St. Jude Hospital is the gold standard in volunteerism and fundraising. Our church preschool hosts a St. Jude Trike-A-Thon each year in which the preschoolers ride their bikes to raise money to help sick children. They know that the money they raise helps sick boys and girls like them. It seems everyone wants to help St. Jude, even churches who have their own budget struggles.
Why is St. Jude so successful at raising money and acquiring passionate and committed volunteers?
I recently had the privilege to hear Frank Thomas speak to the Synod of Lincoln Trails. He shared his experience of being a pastor in Memphis, Tennessee, and having the same question. He sat down with one of St. Jude’s leaders and asked her why they were so successful.
“No one can beat our cause,” she said matter-of-factly. “We give healthcare to children regardless of race, nationality or ability to pay.”
I have to admit that’s a pretty good cause. It’s a cause I’ve supported. I see the results of their work and I feel good and hopeful. I want St. Jude to succeed.
Thomas thought about that statement (“No one can beat our cause”) and responded, “I like your cause, but I think the church has a pretty good cause, too: Jesus Christ.”
She replied, “Jesus doing what?”
St. Jude connects their cause to people through statistics, images and stories. Their cause resonates because they have a clear purpose: We give healthcare to children regardless of age, nationality or ability to pay. That’s what they’re doing, and they have results.
So what is the church doing? What’s our cause and what are the results? Sometimes our cause is just to keep our doors open for one more year. Sometimes our cause is maintaining our programs and traditions. I’ve heard many churches proclaim their cause is getting more young families to join the church. But those causes aren’t connecting to people beyond our pews, and we probably aren’t seeing life-changing results like St. Jude with those causes.
Jesus doing what?
What’s the cause at your church that everyone can be behind, that inspires people to want to support it and see it succeed? What is Jesus doing that is like giving healthcare to children regardless of race, nationality or ability to pay?
We have a terrific cause, a life changing and world transforming cause. So why isn’t our cause connecting with people the way St. Jude’s is? I am willing to bet that many Christians give more time and money to St. Jude than to their church.
Jesus doing what? We have to let the world know what our cause is, what Jesus is doing, and what the results are. We need to share our cause through statistics, images and stories. Your church has a particular mission and vision, so what is Jesus doing through that?
Healthcare is given to children regardless of race, nationality or ability to pay. That’s a terrific and worthy and noble cause, but I do think there’s an even greater cause.
What would your church say that is in one sentence? What are you doing that matters?
It’s not enough to say Jesus. Jesus doing what?
STEPHEN McKINNEY-WHITAKER is pastor and head of staff at United Presbyterian Church of Peoria, Illinois.