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What does God have up his sleeve?

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : February 4, 2008

In some ways, my life couldn’t be better. My wife and I are expecting our first child on April 1st. And, thankfully, I love Amy more than ever.

And ministry is exciting–but not overwhelming. Missio Dei is in a slow winter season, but we are loving each other and continuing to grow in our practice of hospitality. I’m getting more opportunities to speak (I’m totally excited about the New Conspirators Conference at the end of February). Christarchy is slowly picking up steam. And my efforts (along with the efforts of others) to help get Submergent up and running seem to be paying off.

And, of course, JesusManifesto.com is gaining new readers every week. We’re now averaging close to 1000 visits a day. I think we’ve struck a nerve.

I’m convinced that we’ve only seen the small beginings of this movement of radical Christians (those that embrace nonviolence, are interested in new monasticism, and desire a life of simplicity, hospitality, and active engagement with their immediate context). I’m excited. And I’m passionate about living out the radical Jesus-stuff with my brothers and sisters at Missio Dei. I’m excited to help connect leaders from around the country (through Submergent). And I’m committed to help people move forward in their desire to embrace the way of Jesus (through Jesus Manifesto and Christarchy).

So, family life and ministry life is good. Except for one thing: finances. We don’t have a way to pay for the ministry we’re doing. I need to find some new avenue for fundraising. I need to find some patrons to help fund a revolution.

I’m convinced that Christarchy, Submergent, Missio Dei, and Jesus Manifesto all have a role to play in the what God is doing–and about to do. I’m involved in these things because I long to see the church embrace her calling. And I’ve seen them make a difference in people’s lives.

But if things are going to continue, I need to find some funding. And I’m hoping you can help me with that.

  • Are you willing to contribute financially to help us continue?
  • Could you please pray for my family?
  • Do you have any fundraising advice? Any suggestions?
  • Do you know of any organizations that would be interested in partnering with any of the aforementioned endeavors?

* * *

P.S. I realized that there are three bits of information that might be worth sharing: 1) how much money would I like to raise, 2) what it would go towards, and 3) where to make a donation.

1) I’d like to raise 2,000 a month. That’s $23,000 for 2008.

2) $1,000 a month would go towards doubling my income. The other $1000/month would be used to cover expenses for developing the Christarchy and Submergent networks further–travel costs, web development costs, and other expenses. Missio Dei tends to pay for its own outreach costs, but anything left over would go towards the ongoing ministry of Missio Dei. If you want a more detailed explanation, let me know.

3) If you look at the sidebar, there is a red fist. There is a link there for online giving via Missio Dei.

Let me be candid: I’ve been able to do an aweful lot with a little. With a little more, I can do a lot more. I really don’t think there are many ministries in the US that can offer as much of a return on an investment. I know that is a bit arrogant sounding, but its true. I am tenaciously committed to a cause that is so much bigger than I am. And I’d love to keep plugging away.

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Comments

14 Responses to “What does God have up his sleeve?”

  1. John Thomas on February 4th, 2008 11:02 pm

    You might check in with a friend of mine, Father Dave, at http://www.fatherdave.org/

    He’s been raising money for his work with youth from rough backgrounds in his neighborhood in Australia. He’s an excellent guy and may be able to give you some good advice on fundraising.

    - John

  2. Maria Kirby on February 5th, 2008 9:13 pm

    This is a definite improvement. Sorry for giving you so much grief earlier. And you can count on me for the praying part. When God sends me a few cattle, I’ll send along the milk.

  3. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 5th, 2008 9:14 pm

    Thanks Maria. ;)

  4. Dave on February 5th, 2008 10:10 pm

    What does God have up his sleeve?

    err…His arm?

  5. Dany on February 18th, 2008 10:03 am

    Hey Mark. Have you looked into social entrepreneurship of some sort? A profit-making thing that would at the same time be fairly compatible with your other stuff. For instance I know someone in Canterbury who runs a bar and employs only homeless people off the street. I think that we need to replace the nasty exploitative economy with a humane one, and that this is done through ethical ventures that can incrementally take the place of the old ones.

    I really really like your site and I have total trust in you and what you’re doing. Still I remain ambivalent about supporting your ministry financially. There are three reasons for it: (a) the desire to support an organisation with as little overheads as possible and which responds efficiently to very pressing needs, (b) having projects with friends that will also need funding, (c) my own preference for accumulating transformative sums and then changing the lives of people, a bit like what parents would do when they send you off to uni, setting you up for life in every way rather than giving you 50 bucks.

    So really, there are two questions: why not attach a profit-making venture to a neomonastic community? And why appeal to randoms for contributions while it could be more fruitful to be more “relational” in the giving relationship: i.e. seek people close to you who already share your ideals and turn the odd random financial donors into friends and project collaborators.

    I’m just thinking aloud here, but I’d love to hear what you think.

