In early November representatives from more than 20 Moravian congregations and agencies gathered in Chaska, Minnesota to gain new insights on an old topic: money and ministry. The second Adamson Innovation Forum, sponsored by the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America (MMFA), sought to help churches and agencies change their conversations about finances and faith by revisiting our shared Moravian history, examining the current culture in regards to giving and looking to the future.
This gathering of pastors, lay leaders and PEC members was made possible thanks to the generosity of Mina M. Adamson of Riverside, N.J. Using funds given by Adamson, the MMFA sponsored its first Adamson Forum in 2011; that event focused on budgeting and stewardship. The MMFA was able to pay travel and conference expenses for all attendees for both Forums so that there were no barriers in the way of churches or agencies who wanted to participate.
Learning From Our Past
The Forum’s keynote speaker was Dr. Kate Carté Engel, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University. Kate published a book entitled Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America and shared fascinating stories about how our Moravian brothers and sisters approached money and ministry in the 18th and 19th centuries as they first settled in North America. For more on Kate’s lecture, click here.
After Kate’s lectures, participants divided into small groups to discuss the following questions:
1. How did the presentation speak to you?
2. What does it mean for our Moravian Church today?
3. How will it affect the conversation about money and ministry at your church/agency?
Understanding Our Present
On Saturday afternoon the Forum’s focus turned to where we are now. Laura Watson, MMFA coordinator for Philanthropic Services, and Chi-Chi Messick, MMFA Vice President, presented a session entitled, “Grace, Generosity and Gratitude.” Citing studies by the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and Giving USA, Laura highlighted some facts about the status of religious giving, such as one out of five American Christians give nothing to their church or charity and that the percentage of funds given to religious organizations has dropped from more than 55 percent between 1985-1989 to 31percent in 2013.
She also shared important differences between generations, such as what life events have shaped people and what they value, as well as what these mean for the Church in terms of what people are looking for and what motivates them to give. For example, those of the GI Generation (born between 1901-1924) give out of a sense of duty, or, “because it’s the church,” whereas those of Generation X (born between 1965-1980) approach giving as a spiritual discipline. Thus while someone who is 90 will give every year because he or she respects and trusts the institution that is the Church, someone who is 40 is more likely to give in response to understanding generosity and stewardship as part of our faith journey and answering our call as Christians.
To help attendees understand the Foundation’s “Grace, Generosity, Gratitude” service, Chi-Chi Messick provided a brief history of the program, which originated as “Simply Stewardship.” She explained that the service has evolved over the last two years as she and Laura began the process of earning certification in religious fundraising at the Lake Institute, a part of Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy. Faith-based giving is a part of spiritual discipleship and causes us to explore God’s gifts and our response in a broader sense than managers of God’s generosity. Our gratitude for God’s grace and generosity allows us to expand and enlarge our understanding of giving back.
Looking to the Future
During the final session on Saturday, attendees participated in a discussion on what the presentations mean for the Moravian Church as we look to the future. Paul McLaughlin, MMFA president, shared, “A church so rich in tradition needs to reclaim its unique history about ministry and money. How can we reclaim it in 21st century ways? It is our special calling as Moravians.”
A few of the comments shared during the discussion were:
- “We’ve learned that ‘economy’ comes from the word for ‘household.’ When we think of it in those terms, it changes how we approach it.”
- “What if we thought of ‘household’ in terms of our congregations? What’s our capacity to give to and support one another?”
- “We can never thank people enough.”
- “Talking about money doesn’t mean you lack faith.”
- “Following where Christ is leading us can be scary.”
- “Stewardship isn’t just a season; it’s year-round. It’s a spiritual discipline. It’s part of the life of the church.”
On Sunday morning several participants shared success stories from their churches, which included launching a planned giving program, completing a capital campaign and growing generosity in the congregation.
Rev. Jenny Moran, pastor at Christ’s Community Moravian Church in Maple Grove, Minn., spoke about attending the first Adamson Forum in 2011 and how that motivated the church to show the connection between money and ministry by preparing a narrative budget and talking more openly about the church’s finances. Now they are expanding their ministry by providing food for children who are in need.
“Things changed when we focused on what God was calling us to do, not on how much money we had,” said Jenny. The church made a commitment to the food program and Jenny said everyone is excited to see where they will be led through this new ministry.
We recognize that money and faith go hand in hand, and thanks to the 2014 Adamson Forum, we better understand how our Moravian brothers and sisters used money to strengthen and grow their ministry in the 1700s and 1800s. We also acknowledge that we live in a different world today, and while our faith transcends age, people in different generations have different views and needs. Furthermore, when we think of our call as Christians, we recognize that we are to respond to God’s grace and abundance with grateful hearts and our own generosity.
The Moravian Ministries Foundation is here to help Moravian churches and agencies change the conversation about money and ministry. Please visit our website at www.mmfa.info to learn more, or call us at 888.722.7923. ■
Laura Watson is coordinator for Philanthropic Services for the Moravian Ministries Foundation.