“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church fundraising by Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest, author and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising and now, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making. For more information, videos and model documents go to fearlesschurchfundraising.com.
This church in New Mexico is situated in the middle of the worst of New Mexico’s pockets of drug addiction. North of Santa Fe, and around it is more despair than most of us can even imagine. Hopeless poverty, cycles of family abuse, alcohol, opioids, pot, gangs. You name it and you will find it within a short walk from this church.
Inside this church you will find hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tiny shoes. Baby shoes. On the walls of a large chapel from floor to ceiling. Baby blue, yellow with lace, white with shiny leather, pink with sequins, brown with scuff marks. You will see hundreds and hundreds of tiny shoes nailed to the walls, tight next to each other, in pairs from the floor to the ceiling. They have been left by mothers and fathers praying for their children.
People come to our churches with all sorts and conditions of prayers and in most Episcopal churches one would never see such a mess of tiny shoes. But I quite like the messy walls of shoes inside this church. They are very real representations of very real prayers.
When we are asking people in our churches to make pledges for the support of the mission (assuming the mission is worthy) and when we are asking major donors to make major gifts to special projects which will enhance our mission (assuming…) and when we ask our neighbors to “come and see” our mission like Jesus did so many years ago – we are inviting the donation of a very real thing. Those checks, like those shoes, are often given with great hope. True, sometimes they are given as good-luck charms, or dues-payments or tips for a celestial butler; but so often they are given as part of a soulful wailing for mercy and a muscular determination to make a difference.
To those clergy who shy away from asking for money for mission (assuming…), shame on you (unless nobody ever gave you templates or taught you how…in which case find free resources at www.fearlesschurchfundraising.com or in one of my books). For those clergy who work hard every day to create and maintain systems which help people to make gifts to mission, God love you! When you see a pledge made or a pledge paid, think of baby shoes and realize that you just helped a donor to make meaning. They money you raise will be a side-benefit.
photos by the author