Religious fundraising is more about ministry than it is about money. As ministry, fundraising is relational, mirroring the practice of pastoral care. Relationship building turns on two words: listening and remembering.
Savvy pastors are people who listen. They listen to the longings of the hearts of those who have been entrusted to their care and keeping. They listen to the language people use when talking about faith, money and giving. It is in their listening that something revelatory happens, pastors become privy to the sacred stories shaping people’s lives.
Savvy pastors also remember. They remember the stories they hear and the emotions behind the stories. They also remember their storytellers’ names.
Why is remembering a person’s name important? As the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas puts it, names matter because “God descends in the face of the other. “ Levinas describes that moment when we look into the face of another person as a “holy moment, an epiphany.” He writes: “The face looks at me and calls to me. What does it ask? That I not leave it alone.” It is in hearing our names that we feel ourselves to be cared for and taken seriously.
Never have I met a pastor who listens and remembers names better than my friend and pastor Lewis Galloway. I’ve watched Lewis as he listens to a poignant story, watched his hand reaching out to touch the person, watched the tear creasing his eye. I have observed Lewis address a person he has met but once, and that more than a year ago, call the person by name and engage them in a conversation regarding their family. The receiving line following Sunday worship in our church is long, and the waiting long. Lewis doesn’t just greet you, he engages you in conversation relative to events in your life, as if you were the only person in line.
I’m not sure Lewis sees himself as a fundraiser. All I know is that during his fifteen-year tenure every fundraising campaign has ended debt free and the church endowment has nearly doubled. When clergy listen, remembering stories and names, generosity becomes a way of life in a healthy and happy congregation. People give when leaders listen, genuinely care for them and call them by name.
This week our congregation celebrates Lewis’s ministry as he is retiring this summer. So, I say, “Well done, Lewis, well done. In your listening and remembering you have been a role model for pastors. More importantly, in your care for us we have experienced God’s love and grown as disciples of Jesus Christ.”