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

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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.

SteveC

 

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development

How do you raise almost a half million dollars?

When I was hired as director of development for MennoMedia more than a year ago, one of my primary responsibilities was to raise $400,000 over four years for “new curriculum development.” At the time, I remember thinking that this seemed reasonable since Mennonite Church USA had recently raised more than $5M for a new office in Elkhart, Ind., and in the early 2000s Mennonite Publishing House had raised more than $5M to retire its debt. I recently became aware of a United Methodist church in my home town that raised $250k, with an expectation of raising another $500k, to renovate its stained glass windows. If one congregation can raise three-quarters of a million dollars for its stained glass windows, then surely more than 1,200 Mennonite congregations in the U.S. and Canada could raise $400k to help pass along their Christian faith, with a distinct Anabaptist flavor, to their children.

asiangirls.Mom

Many teachers appreciate MennoMedia’s present Gather ‘Round curriculum, which is approaching its final year of an eight-year cycle. One Sunday school teacher in Ontario said of Gather ‘Round, “I’ve taught grades 3‑5 and junior youth. I loved the biblical insight for teachers, the variety of activities offered, and the opening suggestions. The student books also have a great variety of activities, with a mix of historical or current information to geographical and cultural information. I found the kids like reading it and doing the puzzles and other activities.”

Although not an easy task in these challenging economic times, I think MennoMedia will be successful in raising the money needed to produce a new Anabaptist children’s Sunday school curriculum. We are a small agency in a small denomination and lack the financial reserves needed to hire writers, illustrators and project managers needed to produce a quality Sunday school curriculum. Therefore, we need to raise $400k in production costs ahead of sales.

ruins1

Our strategy has been to reach out to the churches who are the biggest users of the current Sunday school curriculum, Gather ‘Round. To that end I identified the top 50 users of the curriculum in the U.S. and the top 33 in Canada and embarked on a campaign to make a personal visit and campaign appeal to each of these churches. I’ve visited 45 of the top 50 churches in the U.S. and 19 of the top 33 churches in Canada. As a result, we have raised more than $103,000 in gifts and pledges over four years from churches and individuals, including pledges from MennoMedia employees and MennoMedia board members. That figure includes a $10k gift from Mennonite Church Canada and the promise of an offering, which will be designated for new curriculum development, to be taken during an evening worship service at Mennonite Church USA’s biennial assembly in Phoenix this July.

We now have a name, logo and know many details about this new curriculum, which will be available for use in the fall of 2014. It will be Bible story-centered with an emphasis on distinct Anabaptist theological convictions, such as peace, simple living, and intentionally following the way of Jesus. The materials will tell the biblical story and spend significant time with Jesus’ life, ministry, and teachings. It has lofty goals that we know are attainable, which have that “little extra” that makes them distinctive:

• Attend to spiritual practices and spiritual life.
• Build on the faith of young children and call children to intentionally follow the way of Jesus.
• Include stories from Anabaptist history and examples of contemporary persons of faith.
• Emphasize community and relationships.
• Emphasize seeking justice and wholeness for humanity and all of creation.
• Emphasize stewardship, service, mission, and simple living in response to God’s generosity.
• Emphasize peace, reconciliation, and nonviolence.
• Be sensitive to diversity, including socio-economic and racial diversity.

When you really think about these goals and our children, it is not hard to get excited about this new curriculum, which is called Shine: Living in God’s Light. It will serve children age 3 through 8th grade. It will be based on Bible stories and cover most of the canon in three years. There will be music CDs with songs to accompany the sessions, one for young children and another for kindergarten through 8th grade. Shine will not have a senior high youth component but other materials will be available for use with senior high school students.

ShineLogo

If you recognize the importance of having an Anabaptist-specific Sunday school curriculum, then I encourage you to support this effort financially. We still need nearly $300k to make the plan for a new Anabaptist specific curriculum a reality. Thank you for your interest in passing on Anabaptist faith to the next generation.

Steve C 2012

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development

Your financial support for new curriculum development is much needed and greatly appreciated. Our online giving software does not currently give us the ability to designate donations, except in general for MennoMedia. So, if you want to give specifically to “new curriculum development” send your checks to:

Mennonite Church Canada, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB R3P 0M4, Canada (designated for MennoMedia/New Curriculum)

or

MennoMedia, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802 (designated for MennoMedia/New Curriculum).

And if you want to keep up to date on all the latest Shine news as the curriculum is developed (and all of the latest happenings at MennoMedia, subscribe to this blog right here on the home page) and share with friends. That’s another way to help!