As an unpaid church intern, I was expected to gather a team of people who would financially support me during the nine months of training. It’s not unusual for Christians to give money to each other for various ministry work, but I had no experience raising a livable salary and no good idea how to do it.
I wrote a short letter, summarizing what I planned to do and explaining how much money I thought I needed to survive the year (which was a decent amount, since my husband was in seminary and not working at the time). I sent the letter to every family member, some of my co-workers, and anyone whose name I knew at our church. Then I waited.
I waited for people to read my letter and respond, excitedly, with donations of $50, $100, or more, each month. I waited for God to “show me the money!”. And when that didn’t happen, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. With trepidation, I started making phone calls...
“Hi, it’s Nicole, how are you doing?...great, well you know I’m preparing to quit my job and start a church-based internship, right? I sent you a letter about it awhile back........well, I’m just calling to, you know, just.....check in.........and, um, see if you had thought about supporting me?............oh, yeah, I totally understand......well, thanks for, um, being my friend...bye.”
AWKWARD. And - embarrassing.
So I never fully raised the money I had budgeted. God was good and somehow - to this day, I really couldn’t tell you how - we survived that year. In fact, we kept pursuing ministry, but we never expected to have to ask people for money again. Because, you know, that was totally uncomfortable. For everyone.
Now, 10 years later, we are preparing to move to the 2nd most expensive city in the U.S. to start a church. We have estimated over $33,000 a year for RENT (our current mortgage is less than $10,000). If we wanted to, we could pay $25,000 a year for health insurance (uh...we’re not that crazy).
It’s become necessary for us, once again, to ask for money. But this time, everything is different.
This time, before we approached a single friend with the question of “will you...?”, we spent two months praying and seeking God’s wisdom in setting a budget. We asked a lot of questions, did a lot of research, and waited until we felt a peace about how much money we needed to raise.
This time, we asked others to pray with us and for us, at every step of the process.
This time, we prayed over a list of names of people we wanted to invite to partner with us. We pray(ed) before every meeting and after every conversation.
This time, we kept (are keeping) our eyes focused on Jesus and not on ourselves. We prepared a pretty sweet prezi and we practiced our spiel but honestly, we approached support raising with full confidence in our calling and complete trust in our God. This time, we understood how the apostle Paul could encourage the church that their financial gifts brought him joy, not because of the gift itself, but because of the blessing that God would give them as a result of their generosity. This time, we realized that we truly are inviting people to partner with us in God’s work in NYC - not everyone can go, but everyone can participate in the work by helping send us.
This time, we are able to ask people to give money with absolutely no expectation or dependency on their responses. We don’t feel more or less loved based on whether (or not) someone financially supports us. Our identity is not tied to how people respond to our invitation, though we receive great joy when someone joins our team.
In this way, raising financial support is exactly like sharing the good news of Jesus.
It’s not about us, it’s about him.
It must be rooted in prayer.
We must be confident in our calling and identity in Jesus so that we can clearly explain it to others - but understand that their response is not dependent on how effectively we communicate or how slick our presentation is. God is the one who calls people to himself.
WE receive great joy when someone responds to the call!
This time, asking people for money has been encouraging and exciting for us. It reminds us how utterly needy we are - in every sense! - and keeps us thirsty for Living Water, the kind that becomes in us a spring of water welling up to eternal life.