How can houses and people of faith in the U.S. support innovative, faith-based initiatives that are taking place outside the stained-glass walls of local congregations?
A nonprofit organization launched in 2019 by Amy Butler provides one avenue.
Invested Faith affirms that religious institutions hold a great deal of both financial capital and moral vision, and yet it recognizes that many theologically trained individuals are working for justice in the social order outside local church contexts.
To help bridge the gap between religious institutions and faith-based social entrepreneurs, and to allow congregations to create an ongoing legacy through planned, purposeful giving, Invested Faith established a fund with ImpactAssets from which grants are provided.
“In a culture in which institutions of faith are closing their doors at an alarming rate, the church in America stands to lose significant assets that have served communities in countless redemptive ways,” Butler, an ordained Baptist minister who is currently serving as the intentional interim senior minister at National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C., told Good Faith Media.
“Instead of spending down assets and closing the doors in sad resignation, what if we were to hold out our assets, believing that God’s work in the world continues, and the legacies of our communities live on as we make possible the work of social entrepreneurs imagining gospel in new ways?”
Invested Faith offers religious institutions a way to move beyond a scarcity mindset focused on institutional survival by supporting innovative projects, initiatives and businesses seeking to address systemic challenges and bring about societal change.
“Imagine that you are a small church of 15 to 20 faithful members realizing that dreams of recreating what once was are no longer feasible,” Butler said. “You could keep the building up with the human capital you have; repairing the roof, maintaining the landscaping, paying an occasional preacher as is possible. You could also make the bold decision to close the doors and give your remaining assets away to nonprofits you have always supported.
“But what if there is a third possibility? What if the assets of your congregation could live on as a legacy to the work and witness of your church, invested in a fund that seeds the work of social entrepreneurs?” she said. “Jesus was all about healing the world in which he lived; we can be too. Assets used to build the Invested Faith fund will live in perpetuity, sent out like the seeds Jesus talked about so often.”
For projects to qualify for an Invested Faith grant, they must be undergirded by faith, follow a sustainable business model and focus on creating community, doing justice and addressing systemic problems.
Grants will be distributed to selected Invested Faith fellows twice a year, provided funding is available.
The organization announced its five inaugural fellows on July 15. These individuals – from Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington state – each received $5,000 in funding to support their work.
In Pennsylvania, the grant will support an economic initiative focusing on Black businesses.
In Tennessee, funds will help a Black-owned lipstick brand owner who is working to help women with disabilities and leading a project focused on breast cancer awareness and support.
The grant recipient in Texas is working to restore historically Black churches with an initial project restoring a 1905 church building that will allow local artists to display and sell their work.
The Virginia-based fellow will use the funds to help further a collective that is strengthening connections across marginalized communities, while the grant recipient in Washington runs both a local coffee shop and a nonprofit assisting with neighborhood community development projects.
“Invested Faith began as an idea I’ve been holding for some time,” Butler said. “Aware that the work of God in the world is ever-changing and, truly, unending, the question for people of faith in this moment is how we will boldly participate in efforts to live the healing work of faith in the world around us.
“As our institutional expressions of Christian faith shift and change, we now have the unique opportunity to invest in this fund that will seed the future of God’s work in the world,” she said. “What better legacy could we envision?”