  6. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 18th, 2008 10:19 am

    You ask some good questions. Here are my thoughts:

    1) Starting a business is something we’ve considered. But that is always a risky venture. You need capital for something like that before it ever pays off. And most successful models for this seem to start where property is cheap. The West Bank neighborhood is expensive, but has a high density of subsidized rentals, making it a renters ghetto. Starting any business here is expensive.

    2) As far as overhead. Let me be clear. All of our money that we give internally goes to hospitality and direct ministry. Donations I raise can be divided into whatever area people want to give (on our donation page, people can give to staff costs, ministry costs, etc.). I personally completely rely upon fundraising for my income. That way I don’t have to ask people I serve to give me money…that I don’t have a vested interest in “performing” for my “pay.” This allows my relationships in my community to be free from that sort of ickiness.

    Why do I raise funds from people I don’t know? Well, to be honest, I ask the people I know too. But I’m not very good at fundraising. And many of the people I know are a bit concerned that I’ve become liberal or left the evangelical mainstream. Another reason I raise money via an impersonal medium like the internet is that so much of my ministry is web-based, and benefits a lot of people I don’t know. Jesus Manifesto is a legitimate ministry that gets abotu 1000 visitors a day. Lots of webzines would love to have a readership like that…and it is growing every week. But because I have problems with advertising, I will never get paid for the time and energy I put into making Jesus Manifesto what it is. So I ask for donations. I am also putting energy into projects like Christarchy.com and Submergent.org.

    So, here’s my bottom line: people should live simply and give their resources to the needs they see around them–both in their neighborhood and in the forgotten places around the world. But if people also want to support the work of Missio Dei because of the example we set for the larger body of Christ, or want to support the message of Jesus Manifesto, or want to help grow a network of groups for Jesus radicals (Christarchy.com), etc. then I would encourage them to do so.

    I’d love to meet more people locally who care about what we’re doing and want to support us. But fundraising takes a lot of time and focus. And to be honest, it is something that I struggle with doing and don’t enjoy at all. It is comparatively easy to put things on the websites I administrate. And I feel like it is ok to do so. Everyoen else in the world puts ads on their sites to pay for things…or charges subscriptions, or puts people on spammy lists for fundraising. I just blog about it personally from time to time and have a little side banner asking people to consider donating.

    Peace,

    Mark

  7. Dany on February 19th, 2008 3:27 am

    I get your drift, I would hate fundraising too, that’s why no relationship needs ever be one of pure one-sided donations. One of my friends flat out refuses donations -whether he needs them or not is irrelevant- he doesn’t want people to send off an impersonal cheque, he says: do something in your world, don’t offload the do-gooding to me you lazy *&”*$*, because I’m not interested.

    Alternatively you could join his stuff, but then he expected much more than money, more like your entire and undivided commitment to serving the poor whatever the cost to you. The offer was “you total commitment to serving Jesus in the poor, or um… have a nice life”

    I’m fairly new to this radical Christian world. But I’m really grateful that someone dragged me out of my church building and started trusting me beyond what I would have trusted myself with. Yes, in fact, you are called to be pretty saintly and that’s what the gospel is about, for everyone. If you heard that call, jump in.

    So that’s why I would probably never do normal fundraising, but I’d re-read the Cost of Discipleship, and then I’d locate the fired up Christians in my area, and ask them to jump into the project in any way they can think of, beyond just giving money. I’m pretty sure that there are folks in churches near you who would love to know that you exist because they’ve never met a hands on Christian, some would surrender a limb for the privilege to be part of what you’re doing, but you don’t know them yet.

    Sorry, being rambly again, hope you don’t mind.

  8. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 19th, 2008 7:19 am

    I don’t mind.

    Here’s the thing. I do try to get folks involved in the stuff we’re doing here. And i don’t ask them for money. And I do encourage them to give their money to the needs they see around them.

    I think it is funny that if I wrote a book that sold a lot of copies, people would think it is ok. But if I fundraise it is somehow less than ideal. I’m pretty confident that if my ministry didn’t include things like Submergent and Christarchy adn Jesus Manifesto, I would simply work a regular job alongside my work in my community.

    Missio Dei is trying to do some cheap business start-up stuff to get teh funds flowing…like selling our breviary (which we’ve given away more than sold). I also have a couple books I’m working on. Who knows where it will lead.

  9. Dany on February 19th, 2008 10:42 am

    (1) “I do try to get folks involved in the stuff we’re doing here. And i don’t ask them for money.”

    (2) “I’m pretty confident that if my ministry didn’t include things like Submergent and Christarchy adn Jesus Manifesto, I would simply work a regular job alongside my work in my community.”

    (3) “Missio Dei is trying to do some cheap business start-up stuff to get the funds flowing…”

    A word springs to mind: koinonia, which is a joint venture, a kinship, almost a family.

