In Henri Nouwen’s short book, The Spirituality of Fund-Raising, he raises the idea that giving creates communion. I don’t know about you, but growing up protestant, the first thing I think of when I hear the word ‘communion’ is Holy Communion at church. You know the Eucharist.
Webster defines communion as ‘an act of instant sharing’. This is a good way to describe the sacrament. It is also a good way to describe giving. It indeed is an act of instant sharing. Nouwen says,
“When we ask people for money to expand the work of the Kingdom, we are also inviting them into a new spiritual communion.”Giving is an act of sharing and participating in community. Something about sharing grows a community.
Ever been in a local gas station and noticed a jar on the counter with a homemade photo of a sick child from the community who needs help? Usually some member of the community is in need of help and neighbors and friends distribute these jars to collect money to help the family afford a lifesaving surgery. This small act of setting out a jar does far more than help a needy family; it builds the community. The community helps the family know they are not alone in their struggle. That jar not only raises a few dollars; it moves people together for a common vision.
We all need communion. We need it with God and with each other. Giving helps build community. Sometimes it is giving a hand to a new neighbor by unloading the moving van, sometimes it is supporting the Little League fund drive, or making a meal for a sick friend. All these acts require giving and each builds community.
The invitation to give is also an invitation to join a community. The gift brings the giver into a community of common vision and a sense of communion with those who share the vision. This communion and shared vision is part of transformational giving. Transformational giving opens us up to community. Bringing people into community is a gift the organization or church has for the giver. But this never happens if we only see the gift and not the giver. People make community, not dollars. So we serve the one who gives by opening our community and welcoming them into the vision. We then share the vision and the fruit of the vision with the community. This can be part the power of giving.