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New effort underway to change culture of stewardship

New effort underway to change culture of stewardship

Meeting in Atlanta this week, representatives from the College for Bishops, The Episcopal Church Development Office and The Episcopal Church Foundation have come together to work on a new program called Project Resource that seeks to completely reshape how the Episcopal Church finds the resources for mission.  Charles LaFond, author of Fearless Church Fundraising: The Practical and Spiritual Approach to Stewardship and Canon Steward of St John’s Cathedral in Denver, is the driving force behind this new effort.

Speaking to what motivated him, LaFond said;

“I am so sad to see churches, big and small, laboring under the weight of resource needs when unable to learn how to raise money and people needing to constantly re-invent the wheels with new clergy, new stewardship chairs, new planned giving lay-leaders, etc.  I want to change this system. Not so that we raise more money in the church – that is a side benefit!  Indeed, I want to return to the pastoral mandate clergy and bishops have alongside the laity to help a wealthy nation deal with its wealth and learn effective philanthropy.  And if we do that we will, also, raise money for God’s mission.”

The Presiding Bishop has also been attending and sees this project as fundamental to reinvigorating the Episcopal Church, saying; “Project Resource is a game-changer and we only have 15 years to turn this around.”


Teaching team
the teaching team at Project Resource

The strategy of Project Resource is three-fold:

  1. Provide a variety of model documents, icons, teaching texts and learning exercises available online so that any church, anywhere can have access to the best materials for stewardship and membership growth all in one place. If a bishop or trained Project Resource leader is on their way to do a coaching or teaching session with a church trying to improve its resource development, all they have to do is download the docs they need.  All resources would be free, open and available, and all carefully curated.
  1. Train leaders in every diocese of the church, so that teaching on resource development will be easily and readily available to congregations regardless of their ability to pay for conferences or consulting fees. A key part of Project Resource is the expectation that each diocesan team, with their bishop, can create a plan in the context of diocesan realities, providing contextual education and mentoring in major gifts, annual pledge campaign, planned giving, and membership growth.  Additionally, an alumni program is being developed for ongoing support of those trained.
  1. Provide training at the College for Bishops so that the bishops can effectively lead this work in their dioceses. Clergy and laity must raise money and people as part of resourcing their mission within God’s mission and yet, surprisingly, they are not taught to do so.  Project Resource seeks to empower a grass roots approach to developing resources available to all.


A first draft of resources and initial training session was presented last September and has been successfully piloted in several dioceses.  Using the learning from the pilots, and working with adult learning specialists, the materials have been revamped to be reviewed at this week’s gathering.  The key goals of this week’s gathering is to work with the pilot dioceses to create an effective and ongoing support system, add new model documents and teaching notes and web based support for teaching remotely, form a speaker’s bureau for events and large gatherings, and finalize strategic plans for roll-out in a variety of diocesan situations dependent on size and resources as well as a new set of basic models for different sized-churches.


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Eric Bonetti

I am glad to see that the word “fundraising” is openly used in this context.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for Episcopal Cafe exploring our discomfort with money. Ironically, at least one commenter said, “But it’s not fundraising, it’s stewardship.”

Perhaps. But there is nothing wrong with taking best practices from other organizations and deploying them to support God’s work. And there is nothing wrong with saying, “We need $______ , and here’s how we plan to raise it.

It’s time we quit being squeamish about money and recognized that, like death and taxes, it is inevitable.

Henry McQueen

The foundation of this program starts with ministry; are we doing ministry that would get Jesus to notice? From ministry it spreads to stewardship and evangelism. These are not listed in any order of priority. Some diocesan plans addressed evangelism first and stewardship second, and some diocesan plans reversed the order. All the diocese present embraced both components. As far as participation dwindling during the conference, that was not the case. As a qualifier to participate the diocesan Bishop must be present and all participants must be present from the welcome through the final prayer. Looking around that was the case.

This was a well thought out, spiritually based program. Charles and all those involved did a wonderful job and All Saint’s Atlanta were great hosts. Yes, there will be individuals who say that this program is “doomed to failure” but what new or changed ministry does not face that criticism?

If we only recruit members in order raise money that is doomed to failure. If we welcome new members to show them the love of Christ and share the good news then lives will be changed, and money will be a pleasant by product.

So start by looking around and observe if your church or diocese is doing ministry that Jesus would notice.

Phillip Cato

There is nothing wrong with these strategies; indeed, they make good sense. But timing is everything. Too late to wake up to these obvious ways of doing the work of development and stewardship. The results of the tardiness of this awakening will bear witness in an unmistakable way.

Kenneth Albrecht

As per the comment policy above, this is your 4th and final comment for today in this topic. – ed

I assume you are the author of the program. I wish you well but doubt anything will come of this. Get them in the pews, the money will come.

Kenneth Albrecht

You are right that if we help people have a conversion experience then they will begin to understand that they are God’s gift to the world and they have to care for the world, and the people in it. Why isn’t this the first day? I know how these conferences go. By the fourth day the participants are itching to go home. Many skip the final sessions because of travel arrangements. If this conference was about how we can be moe effective in evangelism, then we wouldn’t need all this who struck John talk about stewardship. Just my two cents.

Jason Wells

Stewardship and Evangelism are two sides of the same coin. A coin called Conversion of Life.

Canon Charles LaFond and I worked side by side in New Hampshire to develop the twin stewardship and evangelism programs. Here, he was the Canon for Stewardship and I was the Chair of the Evangelism Commission. We worked together to develop independent but coordinated Stewardship and Evangelism Institutes, to train Episcopalians to be BOTH raisers of money and raisers of people.

We had a lot of success here and I am very glad to see that his work in both these areas is thriving.

From my work as a parish priest, rectors and vestries were often much quicker to listen to fund-raising advice over people-raising advice. The fact is that we feel little urgency over evangelism, but we feel great urgency about our finances. So I’m excited to see that Charles will bring people in with the urgency around stewardship and then lead them into a needed conversation on evangelism that we are usually reluctant to have.

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