My Littlest Donors — by Steve Carpenter

I have been MennoMedia’s Director of Development and Church Relations for nearly three years. When I first came on staff I overlapped with my predecessor for one week. During that time, we did a development trip together to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, visiting donors and Mennonite churches.

One of the things Randy Miller, the prior development director said to me was, “It’s a good day when you have the opportunity to meet with a donor who is younger than you.” Randy and I were both in our late 50s when he made that remark. He was right.

Very few of the donors I’ve met in the past three years have been younger than I am. Two of MennoMedia’s faithful older donors are Russell and Gladys Alderfer, who are 90 and 88 years of age respectively. Although they are my in-laws, they have been supporting MennoMedia for many decades, long before I came on staff.

Russell and Gladys Alderfer

Russell and Gladys Alderfer

I enlisted MennoMedia’s four youngest donors last month when I visited Brent and Deirdre Alderfer in Stockton, New Jersey. Brent is my brother-in-law and is supportive of my work. However, he wouldn’t give to MennoMedia if he wasn’t convinced his donation would yield a beneficial return. He is after all, a keen businessman and CEO of Community Energy, a sustainable energy company. He, and his wife Deirdre, are also passing along business acumen and a sense of generosity to their children.

Several years ago Brent and Deirdre made a gift to MennoMedia to support development of the new Anabaptist Sunday school curriculum, Shine. I was revisiting him and his family to seek additional support for that curriculum project. Brent and Deirdre again came through with a gift but this time they invited their young children, Aiden, Andrew, Aleesia and Adeline, to give too. The kids set aside money from their allowance for savings and to give to God’s work. They keep this money in envelopes marked “savings,” “helping,” and “world.”

Aiden, Andrew, Adeline (front) & Aleesia Alderfer

Aiden, Andrew, Adeline (front) & Aleesia Alderfer

In addition to the gift their parents gave, the children gave an additional $9 for new curriculum development. With these gifts and others we have raised nearly $367,000 of the $400,000 needed to complete development of Shine, the new Anabaptist Sunday school curriculum.

As is my custom, I like to give each donor whom I visit a gift. I generally allow them to choose one of our books. In this case I gave the Alderfer family a copy of the Shine On children’s Bible storybook, which is integral to the Shine curriculum but is also a very nice standalone piece which can be used by parents and grandparents in the home. Aleesia took to it immediately!

Aleesia Alderfer with Shine On Children's Bible Storybook

Aleesia Alderfer with Shine On Children’s Bible Storybook

The Bible tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7 b). These four little ones radiate the joy of giving. May we learn from their example, and follow their lead in giving generously and joyfully to God’s work, as the Spirit prompts.

If you would like to give to MennoMedia click here. Once at that site you will find two buttons, one for U.S. citizens and another for Canadians. You can make a tax deductible donation using PayPal, a credit card, or by check. Thank you for your support.

Brent and Deirdre have modeled teaching stewardship to their children. MC USA’s Stewardship agency Everence  has several free downloadable resources available to use in teaching generosity to children and youth on their website. Click here to view or download three stewardship resources: Money Matters for Youth, which is designed for use in High School aged Sunday school classes, Three Key Questions and Money, written for Youth Groups, and  a three-part lesson plan for young children called Stewardship for Kids.


Blessings in your work, worship and witness.

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations


How do you teach generosity to your children?

Are there resources you would recommend for teaching children about giving to God’s work?

The Work of Development – Give a Blessing, Receive a Blessing: Lotus and Judy Hershberger

I serve as MennoMedia’s director of development and church relations. My job is to encourage individual and congregational giving to support MennoMedia’s ministry. I am usually on the road every third week visiting pastors and donors, and telling them about what is happening at MennoMedia.

During my visits I spend a fair amount of time listening and getting to know our donors; their families, their faith, and sometimes a bit about their finances. I also tell them about new initiatives at MennoMedia. Most recently I have shared about Shine, the new Anabaptist children’s Sunday school curriculum. I also tell them about new books we are publishing including the popular memoir Bonnet Strings and Ervin Stutzman’s historical novel Jacob’s Choice.

BonnetStrings                              JacobsChoice

I think of my work in relation to a quote by Mennonite pastor and development consultant Lori Guenther Reesor of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada who calls fundraising “the joyful and holy task of telling people about the garden and inviting them to water it.” I see my work that way. During each visit my goal is to be a blessing to those I meet and in turn to be open to receiving a blessing on behalf of our ministry. I usually close each meeting with prayer, both for the donor or congregation, and for the work of MennoMedia. I also offer each client their choice of one of MennoMedia’s books or CDs, which I carry with me in the trunk of my rental car.

Each visit lasts about an hour during which donors are usually extremely gracious, often offering a cup of tea with a cookie or a piece of fruit which is sometimes plucked from their orchard. Some invite me to stay with them the next time I am in the area and I have taken several up on that offer.

Most recently, during a trip to Illinois in May, I stayed for two nights with Lotus and Judy Hershberger in their lovely duplex home in the residential community surrounding the Mennonite Church of Normal. When I arrived on a Tuesday night, I learned Stanley Green, Executive Director of Mennonite Mission Network, had been there on Saturday, a few nights earlier, having arrived in preparation for speaking at their congregation on Sunday morning.

