This is the second blog in a four-week series about Lake Institute on Faith & Giving’s Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising (ECRF). Each week will provide a different perspective on this course and the way it has impacted individuals and religious organizations.
The Rev. Kristofer Lindh-Payne is an Episcopal priest and organizer in Baltimore at Epiphany Episcopal Church, where he serves as rector. In his ninth year of ordained ministry in the Diocese of Maryland, Kristofer is working actively with stakeholders in the Epiphany community to create a solid financial foundation for his congregation and the several nonprofit ministries that they operate.
By Rev. Kristofer Lindh-Payne
Since participating in the Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising (ECRF) course this June at Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, I’ve had a number of friends and colleagues who have asked me about the program. Here is an example of a response I sent to two leaders who work on two different denominational staffs, one on the east coast and the other on the west:
“The ECRF was probably the best training that I have ever been to. Melissa Spas is an incredible teacher and facilitator, and it drew an amazing group of diverse leaders from across the religious community. The material was top notch, the presentations were well prepared, the whole week was wonderfully organized; I could go on and on.”
“I can already tell you that my ministry is benefiting tremendously from what I learned over those four days, and I expect that this profound learning experience will have significant impact on the rest of my life, leadership, and ministry. I recommend it to anyone who is serious about faith, money, and the intersection between them. If you have the chance to do this, do not let the opportunity pass you by.”
It is not uncommon to find a training that offers useful skill development, or a course that provides solid academic grounding, or a colleague support network that challenges you and holds you accountable, but an experience that integrates all of that (and more) is just rare.
This transformative learning opportunity through the ECRF invited me to reflect deeply on my personal experience and to dredge unexplored waters, as I pondered who in my life taught me about giving and generosity. This entry point (and there were many offered) helped me as an experiential learner to tap into my own story and draw deeply from unexamined aspects of my life.
In remembering family, friends, mentors, and colleagues, I had an ever-increasing sense of God working within me to bring healing and wholeness. As each module unfolded and our skilled facilitators engaged a wide variety of learning styles, I felt as if God was carefully equipping me to lead in more a faithful, effective way – preparing me to face into the unique challenges of the changing religious landscape we find ourselves in today.
As we were invited to apply each layer of learning to our own ministry context, I not only felt empowered but I became enlivened by the great diversity of gifts that other participants had to share. Each day was different, each seminar built upon the others, and I found myself ever more excited to discover what we would do next. Even with outstanding presentation materials right in front of me (in binder and on screen), I never quite knew how our talented facilitators would bring these topics to life; I never quite knew how God would show up.
Throughout the week of seminars, we were presented with creative small and large group exercises that invited us to incorporate what we were learning into the work we are doing in our congregations and organizations. These imaginative expressions challenged us to go deeper in applying what we learned, and helped prepare us to move with enthusiasm into the project planning process.
Using knowledge gained from the course and combining that with their congregation’s needs, each participant in the ECRF is required to develop a proposal for a fundraising project he/she will implement upon returning to the home congregation.
While I expect each proposal that participants submitted was unique, given the array of people, places and problems we face, I would love to know more about the scope of work that is being undertaken by others with whom I took the course.
My project has challenged me to think differently about personnel and our organization’s priorities in fundraising. We are connecting with new partners in our immediate community, across our diocese, and even the wider church in order to better resource ourselves. Our leadership is reengaging a strategic planning process, developing a case statement in support of our work, improving our communication to produce more outward-facing efforts, and weaving year-round stewardship education into our overall plan for intergenerational formation.
The ECRF is changing me as a leader, and with God’s help, we are slowly changing the culture of our congregation and community.
As a follower of Jesus and priest in the Episcopal tradition, I have been exposed to many ways of considering stewardship. None have brought me anything near this level of hope and inspiration in what’s possible within the congregations, organizations and communities that we serve. In a vast sea of anxiety, fear, and scarcity about the future of the institutional church, this training remained focused on possibility, creativity, and abundance.
Amidst the pressures of life and ministry, I have found it difficult to not become hardened to the harsh realities that beset us. One of the appointed psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary cycle for this Sunday asks “who turned the hard rock into a pool of water and flint-stone into a flowing spring (114:8).”
As a person of faith, that answer is always God. And in this case, God is using this powerful ECRF resource to do a new thing in my life. I wonder if you might be called to enter into this transformative space, into this pool of water, into this flowing spring. And if so, I wonder how you will be changed and how the congregations and communities you serve will experience resurrection and new life.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.