If raising money in order to do ministry seems more challenging every year, then your church — or ministry — is not alone. The good news is that people have not stopped being generous, faith is still real, vital ministry is still being offered and resources have not suddenly disappeared.

That’s according to the Rev. Dr. Michael Vilardo, president and founder of Transforming Christian Ministries, an Ohio-based consulting firm that works with churches and organizations to help them vision, plan and secure resources for their ministries.

The real issue, Vilardo says, is a gap in effective communication. The story simply isn’t getting across.

Story releases resources

“If a church can articulate their mission and vision clearly, if they can write a case for how fulfilling it is and how it will impact lives, especially describing outcomes, then people will begin to give resources to ministry in a stronger way,” Vilardo said in a recent phone interview. “The problem is churches are passive. The church needs to think clearly about how it will engage people.”

Clergy and laity wanting to engage people more effectively and tell their church’s story in the language of stewardship principles that work can learn how June 7, 1:30-4:30 p.m., during a workshop Vilardo is leading on behalf of the foundation. It’s one of several workshops offered that afternoon at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando prior to the start of the annual conference gathering June 8.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Vilardo has worked as a pastor and development professional for more than 30 years. He’ll share his experiences June 7 as he leads the “Old Money, New Money, More Money: Cultivating Generous Givers to Transform Ministry” workshop sponsored by the foundation. (Transforming Christian Ministries photo)

The Rev. Dr. Michael Vilardo has worked as a pastor and development professional for more than 30 years. He’ll share his experiences June 7 as he leads the “Old Money, New Money, More Money: Cultivating Generous Givers to Transform Ministry” workshop sponsored by the foundation. (Transforming Christian Ministries photo)

Titled “Old Money, New Money, More Money: Cultivating Generous Givers to Transform Ministry,” Vilardo’s session puts practical ideas in play alongside his personal experiences helping congregations experience generosity and meaningful ministry.

People want to give

Vilardo served two growing United Methodist congregations in Ohio before putting his experience to work as a consultant. At one congregation, he helped leaders more than quadruple their membership and ministry. Vilardo says he’s passionate about giving churches the resources they need to connect with communities in Gospel-charged ministry initiatives.

“I want to equip pastors with the tools necessary to grow the culture of generosity, to take it to a new level,” he said. “I love to see donors get excited about giving away large sums of their resources to do ministry, and do it with a smile and excitement. Now that’s gratifying.”

Vilardo says that experience is why he’s happy to go to work every morning.

“(It’s) helping organizations nail down their mission and vision,” he said. “Not posting them on the wall, but asking what is God calling us to do and what would it look like to fulfill that mission.”

A shift in culture

Leaders need to understand two key facts if they want to connect generous givers with their church’s vision, Vilardo says.

“First, we no longer live in what Robert Putman and David Campbell describe as a post-World War 11 nation of joiners (in their 2010 book ‘American Grace’),” he said. “We can no longer just expect people to come. We must become intentional about ministry and vision, then live that out.”

“At the same time, we’re experiencing the greatest generational wealth transfer in the history of the USA,” Vilardo added. “The resources are available, but the church is losing ground.”

In the workshop, Vilardo will share how leaders can learn from the fundraising world around them.
Development professionals use specific tools for a reason, he says, and understanding that will help ministry leaders find clarity in their own sense of purpose.

As a pastor with 17 years of experience leading Methodist congregations, Vilardo is sensitive to the pitfalls of adapting corporate principles to the church.

“We steer away from thinking of stewardship and leadership as a transactional model,” he said. Instead, church leaders “think more of being transformational — an organic evolution of who God is calling us to be and how we can live out of that to find a stronger sense of our mission and direction.”

“What’s most important is how can we create a culture of generosity,” Vilardo adds. “Generosity naturally makes a connection between money and ministry. When we respond to a generous God with our own generosity, we’re part of the cycle of providing resources that truly offer the Gospel.”

Vilardo’s workshop is open to all laity and clergy. More information is available here.

Individuals wanting to attend the workshop may register through May 31 at www.acflorida.org by selecting the pre-conference workshop registration option in the left-hand menu or by contacting Heidi Leab at 800-282-8011, ext. 192, or email hleab@flumc.org.

After the workshops

Clergy and laity are also invited to attend:

Children at Risk: A Mission of Bridge Building” at 6:30 p.m. The session will be led by Dr. Tammy Pawloski, early childhood education professor and director of the Center of Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children in Poverty at Francis Marion University in South Carolina

“Sweet Treats Reception” sponsored by the foundation at 8 p.m. Guests will have an opportunity to talk more about the issues featured in the evening session and make a donation to the foundation’s Future Generations Fund, which provides grants to programs and ministries that nurture young people in their faith and Christian discipleship.

* Maul is freelance writer based in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

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