united methodist development fund

The United Methodist Development Fund, a Model to Follow

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Colossians 3:23

I have become very careful where I donate my time and money. Life is very busy, and we are all pulled from here to there. But like most, I strongly desire to help the world, and especially through the church. I want to make a difference and pitch in where I can. The tug from God to help the world is, many times, a constant and pervasive feeling for many of us.

Not all non-profit organizations are focused and creative.

While all try, not all hit the mark. Deciding with whom to work and what to do in order to satisfy our natural desire to make a difference can be daunting. No one wants to be stuck in hours-long meetings or at places where decisions are slow in coming. It is our very nature to like action, especially actions that make a difference for the world. There is no better feeling when we know we work with like-minded people who are collaborative, get things done, and listen to learn. We become energized when we are with these people and our assets of time and money are valued.

Finding organizations that can use our special gifts can be challenging and require a lot of trial and error. One that I have found is called the United Methodist Development Fund. As a Methodist, I am always naturally inclined to help their causes. But the United Methodist Development Fund (UMDF) isn’t a wonderful organization because they are Methodist. Rather, it is because it’s run by a mixture of like-minded clergy and business people.

One of the things I noticed about this group is that they possess the four qualities of successful people: they listen to learn, develop each other, analyze effectively, and get things done. This collaborative group is making a difference for the church and the world.

The UMDF is essentially a bank for churches.

When churches need more to grow or start, the UMDF lends them money. The UMDF also provides leadership training for United Methodist clergy and lay people. Training not in doctrine, but how to be missional in the world. In other words, how to turn churches into centers of mission.

They invest in churches that don’t just do the same-old, same-old. Instead, they support churches that are entrepreneurial in their approach. Creative in the way they approach church and mission.  Churches  that don’t just seek to help those of low income/low wealth, but also to encourage this group in recognizing their individual gifts.

These churches become social banks that identify community needs and seek to solve them. And now there are green shoots beginning to sprout. Churches are becoming more missional. Clergy are being rewarded for becoming social entrepreneurs. Churches are finally recognizing the need to think differently and move outside their four walls.

It is just a beginning, but the future is bright.

Thanks to organizations like the UMDF, differences are being made. There is a long road ahead to overcome the years of decline in all the denominations. But in the sea of decay is an island that provides hope, run by a collection of serious and mission-minded leaders.

While that sounds good on paper, it sounds better in results. The UMDF has lent almost one hundred million dollars to churches. The money is being used wisely and is being paid back. For every one hundred dollars loaned, there is less than one dollar thirty days overdue. Even for the strictest of lenders, who have two percent of their loans more than thirty days overdue, this is a testament to the quality of the loans and the mission the money serves.

But UMDF isn’t just a bank.

They distribute the profits made from the interest on the loans to help clergy become missional social leaders through grants to mission-minded entrepreneurs and education to leaders.

So while we all want to help and though we want our help to reach the right people who will do the right thing, our help is not always productive. Perhaps organizations like the UMDF can become the beacon of change.

Even in your own community, there are wonderful organizations that are strong and great contributors. If we pay attention to how they operate, we will get a clue if our time and money is well spent. If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you have found a worthwhile place like the UMDF to spend your time and resources:

  • Do they focus on getting things done?
  • Do they focus on developing those they help and work alongside?
  • Do they listen to learn?
  • Are they thoughtful in analysis?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Dr. Bruce L. Hartman is the author of Jesus & Co. and Your Faith Has Made You Well.

Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

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