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.”
The strategy of Project Resource is three-fold:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.