the difference between begging for money & asking to support a worthy cause and why i'm bad at both.

blog the difference between begging for moneyi hate money issues.  raised by a single mommy doing the best she could, i started working when i was 13 years old for spending money.  in college, i was on mounds of financial aid. i clearly remember my last semester, leaving the financial aid office knowing that was the last time i would have to cry and beg for just a little bit more money to graduate.

it was so shame-filled.

and really since then i’ve almost done everything possible to avoid it, which sometimes means not asking for help when i actually need it.

when we started the refuge 6  1/2 years ago, my friend karl & i  had just lost our good paying ministry jobs and were a mess.  but we did have a dream–a good & beautiful dream–that we could create a community built on equality & healing & relationship that was a safe haven for the hurting and a place for dignity and faith to be restored.  we’ve always been more of a hybrid of church service-social services agency-justice and beauty advocates-wound healers-orphanage than a typical church.  we did establish ourselves early on as a 501 c3. on one level, when it comes to what we provide, we might have done better framing ourselves as a nonprofit agency but we are church dreamers & are passionately dedicated to playing our part in redeeming the church’s original identity.

we didn’t have planting money from a denomination or network.  we didn’t raise proper support and all went a big chunk of time with no income working our butts off full-time.  then we got stable enough to pay a small amount to a few of us.  since then, the refuge has gone through seasons where we can pay our bills no problem & other seasons where we can’t.  we’ve never had excess but we’ve always barely had enough. God has taken care of us, somehow, some way. we can’t do the level of advocacy, pastoral care, healing work, and community development when we are torn in too many directions just to stay afloat financially.  it’s too intense of work. i’m already tri-vocational and am clear i can’t become quad-vocational, too.  i have 5 kids.  my other friends are in the same boat, working their tails off for so little but committed to the cause.

but here we are, in that valley yet again.  we recently lost several donors whose circumstances changed.  we’re talking about hundreds of dollars a month, not thousands, but in a budget this small, it makes a huge difference especially over several months.  because we’re busy with people, staying on top of our giving is not top priority.

well, last week we discovered we aren’t bringing in enough to pay our expenses.

it makes me weepy.  it makes me want to throw in the towel, and sometimes i hate being a holey dinghy .  but it also forces me to reckon with how worth it is to keep fighting for it.  

every day i see little miracles that remind me Jesus is healing people here, restoring dignity, renewing lost faith, bringing hope.   

i know begging for money sometimes works, but i don’t want to do that in spurts and only when we’re extra desperate. i also hate that feeling i had in college.

at the same time, i realize i am terrible at being clear about our needs and actually saying  “we need you.  desperately, we need you. to help us financially. to pray for us. to come help us practically. to support us from afar.”

i also struggle with asking because it taps into something inside about value, along the lines of  “if we were really valuable, we wouldn’t have to ask or work so hard to pull this off…someone would notice and freely offer to help.” no matter how illogical that might sound, it often feels true.  over the years we have had so many people–pastors & leaders & church-goers-with-margin-and-money–tell us they value our work and are grateful for us, but almost never has that translated into ongoing practical financial support in a consistent way.

our reality hit me like a ton of bricks this week. it’s hard not to feel like we are losers.  and i know if we laid on the charisma and focused on growing in numbers instead of relationship we would end up with more money.  but we’re too far gone for that.  i want to remain true to who we are. i don’t want to spend energy on tactics that draw us away from our work. i don’t want to become fundraisers; we are pastors & friends-for-the-hard-places-in-life-and-faith & healing group facilitators & advocates & cheerleaders for the underdog doing the best we can to nurture a place to find God’s healing and hope.

so here’s where i am today, trying to figure out what it means to not beg and not hide.

we could use some help here.  

we need a better safety net so we can help others who don’t have one.  

we have always been clear that our little community in and of itself can’t support itself.  we are drowning in too much need & not enough resources.  we have survived this long by some outside consistent support and some bigger gifts here and there.  unfortunately, we have never been able to attract a sufficiently large base of christ-followers with margin & money.  ever.  the few that are here do sustain us, and for that we are so grateful.

we desperately need ongoing & consistent support.  $2,000 a month would relieve so much pressure. in one chunk it’s a lot,  but it’s really just 20 people giving $100 a month. we don’t care how it comes, we just know we need it & a better support team that understand what we are doing and want us to last.  we are also open to anything–to partnerships where we can be a learning center for others, cross-church pollination, or being adopted as a ministry.

