to our own needs.”

Giving sometimes comes from unexpected sources. Abaraoha said one day, a man and his two children dropped by to worship at the church he serves. Over the next few Sundays, more men and their children began to attend. “What’s going on?” he wondered. It turned out all the men belonged to a 12-step group. The first man told them, “I am going to an inclusive, welcoming community.” The others were eager to follow suit.

After three visits, the church includes each new family as “friends of the church” in the church directory.

“They love that, and they give us 25 percent of our annual budget,” Abaraoha said. “God wants us to use the resources we already have to bless us.”

“We focus on our community and the folks close to us because they already know what we are trying to accomplish,” Moore said. “They know the stories of transformation that are taking place. We talk to churches about (congregants) doing testimonies for church members. They are already convinced this is a worthwhile venture, so they are ready to sacrifice and rise to the occasion.”

Rev. Nikki Collins

The Rev. Nikki Collins


The Rev. Nikki Collins, coordinator of 1001 Worshiping Communities, noted during the webinar that communities are now able to reach people “far beyond our geographic area.” As the $1,200 relief checks from the federal government start reaching people of faith, “there will be people who aren’t experiencing a financial strain who will be looking for good things to do with this check that landed in their mailbox.”

“I suspect we will see an expansion of philanthropy in the coming months,” she said. “They may need a place to give that money away — if you ask them for it.”

“We are the beloved of God, and God is in control, so don’t hesitate to ask,” Abaraoha said, recalling the words of a Jesuit priest: “Do you know God loves you and looks forward to hearing from you?”

“If we know that, it gives us the passion to ask,” he said. “You have to tell your story with passion, and people will respond to that.”

View the webinar here. Read more tips from Moore here.

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