The United Church of Christ, a denomination that lives those values, is embarking on the most significant church-building campaign in 20 years, and is hoping that a new video will be an invaluable tool to that end.
"A Place Like This," which debuted at the Testimony Luncheon at General Synod 2013, is part of a fundraising tool kit that will be sent to the more than 600 attendees to help continue the campaign to raise more than $1 million by year's end to fund new and renewing churches in the UCC.
In his remarks at the Testimony luncheon, which raised $185,000 toward that goal, the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries noted that 220 new UCC churches have been started since 2006 — more than in any comparable period since the 1960's. Guess told the gathering, "Now is the time to start new churches in the United Church of Christ," and asked for a commitment from each of the attendees to raise $1,000 each for the new and renewing church fund, in addition to their personal gifts.
What will the million dollars be used for? Here are just a few ideas offered by Guess:
• Extravagance UCC, the denomination's first online congregation, which will reach out to serve people no matter where they live. The Rev. Jo Hudson will serve as the gathering pastor of this geographically dispersed congregation, and new church start.
• The creation of a new matching offering program, so that new churches can leverage more dollars from donors locally, and also see the potential for even greater matching support from the larger church.
• The creation of a venture capital fund that will enable the denomination to invest even more in the most successful new church starts, to ensure greater stability and to take them to an even higher level of vitality and growth.
• Strategy sessions on how to grow the UCC, especially in the South and the West where it is poised for growth.
"We are thrilled at the success of the Testimony event in Long Beach, and encouraged by the enthusiasm we saw there for our new and renewing church agenda," said Donaldson Hill, director of the UCC Office of Philanthropy and Stewardship. "That makes us confident that we will achieve our goal of $1 million in commitments before the end of 2013."
A DVD copy of "A Place Like This," was sent to each of the attendees, along with a commitment card, to encourage the creation of a grassroots effort to fund new churches. A fundraising toolkit to be used with the DVD will go out in August. UCC national officers and other senior UCC staff encourage members around the country to use it to host house parties to make the case for church growth, and stand ready to assist at the events in person or using video technology. The Office of Philanthropy and Stewardship will also offer the fundraising toolkit to churches or pastors who were unable to attend the Synod gathering, and are interested in joining the grassroots effort. In addition, the work of soliciting major gifts from individuals and congregations will continue.
"We are putting the kit together as we speak, so I can't give too many details except to say that it will include the video, some success stories, and some tips on making the case," Hill said. "We will CERTAINLY send it to anyone who wants it."
For a kit please contact Keri Sugerik or go to the Testimony website.