thanks for reading here, for caring about what we do, for believing in us.  it is good in these times to have friends.  it’s why i haven’t stopped blogging yet because  it helps me feel less lonely, less crazy.  your love & support is more sustaining than you know. meanwhile, please pray for us, for widsom & hope, and if you would like to be part of helping us pull this off, know every little bit, no matter how big or small, makes a huge difference to us.

we have a paypal button here or our address is the refuge, po box 6805, broomfield CO 80020 (www.therefugeonline.org).  all donations are tax-deductible.  feel free to email, me, too, if you have questions or ideas.

love, kathy

 

Posted in

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

15 Comments

  • Kathy, it’s o.k. to tell us the Refuge needs help. How will we know if
    you don’t tell us? Maybe you already do this, but is there some place
    where you can show us on a monthly basis the financial situation with
    the Refuge?

    Many of the people on here have probably seen first
    hand what you do. I have. Like the stuff my wife and I do, it’s not
    flashy. But as you
    would say, it is so pretty. It looks and smells so much like Jesus. No
    cathedrals, no lake with swans and a waterfall, no aerial photo of your
    “campus” (I’m thinking of a nearby church where we attended a conference
    recently – A far cry from the Grange building where you meet!)- Just being the hands and arms of Jesus in your community.

    I’ve
    been there. I’ve met many of your people. If we lived there, we’d be
    there, a part of you and your group. We will help. Kay and I are
    talking about it and I will e-mail you when we decide what we can do.

    Reply
    • you’ll never know much your love and encouragement from afar has meant to us. you have somehow been a teammate from afar ever since walking wounded and those chocolate chip cookies 😉 so grateful for you and it makes me so happy that you love my friends and see and smell the beauty not only when you were here but also from afar.

      Reply
  • 501c3? So are donations tax-deductible? If you’re going to go through asking for money, I believe that fact is *always* worth stating: directly. I am sorry to hear that you are in this situation.

    Reply
    • thanks, michelle, yes, sorry that wasn’t clear but i did make sure it’s there now. yes, every donation to the refuge is completely tax-deductible.

      Reply
  • the refuge can have everything that’s in my change jar this month. It’s not lots, but I’ve been saving it up for awhile again…

    Reply
  • I think this is called transparency and community and humility. I love your openness and honesty and I love what you are doing with the refuge.

    Reply
  • So grateful you shared this. How it makes me feel is quite the opposite of “put off”, it makes me feel that you care enough about the people The Refuge touches to let us in on these money struggles so we have an opportunity to be a part of the solution.

    Reply
    • thanks my friend, i do love that somehow i know that we’re all in it together and no one’s going anywhere and that it will all be well, somehow some way. it is comforting. you bring so much light and peace, mary, wherever you go. it’s just…calming.

      Reply
  • Kathy,

    I so admire the way the refuge *honors* people. From the co-leadership model; to the way you don’t have “clients” or “parishoners”, but rather traveling partners you call friends; to the way you act as prophetess — calling the church to return to a life of justice in a voice full of both clarity and grace. All of those things have been an inspiration to me as I continue to re-frame my calling as “minister’ in a non-traditional manner.

    I don’t have the physical stamina to plant an in-real-life community again. But if I did, it would look a lot like yours.

    What I do have a is an online soulcare community that is based on fees. I’d like to ‘tithe’ 10% of my current enrollment to you on a monthly basis. It’s not a lot, but it will add up in time.

    With warmth and gratitude,

    Rachelle

    Reply
  • Wow u speak my heart here and I want to just copy and paste this and pretend I wrote it. Wow! Thank u for sharing this beautiful piece. So worth Sharing. I believe a windfall for the Refuge is coming soon. Wait for it!

    Reply
  • Our community is so impacted with goodness and grace through the ministry of the refuge. Thank you for writing about a topic that’s hard to discuss. I think there’s also been a kind of unspoken belief that if a church is doing what it’s supposed to do God will provide and so when there’s a need we are hesitant to make it known outside the church and expose our community to potential judgement. What I hope we will all embrace is mutual support of one another within the faith community as each church offers her gifts for the common good.

    Reply
  • hard post. written with a lot of heart and vulnerability. BRAVE woman you are!!!

    you were there for me last week.

    i am here for you this week.

    and so it goes, the dance of relationships even from afar!

    i just sold two books from my inventory so tho i wish i could give more, i at least can give that. it’s my hug from across the miles to you and my friends at The Refuge.

    Love you!

    Reply
  • Hi im about to lose everything. Lost my job due to closure in august 2012 all I need is 5000. to get caught up. suzaz 9185337063

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *