Church Welfare, Part 2

money tree Humble Walk is not self-sustaining. This is a problem. Because it means that we are absolutely dependent on the greater church in order to be a community. While we have moved toward self-sustainability—we are no where near being able to support ourselves. We rely on the Saint Paul Area Synod, churchwide in Chicago, bits and pieces of funding from local congregations, offering and a good deal of grant-writing. That's the way it has been for our entire life as a community of faith. The problem part of this scene is that every single dollar is tenuous.

About every six months, I sit down with my director (who has been wonderfully supportive since day 1) and he says, “Wow. We need to come up with a way to sustain this ministry. It's overflowing with life and energy and transformation. And it's completely dependent. There is no magic pot of money.” I nod my head in agreement and bounce between complete despair and ridiculous hope. Then I pick up the metaphorical fire hose and keep drinking. The truth is—I don't have the time or energy to solve it. I'm part time. And each day, I choose about three things from the long list of things to attend to...and then four more get added.

The systems we have and know for financially sustaining life together do not work at Humble Walk. Clearly, the Church is in a multi-generational birthing process. (Welcome, change. Welcome, new life. What have you to teach us?) Wherever it is we are headed, we are not there yet. Humble Walk is one of the new churches living in the middle of what we knew and where we are going. Guess what? The future church is awesome and broke.

Here is where people start giving me ideas. How about educating your people about stewardship? Well, I am sure our bar crowd or the families in the park would sign right up for that! They wouldn't. For 100 reasons.

Which leaves the smallest portion of our community: worship attenders. Our worship-life is vibrant and amazing—and a fluid community of neighbors, seminary students, tourists and church leaders seeking a place aside from the place they serve. We are thrilled to be the place for all these wild birds to land. We also know that this population cannot be the sole financial sustainers of the community. Don't get me wrong, the regulars are totally generous—tithers! We have tithers! (People who give 10%). But goodness, we also have people living on student loans, people with up to seven pt jobs (I'm not kidding) and a lot of kids (10% of a dollar allowance is 10 cents).

Honestly, I get a little cranky when I spend too much time thinking about funding Humble Walk because it tends to lead me to a judgy place. Quickly. And my sense of justice gets totally riled up. Like: your youth room has nicer furniture than any home in our community. That's a weird use of money to me. You see. No one wants to follow me down those grumpy, judgy places.

Another avenue of funding is providing a good or service. Say—hypothetically, your community makes and sells bread. Or tie-dyes. Or beer. Or events. And those profits fund the community.

Here is what Humble Walk provides the greater world/church/local community:

  1. We create community.
  2. We take risks and invite you all to watch or participate with us as we publicly fail or thrive. Then you feel brave enough to do it in your context. We know this because you duplicate what do...sometimes nearly exactly word for word. (We encourage this—and we didn't invent most of these things—we ripped them off from House for All or Mercy Seat or Beloved or you.)

    Wild Things in the Park

    Theology Pub

    Blessing of the Bikes

    experiential worship

    Beer and Hymns

    bus stop imposition of ashes

    bus stop coffee

    moving at the pace of a child

     

  3. Music. Humble Walk has incredible singer/songwriters in our circle. They write songs for us and to and we are profoundly grateful. It's a gift. This year, we decided to share an album of these original songs which is in the recording process right this very minute. It will be available as a pay-what-you-can download in the fall.

 

Maybe we could start charging entry fees at all our events. But wait, that's exactly what we don't want to do. So, send in your wise, wild ideas because we are not ready to call it quits around these Humble parts.