Book Review: “A Spirituality of Fundraising”
A Spirituality of Fundraising
by Henri J. M. Nouwen with John S. Mogabgab, Series Editor
(Upper Room Books, 2010)
Available from The Upper Room Bookstore »
Henri J. M. Nouwen presents a compelling view of the process of inviting someone to give money as a ministry. Nouwen (1932-1996), Roman Catholic priest and Yale Divinity School professor, was a popular author of many works on spiritual theology. The editor of this volume, John Mogabgab, transcribed a talk that Nouwen gave on the topic at the Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Service Foundation in 1992. Mogabgab enriched the text by gleaning quotations related to the spirituality of fundraising from eleven of Nouwen’s thirty-eight books.
In Nouwen’s view, fundraising is “proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission” (16). A person of faith can best fulfill the role of fundraiser when he or she prepares with prayer and self-awareness. Nouwen addresses the potential spiritual stumbling blocks that a Christian must face. We need to look at the ways we think about and use money in our life. This may require “a conversion” to Jesus’ focus on the kingdom of God, for both those who seek financial support and those who have the capacity to give (17-18). We might need to dethrone money as a counterfeit god if we seek our security or self-worth in money rather than in the Lord. Nouwen encourages us to embrace our identity as beloved and forgiven in Christ, as heirs of God’s grace and eternal life. We can pray for greater trust in God’s providence.
Nouwen recognizes that we must banish from our heart any feeling of jealousy toward those who have more money than we do. We may need to admit feelings of anger that we are in the position of needing to ask for money. Once we deal with our feelings, we will be free to share an open and meaningful conversation with the other person. Nouwen explains, “When we have gained the freedom to ask without fear, to love fundraising as a form of ministry, then fundraising will be good for our spiritual life” (21-22). Our goal is truly to seek God’s will for the person and the ministry toward which the Lord might be calling that person to contribute.
Every person has received gifts from God to be used to further the church of Jesus Christ. When the endeavor of fundraising is approached as an expression of Christian discipleship, we may experience it as an act of ministry. Nouwen concludes by stating that fundraising is “a confident, joyful, and hope-filled expression of ministry. In ministering to each other, each from the riches he or she possesses, we work together for the full coming of God’s kingdom” (60).
This thin volume is inspiring and easy to read. It takes about thirty minutes to read from cover to cover. Pastors as well as church stewardship and finance leaders will appreciate the clarity of Nouwen’s spiritual insight. This book would also make an excellent devotional guide for committees or church councils. Nouwen provides encouragement to congregational leaders to invite people to give generously and thoughtfully.