By Phil Jamieson, president of the United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences
Several years ago, I saw that he was teaching an Executive Certificate on Religious Fundraising course not too far from me. I jumped at the chance to attend. To my great surprise and delight, Bill invited me to become a part of a newly forming adjunct faculty for Lake Institute. I believe that I accepted the offer on the spot.
Along with teaching in the Executive Certificate program, I have had the opportunity to work with several Creating a Congregational Culture of Generosity seminars. Working with David King and Melissa Spas is always a delight. Like Bill, they too share a deep understanding of and a delight in strengthening the capacity of churches to give and thus better participate in the mission of God.
When I invite people to participate in a CCCG, I usually begin with words like this: Of all the stewardship and giving programs, I do not know of any that compares with the CCCG. It combines innovative research with a profound theological integrity. That is no small feat in the contemporary context. Furthermore, the goal of the seminar is not to fix problems, but to change congregational cultures.
And that starting point makes all the difference. Of course, many attendees at first are hoping for a program that can quickly remedy the problem of decreasing funding. But as the material is presented, most pastors and laity alike realize that there is no easy fix to the issues that many churches are presently facing.
Instead, through careful analysis and a hopeful theological approach, people begin to understand the need for adaptive change. People begin to realize that a commitment to a new approach of thinking about money and giving is necessary in order to release greater generosity.
One of my favorite parts of the workshop is when attendees get the opportunity to tell their own stories of generosity. Being mindful of how much they have been given and how often they have had opportunities to share with others is an exciting way to change the conversation from how little we have to how many future opportunities we have.
Another important aspect of the workshop is the team approach. Having worked in many situations with clergy alone or laity alone, I have seen how easy it is for one to blame the other. In those situations, it is not uncommon to hear clergy say, “If only the laity were more generous…” or laity to say, “If only the pastor understood more about money.”
The CCCG takes folks beyond the blame game and helps all see the importance of a diversity of roles. People often leave the workshop knowing that there will be much work to be done, but with a new commitment of working together, great progress can be made.
I am truly thankful for all the good work of Lake Institute. I am most grateful for the Creating Congregational Cultures of Generosity seminars because of their ability to change the direction of local churches and renew their commitment to God and his great love for the world.
Phil earned the M.Div from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Boston College. He is a member of the Tennessee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. After serving local churches for 11 years, he taught pastoral theology at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary for 13. He is married to Jan and they are the parents of two children. They are also the coauthors of Ministry and Money: A Practical Guide for Pastors and the 2012/2016 United Methodist Guidelines for Finance Committees. His latest book, The Face of Forgiveness: A Pastoral Theology of Shame and Redemption was published in June 2016.