Last night was my first major fundraiser as an executive director. I realized that I was stressed out about it when I wrote three different talks for my “state of the ministry” report. I burned about ten hours writing, re-writing, and then re-writing some more – to say nothing of the amount of sleep I lost obsessing about what I was going to say.
The day before the fundraiser, I woke up with the thought that I should scrap most of what I had written and instead focus on two things: where life was happening in my clinic, and where I felt God was directing us to grow. And, I needed to celebrate those things, inviting others in to the great adventure, instead of dull, boring, statistical and long-winded.
Perhaps it helped to think of all the fundraisers over the years that I have attended. Most of them have been with Young Life. And while the Young Life motto is “It’s a sin to bore a kid,” a close follow-up is, “Its’ a sin to bore an adult at a banquet!” While I have attended some Young Life fundraisers that were dull, most are fun; most stick to one message – supporting a great ministry to reach kids for Christ.
I wanted my first banquet to be beautiful, simple and straight forward in focus. All the feedback I am receiving today tells me that is what happened. People were touched, the atmosphere was beautiful, we didn’t take too long and our message was clear.
For me, the tricky part is not taking on the burden of the outcome of money raised. I want a certain level of giving to happen; and yet, I don’t want to control that. In fact, I have no control over that. And so…I let it go. Today, when my staff and volunteers were doing the counting and tabulating, I chose to not join in. For one, I was too tired to have decent math skills. I hadn’t been able to sleep for two nights and I was beat. As well, I don’t want to associate a number with a person. I want to lead and love, not be Pharisaical and consider one person above another simply because of the amount they give to my ministry. That happens all the time with ministries and it brings death, not life.
And yet, somewhere in the back of my mind and, quite honestly, in a room in my heart, I know that I am concerned about how much money was raised. Is there a magic number that would make me happy? Is there a magic number that would make me feel that “I” was a success? As I thought about this today I realized that, no, there isn’t a magic number for any of this. There is only God.
And that is where faith enters in for me. My job is to do my best in leading my team and my ministry. I am not responsible for the outcome. Not only that, but my worth as a leader is not tied to the monetary success of a ministry! As I grow into my new role as executive director I am struggling to embrace this truth. My worth, and the value of what I do, is not tied to money. It is not tied to anything but the grace and mercy of the Lord.
Tonight, I am still unwinding, still processing, still working at letting it go. I do not want a monetary sum to rob me of joy or be my source of joy. I pray that I will be able to understand that intellectually and within my spirit.
What do I remember about last night that did bring me joy? I remember the faces of the people I met; looking into their eyes and saying “thank you” to them for caring for unborn babies. I remember sitting at the table with amazing leaders, men and women who have dedicated their lives to caring for the poor, the lost, the weak and the vulnerable. I remember laughing and the joy I felt that my short talk was good and not lame.
Above all, I remember the words of the Lord to Joshua as he prepared to enter the Promised Land. God said, “Joshua! Be strong and courageous! And remember, I am with you wherever you go.” God didn’t say – if you raise a bunch of money I will be with your, or if you say the right things I will be with you, or if you lose sleep over being a leader I will be with you. He said, “Stay faithful to what I have told you to do, be strong and courageous, and step into the destiny I have ordained for you.”
That, to me, is what fundraisers and faith are all about.