Sunday, February 13, 2005

A ritual of giving.

At our church, we had a fundraising meeting a few days ago, and some thoughts I had about it have bubbled to the surface. CC has some ideas about fundraising that are pretty weird to church fundraising, because, well, she’s used to political fundraising. In political fundraising (from PACs), we sort of assume that people will likely give the money somewhere, we just want them to give it to us. In church fundraising, apparently one has to beg for it a lot more, with power point presentations about the value of church and some such.

If CC ran a church fundraising campaign, the theme of the campaign would be "Ours is a free church, time to pay for it." (A phrase stolen from Katy-the-Wise. ) Choir members would get letters about upcoming upgrades to the music ministry, parents to RE, etc. The Fellowship Dinner would cost $50 and anyone who agreed to convince three people to come could call themselves a member of the "Steering Committee" and wear a nicer name tag and come to a "thank you" luncheon of their own where they would be hit up for even more money, but could make broad suggestions about sermon topics. The fellowship dinner at CC's church is split over two nights. One night is catered, one night is pot luck. Anybody who came to the catered dinner would be hit up for twice as much money. Oh, and the pledge invoices would look as much as possible like phone bills. Because seriously, y'all, that's what paying one's pledge should feel like.)

(This brings to mind several chapters in
The Almost Church
CC loves a good masochistic beating as much as the next freaky chick, but even she found the book, from that sucky title on, a little much. That goes double for the author's smarmy "Y'all can't admit this to yourselves, but I know better" tone. He sounds a lot more humble and cool in the Coffee Hour discussion despite the fact that I almost think that saying that one didn't intend for a book to be negative is almost a bit disingenuous when one has named it the "Almost Church." Almost. Why am I humming that damn "Bowling for Soup" song all of a sudden? )

That having been said, I can seriously get behind the idea of UUs tithing. I've learned a lot about faithful church membership from the Mormons I work with, and the enthusiasm with which they approach giving to their church is really sort of inspiring. It's clear it makes them feel good and like they are a part of something, rather than the approach I see in my UU church of making the whole thing seem like a good financial transaction on the part of the giver. (Which admittedly is an approach so committedly rational that it makes my cranky humanist heart skip a beat. But I don't think it is the most effective approach.)

One of the suggestions the head of our fundraising group had was to make putting in our pledge envelopes a sort of ceremony, with people marching up to the front of the church to ceremonial music. Now CC, who had to stand in front of her Presbyterian church as a kid during a commissioning ceremony for her aunt while her brothers made some completely humiliating chaos involving the baptismal font and a rubber snake (y'all think I'm making this up, don't you?) is not a big fan of standing in front of the church for any reason, unless they let her into the pulpit in which case good luck getting her down. When she goes back to the Presbyterian church, she doesn't take communion by intinction if she can get out of it. (As in, if her mom is not watching.)

But even she didn't react as strongly as the rest of the committee.

Kids, I have seen empirical evidence that it IS possible for a suburban UU church to get whiter, because the entire committee went pale. Two people out of about two dozen (yeah, two dozen, Micheal Durrall might have a point on that one, too.) favored the idea and everyone else totally shouted it down.

Which leaves me with a few questions:

1. Do any of y'all's churches do any such ceremony?

2. What fundraising methods work best for y'all? Anything I should know?

3. Why didn't the title of The Almost Church piss more people off? To me it implicitly makes a theological criticism that had nothing to do with the book's content.


1 comment:

Paul Wilczynski said...

Good commentary! I replied to it on my blog ( ).