Asking for money

Disclaimer #1: Please remember this as you read what is to follow. The Salvation Army is a a service organization that has has done and continues to do a great deal of good in our community and around the world. The people of Rapid City remember with fondness the generosity and service of Salvation Army disaster services when our city was inundated by a devastating flash flood in 1972. The Salvation Army feeds many hungry people in our community. They provide essentials for a lot of people who might not otherwise find help.

Disclaimer #2: The Salvation Army is a reputable charitable organization. They do not waste the donations they receive. They do the work that they promise to do without high overhead. They enlist volunteers as well as paid staff to do the mission to which they are called.

Request: Please do not read what follows as an attack on the Salvation Army or as a request that you not support their charities. Please do not use it as an excuse not to give.

Having said all of that, a bit of history.

First Congregational United Church of Christ in Rapid City is the city’s oldest Christian church. We were organized in 1878, before Rapid City was even called Rapid City. We have grown up with this town and we continue to be a vibrant part of our community. Over the years we have engaged in a lot of service to our community. We were founding partners in Church Response. We were founding partners in United Campus Ministries. We were active in Habitat for Humanity from its beginning in our city. There are a lot of other places of mission and outreach where our church has been and continues to be active. This December we will reach the milestone of 140 years of mission and ministry in Rapid City. That is a significant milestone and we are the first congregation in our town to reach it.

In that 140 years of mission and service we have not turned to those who are not members and friends of our church and asked them to fund our mission and outreach. We have been a self-funding organization from our beginning. We did receive loans from the Congregational Church when we were engaged in building some of our previous church buildings. We repaid those loans. We have hosted community events including dinners, dramatic productions and musical concerts in which the public has been asked to donate. But we have paid our own bills and continue to invest a significant portion of our annual budget in mission and outreach in our community, in the State of South Dakota, across the United States and around the world. We have partnerships through the United Church of Christ that enable our investments of money and time and talent to be multiplied by being combined with the gifts of others.

In that 140 years we have never stood outside of the grocery store begging for change.

There have been some times when we have felt like it, I suspect. At least there have been times when we have wanted to appeal to the wider community to support what we do.

Next week a proposal will be considered by our Church Board that suggests appealing to groups outside of our church who use our building for contributions to help us install fire suppression sprinklers in our building. The expense comes after a five-year period of capital fund raising to make necessary building improvements. It seems to those of us who are behind the proposal that it makes sense to us to say to the parents of children in Cinnamon Hill Preschool that we are adding sprinklers to improve the safety of the nearly 100 preschool children who attend regular classes in our building and to ask those parents if they would be able to invest in the project. It makes sense to us that we say to the Black Hills Chamber Music Society that we have committed to installing air conditioning in our building and raised the money ourselves to add comfort to their concerts. We have replaced the roof and upgraded the heating system. Now we are asking them to consider contributing to building improvements designed to enhance the safety of concert goers. It makes sense to us to ask the Rapid City Retired School Personnel and the Watercolor Society to participate in the cost of making their meeting place safer. It makes sense to us to ask the people who will benefit from enhanced safety to participate in the costs of installing the system.

It is not like we intend to stand in the doorway of the grocery store as people are coming and going with their holiday meal supplies and begging for their spare change to further our mission.

I don’t think we need to apologize for making a reasonable request.

I don’t know how the Church Board will react to our proposal. I know that the members and friends of the church have been and continue to be very generous people. I know that they have given freely of their resources to keep our church strong and growing. I know that if we do not receive any money from those outside of our congregation that we will find a way to provide the sprinkler system. But I also know that our people are finite. We are not a large congregation. We have limited resources. Some of the money we invest in our building could reduce the amount of money we have to support mission and outreach in our community. We feed hungry people. We support housing efforts for homeless folks and those who live in substandard housing. We provide warm clothing to children with need. We support those living with disabilities. We do a lot of good in the community. The less we spend on our building the more we have to invest in outreach.

We don’t intend to beg. We don’t intend to pressure. We do intend to invite people to participate and to make an investment in the future of our community. Suppressing fires before they get out of control just makes sense. Protecting the investment in our people, building, fixtures, equipment and musical instruments seems to make sense.

At least I’ve convinced myself. I intend to make an investment in the sprinkler system. It seems like a good idea to me.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!