Have you ever heard the story about the time Fred Rogers–“Mr. Rogers” — spoke at a National Press Club luncheon? I read about it in a sermon by Thomas Long years ago and searched for it recently to share with you. I think it could be helpful as we prepare to share a Christmas Fund appeal with our churches.
Here’s Thomas Long recounting the story:
“When Fred Rogers stood up to speak, he said that he knew the room was filled with many of the best reporters in the nation, men and women who had achieved much. Rogers then took out a pocket watch and announced that he was going to keep two minutes of silence, and he invited everybody in the room to remember people in their past—parents, teachers, coaches, friends, and others—who had made it possible for them to accomplish so much. And then Mister Rogers stood there, looked at his watch and saying nothing.
“The room grew quiet, and as the seconds ticked away and before Fred Rogers tucked away his watch, one could hear all around the room people sniffling as they were moved by the memories of those who had made sacrifices on their behalf and who had given them many gifts.” (Thomas G. Long, Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian, p. 110).
Mr. Rogers call to remember was a gift to everyone in attendance. The tears shed were of gratitude for the memories. We often focus only on the good our generosity will accomplish out in the world. Our gifts truly make a difference. But these gifts also have an impact on us; to make a gift touches our heart too.
What do you think about inviting the folks in the pew to remember the pastors, choir directors, other lay church workers, and their families who meant so much to them over the years? I propose that a simple invitation to remember the church leaders who taught, mentored, inspired, and loved us during our toughest times, our formative years, and our seasons of celebration may be the best invitation to giving to the Christmas Fund.
I believe that fundraising is an opportunity to draw closer to people in a truly heartfelt way. When you invite folks to give, you are inviting them into a deeper relationship with you and the mission of your church. How we spend our money is probably the best evidence of where our hearts are, of what we value the most. Whenever you make a fundraising appeal for a worthy cause, you are helping make great things happen. You are also allowing folks to feel the impact of their own generosity and gratitude.
We can do this when promoting the Christmas Fund, the next special mission offering in the UCC. Donations to the Christmas Fund provide hope from the church through financial relief to pastors, lay workers, and their families. Begin your promotion by giving people the space to remember their spiritual mentors can be a simple and effective way to ask for support. A minute or two of grateful silence to recall the church leaders whose abundant love helped us get here this Sunday morning may be the best appeal to the Christmas Fund we can make.
Whenever you fundraise, consider how a treasured memory can lead people to be overwhelmed with joy.
Yours in faith,
Rev. Paul Ramsey
Pension Boards UCC
PS: You can learn more about the Christmas Fund at www.Christmasfund.org.