Book Review: The Sower

The fund-raising piece of campus ministry is the number one reason people avoid our work.  It's also the number one reason people leave, exhausted.  But what can we do about it?

The Sower presents a new way of thinking about fund-raising for Christian ministry.  Not a new tactic.  Not a better process.  A new way of thinking.  And this new way of thinking makes fund-raising less scary and less exhausting.

Here's the core of their new way of thinking...
  • God is the one who raises funds for our organizations
  • We are called to teach and encourage biblical stewardship as a way to care for our organizations and our donors (not raise funds ... that's God's work!)
  • We can't give what we don't have (ie. we need to start teaching ourselves to think biblically about stewardship and money)
  • Work in seasons, with the bulk of your work focused on pastoring, not on asking
This way of thinking about fund-raising differs dramatically from our instincts.  Fund-raising, for many of us, feels like asking for handouts.  We would never dream to teach potential donors anything, for we sit in the beggar's seat.  And our reciprocal culture tells us that beggars can't be teachers.

The Sower is short, focused, practical and challenging.  The authors don't waste time and don't make things too complicated.  They have a simple idea and, since the idea could be presented in under 80 pages, they presented the idea succinctly. 

The two ideas that I found most challenging were ...
  • That you can't sow if you're not growing.  I studied the biblical basis for stewardship when I first came on Staff, but haven't given it much thought since.  I treated it as a way of boosting my confidence to ask people for money, rather than as a way of equipping myself to minister to our partners.  This needs to change!
  • We need to change what we count.  What gets measured matters.  I say this all the time in evangelism and in our discipleship practice.  Why don't I apply it to fund-raising?  Fund-raising-wise, we measure the bottom-line most: how much money has come in and how big are our deficits / surpluses.  We rarely measure the following: how many donors did you talk to this month, how many times did you pray for your donors, how many conversations have you had about biblical stewardship this month, what percentage of your donors have been thanked in the last 3 months.  This needs to change!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone in campus ministry or working in a church.  If we all took more seriously our call to teach and encourage biblical stewardship, none of us would struggle for funding (do we really believe this?).

How have you helped people better understand stewardship?

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