    Why get people involved and not ask them to be part of the family venture? Are you providing a side activity for people who are still largely operating in the mainstream? Why not encourage visible brotherly solidarity? Why not expand the solidarity usually found in biological families, or within marriage.

    Then it wouldn’t have to be you working a normal job. Someone else could do it who likes having a day job. Similarly it wouldn’t have to be you starting up business things (hopefully with a triple bottom line), someone else could do it. You can raise money, or you can make new brothers.

    Um… I sure speak my mind a lot, I hope you STILL don’t mind :-)

  10. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 19th, 2008 10:57 am

    What I hear you saying is this: “don’t fundraise, Mark. Instead, try to find new brothers and sisters to help in your ministry and share resources.” That is always my first impulse. But sometimes you need to accept support from the larger body of Christ.

    Forgive me if I sound rude here, but I get push back and/or criticism every week for fundraising at all. Yet Paul did fundraising in almost every letter he wrote. I’ve taken a stand to not sell out by putting ads up or by tryign to promote myself too much to build my own “platform” so that I can sell books for money. I want it to be about the message.

    I’ve been doing ministry like this for four years. People are slow to get involved in this stuff…and slower to share resources. And so I fundraise, so that I can spread ideas and inspire people to do likewise, and so I can continue to afford practicing deep hospitality.

    So, just assume that I’m really actually trying to connect with people here in Minneapolis. And assume I’ve invited people to be a part of what we’re doing. And also assume that it still isn’t financially enough. Property values are high. And doing ministry this way is still seen as odd or fringy. And since I see no ethical problems whatsoever with fundraising, and since I’ve provide a service with Jesus Manifesto and the other stuff I do without charging or spamming or putting up ads (though I do promote stuff for free), I’ll fundraise. Not because I’m trying to get rich. But because 1,000/month isn’t enough to pay a mortgage for a community house and raise a family on.

  11. Dany on February 19th, 2008 11:28 am

    Time for me to back off, I guess. None of what I wrote was a criticism, sorry if it sounded like one. There is nothing wrong with fundraising per se. I’m just worried that it may not be very efficient because I’ve seen far too many people struggle.

    I’m also a proponent of asking more rather than less, so the model I’m operating on is more along the lines of a community working as an expanded family - which I assume you also try to implement. Maybe I should think some more before commenting off the top of my head.

  12. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 19th, 2008 11:41 am

    That is the weakness of the web…it is hard to get the feelings behind the words. Sorry if I barked at you, Dany.

    You should be free to share off the top of your head. I’m just touchy about this. Finances have been a huge struggle. Some people who are just using ministry to maintain bad religious habits seem to roll in the cash, while others that are doing interesting things are struggling.

    Personally speaking, if it weren’t for finances, I’d be having an awesome time in ministry. I’m not sure what God is doing in my life through this. I want to keep doing the stuff I am doing, because I feel God in it. It is exciting and life-giving, and has impact others. But if I can’t find a way to pay for it, I can’t keep doing it.

    So what should I do? I’ve got some things I’m working on, but I’m simply not at the place where I can launch into some new venture–like a business or a new job. If I did that, I’d have to drop something I’m already doing. And therein lies the struggle.

    Here’s where I’m trying to get in life: I’d love for a bunch of people to buy the breviary that I worked on with Missio Dei. I’d also love it if people invited me to do some speaking gigs–that money would go to my own income. And then I’d love it if one of these days a publisher would say yes to a book proposal. So far, the content hasn’t been a “fit” or I’ve “lacked a platform.” Funny. IVP turned down a book on New Monasticism a year ago because they didn’t think the movement was going anywhere. Interesting.

    I’m tempted to try an experiment. I’m tempted to pull a “Hudson Taylor” and stop asking for money from anyone anymore. I’m tempted to stop trying. I’m tempted to stop making requests for funding through newsletters, or through Jesus Manifesto, etc. I’ve been trying for a few years to fundraise, and it hasn’t worked out. Maybe I should just drop the whole thing and rest.

    Does anyone have any insights on this?

  13. Dany on February 19th, 2008 12:23 pm

    Oh God, that thread is fascinating, thank you so much for engaging with me!

    I only commented on this because I hate to hear that you struggle, but on my own there is not much I can do to alter that. It’s depressing when you look for people who have genuine commitment and you can’t find it anywhere because what you talk about seems “weird” to them. I wish there was a tight community supporting your work. I wish our churches looked like churches. It’s difficult to operate when they don’t.

  14. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 19th, 2008 12:35 pm

    Thanks Dany. The sad thing is that as hard as it has been for me, I know TONS of people that are struggling even more. For whatever reason, embracing the teachings of jesus and putting them into action isn’t simply odd to the world, but also odd to Christians. The church benefits too much from the status quo.

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