Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking and Stewardship


I’m a few weeks behind sharing this, but if you haven’t yet watched Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, “The Art of Asking” – you need to.

In her talk (my sketchnotes are here), Amanda shares her experiences of working as a street performer, the Eight Foot Bride, and how that experience led her and her band (The Dresden Dolls) to adventures of couchsurfing, crowdsurfing and then, ultimately, crowdfunding. Her Kickstarter campaign brought in support from over 25,000 people and raised over $1.2 million – the largest Kickstarter campaign yet.

The success of that campaign, if you listen to Amanda talk about it, came not from an amazing PR campaign…but more from the courage to ask, the vulnerability to ask. Trust led to the ability to ask. Asking led to increased connection.

I don’t know that I have the answer, but her talk led me to thinking about stewardship in the church, and how so many of our churches today are struggling financially. There are all sorts of different stewardship models. Many churches have tried to move away from a budget-based stewardship program (one where you make a budget, then wave that budget in the air and say “Alright folks – these are our numbers – fork it over!”), to models that make stewardship more of a spiritual response to God’s grace and blessings in our lives. Yet, I know churches that have tried that newer, more spiritual model, only to find that it doesn’t really help, and it has actually caused their stewardship programs to struggle.

I have a friend from seminary who is currently serving as Head of Staff at a large east coast Presbyterian church. I think they have figured out how to run very successful stewardship campaigns, which has been a huge blessing to the churches they have served. While I don’t know the details of the particular programs, I do know that a lot of it has to do with not being afraid of “the ask.”

I’ve never been quite comfortable with this idea of fundraising in the church, but I also have yet to be in a position where that’s my primary responsibility. But if you look at asking like Amanda Palmer does in her TED talk, I think it puts it in an entirely different perspective.

This type of asking is all about vulnerability, trust and connection. In that way, we allow those who are a part of our tribes and congregations to participate in our mission and vision for God’s kingdom in our local communities. Asking then becomes something that’s not manipulative, but the asking is an act of trust itself.

Anyone else see some connections between Amanda Palmer’s talk and a move to a new model of stewardship in the church?

Leave a Reply