“Single-minded and whole-hearted”
By Kelsey McFaul
Larry Gadbaugh on surrendering silos of ownership
For most of his career as a pastor and CEO, when Larry Gadbaugh saw fundraising, he ran in the opposite direction.
“Anything that was part of the system or strategy, that really focused and communicated in terms of technique and programs and things like that, I would really fight that. I think overall I viewed fundraising as a necessary evil so that we could do the real work of the ministry.”
For Larry, that real work was pastoring a church in Gresham, Oregon, and more recently, acting as CEO for First Image, a group of pregnancy resource centers in the greater Portland, Oregon area.
“When First Image first handed me the job description, I threw it away because it said something about major donor development. Then for two and a half years, we didn’t have a development director and I had to be in the day to day stuff, working with the events and communications directors. It really forced me to realize I can’t do this without somehow beginning to integrate the mindset of stewardship into what I do, or I will just explode.”
In 2017, Larry participated in the first Becoming a Steward Leader Experience cohort, an course led by Dr. Scott Rodin, and it gave him new language to explain his aversion to fundraising and the stewardship of money.
“In our cohort, we talked about the one kingdom mindset and getting away from a divided kingdom where God owned some parts of our lives and we owned others. I was blessed to always have deacons and other elders who were very strong in the financial stewardship area, so I was able to leave that to them and frankly just ignore it.”
While it may have seemed like Larry was surrendering his relationship to fundraising, he was actually hanging on to ownership of his own frustration and contempt.
“I had a pattern of really reacting to what I considered to be the excesses and manipulative things I encountered in fundraising with excesses of my own. I just siloed stewardship off from the rest of following Christ. Now I’m un-siloing, which for me means a daily pursuit of single-mindedness and wholehearted devotion to God.”
Larry embraces a one kingdom mindset by surrendering fundraising and stewardship of other people’s finances to God’s ownership. In the process, he’s come to seek out and appreciate biblical models of stewardship and finance, rather than fixating on negative ones.
“I have a real low threshold on manipulation, bait and switch stuff, and I became proud and arrogant about it instead of saying, well I need to go back to the Scriptures and find more healthy and balanced models.”
One of the models that’s most helpful to Larry is the image of being yoked with Christ. In Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
“That picture captures the tension between responsibility and resting. I daily stick my neck in the yoke with Jesus, and I have to move my legs and exercise my muscles, but really Jesus is doing the pulling. He allows me to be yoked with Him in His kingdom work and ministry, and He transforms me just as much as the people that I, in union with Him, seek to see transformation come about in their lives.”
By surrendering to rest and responsibility, Larry is able to see his stewardship of finances as truly a stewardship of people, and this mindset has transformed the way he thinks about his own organization’s fundraising events.
“Developing relationships with some of our major partners and seeing their example of how they were really thrilled to invest their money in the work of the kingdom and the attitude and perspective they did that with was really transformational for me.
“Now when we come to a fundraising event, we see this as a stewardship of other people’s stewardship, of ways to engage them in the heart of the ministry and unleash their stewardship in God’s kingdom.”
Instead of focusing on techniques or tricks, Larry approaches fundraising as a way to steward his donors and their resources, and to encourage the same kind of stewardship in their lives as well. He exercises a similar stewardship approach to his relationships with his own staff.
“Our strategic plan includes initiatives to keep fostering and cultivating intimacy with God in the staff and the board and staying away from the ownership mindset. We’ve incorporated more spiritual retreats with our staff and afterwards we do an anonymous survey: How do they feel about the spiritual atmosphere of the ministry? How do they feel it affects their own walk with Christ? How did the retreat address those things?”
For Larry, these metrics for measuring success are more valuable than any systems, strategies, or programs could be. Instead, success is about stewarding relationships–with donors, staff, and clients.
“We can grow in all kinds of ways that we can measure and end up undermining the long term aspect of our mission. It really comes down to what is our view of the kingdom, and what does ‘kingdom come’ look like?”
Larry knows that stewardship of our relationships with others is rooted in the stewardship of our relationship with God.
“In my daily prayer, I say ‘Lord help me be single-minded, not double-minded; whole-hearted, not half-hearted. I ask that I would be a good steward of my intimacy with Christ in all my relationships and responsibilities. And at the end of the day, I pray through them again. Where I got off track, I say please forgive me and help me do better tomorrow.
“Stewardship of our relationship with Christ is absolutely foundational and everything flows out of that. I know that if I abide in Him, I will bear fruit. I will have joy. I will have peace.”