Funding Quaker Ministry

January 25, 2013 § 8 Comments

A couple of months ago I learned of an idea that I believe is a breakthrough of continuing revelation on a par with the clearness committee. It’s a proposal by Friends Vonn New of Bulls Head-Oswego Meeting in New York Yearly Meeting and Viv Hawkins of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for funding Quaker ministry through a crowd-sourcing platform modeled on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects in which creatives publish what amounts to a grant proposal for their project and visitors to the website then pledge whatever support they want. If the project reaches the funding goal set by its creator, then the donors’ credit cards are charged and the creator is off and running.

Vonn and Viv’s idea (I call it QuakeStarter) is to do the same for Quaker ministers. Someone led by the Spirit into some form of service describes on the website what they want to do, documents the discernment they have received so far, and declares the amount and kind of support they need to be faithful to their leading. Friends (and others) can then go to the website and pledge support for the ministry. If the minister’s request for pledges reaches its goal, then the cards get charged and the service is secured.

When this idea takes off, we will undoubtedly discover unexpected issues and see unintended consequences, as is always the case with Quaker ministry. But won’t that be an adventure!

When I learned about this idea, I was in the process of editing an issue of Spark, New York Yearly Meeting’s newsletter, with the theme of Cultivating Gifts in Ministry. I invited them to write an article for Spark and they did. Click here to read “Ministry & Money: A Proposal” on the NYYM website to get a better idea of their goals and rationale.

They dedicate much of the article to rationale—why such a tool is needed. It boils down to the fact that important ministry is languishing because the ministers can’t afford to pursue it. Most of the ministers they mention are young adults. One hears a lot these days about how important it is to encourage young adult Friends, while many of our institutions are pulling back on the funding that supports this sort of work. Viv and Vonn’s idea is a creative way to do something that we all agree is important independently of the failing resources of our established institutions.

Catch-22: Viv and Vonn need support themselves to get this project off the ground. Vonn is a web developer, so they have what it takes to pull it off. They end their article with this appeal, which I wholeheartedly support:

Vonn New and Viv Hawkins seek others who are interested in this project, whether that be Friends with ministries under the care of a meeting seeking support, individuals or faith communities seeking the services of a ministry, people seeking to provide support to ministries, Friends with expertise in funding and governance, or funders for this particular project. Please contact us at friendviv@gmail.com or vonn.new@gmail.com.

I hope my readers will consider spreading the word about this idea and about offering some support of their own.

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§ 8 Responses to Funding Quaker Ministry

  • Christine Greenland says:

    There are lots of young adults in ministry outside Quaker circles whose religious institutions are intent on funding developing ministries.

    I’m always instructed (awe-filled) by observing fund-raising in the Church of the Brethren which encourages such forward-looking efforts. I’m equally impressed by the prophetic witness of some who have left Friends because our structures are often an impediment to their calling.

    I wonder whether we’re called to expect that our structures do more than pay lip service to young adults, while clinging to vestiges of control by tightening the purse strings.

    I know some Friends who have benefited from working closely with the Brethren and Mennonites, particularly when they might not have received funding from existing sources within their particular yearly meetings. I believe we all learn from each other.

    As other articles in that issue of SPARK point out, we need to rediscover the role and function of elders, as our quarter did when we still had a part-time coordinator. There are several aspects of accountability, it seems: to one’s home community, and to the communities one hopes to serve.

    I would urge all of us to take a hard look at what remains of our structures. Do they serve all ages and stages? What might we do to foster our own accountability to those whose gifts we recognize? Are we not obligated to support them? How?

    When I traveled in ministry in my 30s as clerk of a half-yearly meeting, I had a full-time job, which often took me into areas where there were isolated worship groups. After field work in relatively remote areas, I would make arrangements for worship in homes, or simple opportunities with Friends for whom driving two hours to the nearest worship group was not an option.

    I gained as much as I gave from this… I often had a companion, whether it was an Ojibwa elder with connections to Friends, or a colleague who was also a Friend. I was grateful for the care of my home meeting, and of the half-yearly meeting whose work I felt called to further in this way. For me, it wasn’t either ministry or full-time work — it was both. One gave me the inspiration, the other.

    • Christine Greenland says:

      continued thought … One gave me the inspiration, the other the travel funds and living expenses. There are many ministries… and as many ways of living into such ministries.

    • Shannon says:

      Do you know what kinds of ministry/ where in Mennonite/ Church of the Brethren they found funding and support for their ministries? And who?

  • micahbales says:

    This is an interesting idea, but might it not be reinventing the wheel a little bit? Why create a new service when we can just use Kickstarter? What’s the angle I’m missing here?

    • I’m not sure how far along Vonn and Viv are in working out the details, but thinking about it myself, I see two really important reasons to create a separate platform.

      The first is tax deductions. I believe that the funds given to a creator on Kickstarter go through Kickstarter to the creator. This does not give the donor a chance to make a tax deduction. If the dedicated QuakeStarter platform channels the funds to the meeting holding the minister’s minute, then the donor can claim the deduction.

      Perhaps more important is to keep the Quaker character of ministry intact. We are becoming too secular already in a lot of ways. I worry about reinforcing this drift by using a secular channel for funding ministry. For one thing, the channel itself will need oversight and I would want Quakers doing that, rather than rely on Kickstarter’s moderators. For one thing, we care about things that they do not, a higher level of integrity than simple financial honesty.

    • Vonn New says:

      Micah, One of the things we want to facilitate is ONGOING support rather than just seed money to get started. So, in that way it would be different from Kickstarter, which has a short, finite timeline. Most active ministries go for at least a year or more and some are lifelong. We’d like a way to support them over the long haul. We’d also like a way for Friends who are so led, to give recurring donations in support of a ministry. Those are things that Kickstarter doesn’t do. In addition, we’d like to give Friends an opportunity to offer non-monetary support such as prayer – which of course they can do without a website, but this will let them know of the need and the ministers to know that they are receiving this.

      Finally, we’d also like this tool to be a way to highlight the ministries so that Friends will have a way to know who is out there and how they are led. A meeting or other group might find out about a ministry through the system and invite that person to visit.

    • Viv says:

      Thanks, Steven, for blogging about this project in addition to printing about it in Spark.

      While Kickstarter is a popular model to point the general public to, this Quaker one differs in a number of ways. With it, ministries will ask not only for funds but also for prayer, eldering, publicity to allow invitations for ministry, and other forms of support such as home hospitality for traveling ministries. The guiding principles are still gestating but one thing that I would modify from your explanation is that I don’t see the minimum funding amount requirement applying. And I see funding being on-going along the lines used by Good News Associates, but not restricted to ministries with a Christian-identity.

      Yes, as Steven mentions, this project will require spiritual accountability for the ministry by a bona fide group (such as but not limited to a support group appointed by a Friends’ meeting) and the 501(c)3 status of the project will allow tax-deductibility to the donor. Finally, the centralized web-presence (similar to http://www.artspire.org) will allow a marketplace of ministries to be visited by people wishing to pray for ministries, invite ministries to offer their services, to pray for the ministry and those involved in it, or to offer eldering, hospitality, travel assistance, or funds.

      Vonn and I are interested to hear people’s thoughts. Thanks for those which have already been offered.

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