Resourcing the Church
by Dorcas Samantha Ewoodzie
Most churches in Africa were initiated by missionaries who relied on financial support from sister churches in Europe, the United States, and Canada. The churches and institutions belonged to the various denominations that established them. Indigenous people did not consider themselves as the owners of these churches. This perspective created a dependence on foreign funding, entirely.
When missionaries were withdrawn, which happened for many different reasons, the projects they founded stalled, including medical and educational institutions. The local communities they served were not prepared to take ownership so that the churches and institutions could become self-sufficient.
A book sale helps to raise funds for resourcing a church school library. Photo: Courtesy of Dorcas Ewoodzie
Churches Finance Themselves
Today, African churches are tasked to finance themselves. Their major means of resourcing the church is through offerings and tithes given during church services. These proceeds are dependent on the dynamics of church membership—the church’s size and the demographic make-up. In the case of many African churches, and of UM churches in Kenya, particularly, the majority of members are economically challenged. Members often turn to the church for financial assistance. A portion of each local church’s resources generated from offerings and tithes is sent to the conference (East African Conference). Churches use the rest for other activities. But this money is not sufficient all the churches’ needs.
Since pastors generally do not receive a fixed salary, Africans very often engage in fundraising activities known as “harambees.” Most pastors support their church’s development by taking full-time jobs outside the church. That is why many here say it is a real calling to lead God’s flock. For clergy, it’s a sacrifice—one that perhaps results in stress relating to church involvement and growth because a pastor’s time is divided.
For a harambee, a charismatic member of the church is appointed to lead the congregation in raising funds for a particular activity. Influential guests are invited to attend from other churches. This kind of fundraising is used to meet a target for the purchase of an essential need—such as a building project, payment of rent, or offsetting debts.
I have witnessed and been part of about five such harambees in Kenya: one to pay tuition for two pastors going for Bible training courses in Uganda; for ticket fare to attend the UMC 2016 General Conference; for a reception to host the full church leadership; and most recently, to support those affected by the Huruma flooding disaster in Kenya.
People put their faith in action by giving out of their meager resources. They believe those who go out are planting in tears, but they will reap in joy at the appointed time. Sacrificial giving is difficult, but it is good. We receive healing and God’s blessings from it.
Some churches receive financial support for specific projects by writing proposals, and applying for grants. In addition, when a church owns a school, hospital, or a community project such as a cafeteria, it has a resource to generate funds to support its other activities.
Dorcas Samantha Ewoodzie is a Global Mission Fellow from Ghana. She serves as a climate change program officer with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, July-August 2016 issue. Used by permission.