Lotus and Judy are wonderful people from whom I have learned a lot about living life to the fullest. Lotus taught mathematics at Illinois State University for 31 years before retirement, while Judy taught Junior High School. Both are involved at Menno Haven Camp and Retreat Center where Lotus served on the Board of Directors for many years and, more recently, as an Interim Executive Director for some months.

Lotus is in great shape physically, due in part to his practice of getting at least 1,000 minutes of exercise each month, a practice I have learned and embraced from him. During his 70th year to celebrate his birthday, Lotus hiked 25 miles over two days from the north rim of the Grand Canyon to its south rim. I hope to be able to do the same when I’m 70!

grandcanyonJudy has a generous spirit and a loving embrace. Over the years they hosted and/or housed many international students attending Illinois State University, helping them adjust to a very foreign and unfamiliar environment. During my stay Judy baked a rhubarb pie and served it warm with ice cream.

Both are active at the Mennonite Church of Normal (MCN) where Lotus serves as Congregational Chair. Together with several two other couples they lead a group from church and the Mennonite Residential Community called EATs – Enrichment Activity Trips. Between a dozen and 30 people join them in this monthly outing to a nearby park, museum, business or event which always involves eating together. The week I was with them they were taking a walking tour of downtown. After organizing 118 of these EATs events they feel like it might be winding down.

Before I left I offered them a choice of books from my stash. They picked Saving the Seasons cookbook and Bluffton professor Gerald Mast’s Go to Church and Change the World. We gathered for prayer in their kitchen and Lotus prayed. In their warm embrace, I sensed their love and support for me and for MennoMedia. Lotus asked when MennoMedia’s next fundraising letter would arrive and I told him it would be coming soon. He promised to respond with a gift. As with many visits to various donors, I felt I had given a blessing and received a blessing.

Saving the Seasons                               Seminar


I’d love to hear your comments or responses to any of the following questions:

How do you care for yourself by way of exercise?

Do you have a group with whom you meet regularly for spiritual, emotional, or educational enrichment?

How do you perceive development officers? Do you welcome them and extend hospitality or would you just as soon not see them at your front door?

How is God calling you to be a blessing to others today?

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations

I Love My Job!

For the past 19 months, I have served as MennoMedia’s Director of Development. My responsibilities include church and donor relations with a current emphasis on raising the $400,000 needed in seed funds to develop the next generation of Anabaptist Sunday School curriculum—Shine. We are making progress on that goal, having raised the initial $110,000 in gifts and pledges, but much remains to be done. You can visit the Shine website here and check out the exciting new Shine Story Bible.

ShineLogoTo reach this goal, I worked together with MennoMedia’s CEO and Board to develop a strategy. We decided I should visit the 50 U.S. churches and 33 Canadian congregations that are the top users of the current Gather ‘Round Sunday school curriculum, and ask them to help supply the needed funds for the new curriculum. Following my recent trip to Oregon I have completed that task, to a reasonable extent, having visited 47 of the top 50 congregations in the U.S. and 21 of the top 33 in Canada. The other congregations either declined a visit or are too widely scattered to justify a trip. As you know, it is a long and difficult process to make it into a congregation’s budget but I am hopeful that my visits, and the strength of this appeal, will bear fruit as congregations process my request.

Many people are timid and therefore reluctant to ask for money. They imagine they would hate my line of work. I, on the other hand, love it. Being an extrovert, with a strong belief in MennoMedia’s mission “to engage and shape church and society with resources for living the Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective,” I have found the job both challenging and rewarding. I have learned a lot about the Mennonite Church in both the U.S. and Canada. I have traveled to new places and met fascinating people. My wife, Chris, who is a nurse with a flexible schedule, has accompanied me on several trips. (Of course, we always pay for our personal expenses during such trips.)

Chris recently went to Oregon with me. I was able to do my work in five days and we spent a late September weekend at Crater Lake National Park. What a beautiful place. The park received eight inches of snow two days before we arrived. However, on the day we arrived, the weather was beautiful. The lake was a deep blue and I could see Mt. Shasta, a 14,151 foot summit 100 miles away in California. Wow! The next day was rainy and foggy and we couldn’t see the lake from the lodge just 900 feet away.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Photo by Chris Carpenter

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Photo by Chris Carpenter

Immediately upon my return from Oregon, I headed off to Lancaster to attend Everence’s biennial development conference, Creating Lasting Legacies. There I met others engaged in fundraising, was inspired by those more experienced in the field, and learned much about estate planning. It reminded me of a quote I recently read in The Canadian Mennonite by Lori Guenther Reesor, a professional fundraiser and co-pastor of the Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship in Ontario. She said, “Fundraising is the joyful and holy task of telling people about the garden and inviting them to water it.”

sb10062327r-001I feel that way about my work. It is both joyful and holy. I incorporate prayer into most visits and feel like I both give and receive a blessing everywhere I go. I pray you too may experience the holy joy of giving as you practice faithful stewardship in response to the abundance God has given you.



Steve Carpenter
Director of Development