The Black Church and Philanthropy

Written by Lyord Watson, Jr., a CIN member since 2004

When I graduated from college in 2001, I had big dreams of being a well-to-do businessman and then becoming a philanthropist. I had big dreams of donating large sums of money into the African American community that would provide programs and opportunities for people to better themselves. However, this was not the route that God had planned for me to take.  In 2004, I joined a group of young African American professionals and started a giving circle called the Birmingham Change Fund. Through this process I learned that that philanthropy is more than just donating large sums of money. Philanthropy is a composite of time, talent, and treasure. Then in 2006, I accepted my calling to be a preacher and went to seminary at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham.  I took a class on racial reconciliation. In that class I learned about the history of the Black church in Birmingham.

2011 CIN Leadership Summit | photo by Camko Studios

Once I compared what I learned about philanthropy by being a part of a giving circle to what I learned about the history of the Black church in Birmingham while I was in seminary, I realized that the Black church has used philanthropy as an instrument to support and provide for the African American community. It was the one institution that all Black organizations and Black people—regardless of income, gender, or age—had access to.  The churches built schools, financial institutions, and businesses. They provided advocacy and social services for those who were in need. The Black church provided a central meeting for the community. All of these items are various aspects of philanthropy.

I have been intentionally involved in philanthropy for about eight years. Many of the models of giving that we use today in the African American community were sculpted in the Black church. Søren Kierkegaard once said, “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.”  In order for African Americans to use philanthropy effectively, current and aspiring African American donors need to know what are and have been tactics for strategic giving in the African American community.

Lyord Watson, Jr. | photo by Camko Studios

Lyord Watson, Jr. is a preacher and a philanthropist who lives out his faith in the pulpit as well as in the public square. He is a founding member of the CIN giving circle Birmingham Change Fund and serves on CIN’s board. He is passionate about kingdom building, which is building up the people within the body of Christ as well as building up the community outside the walls of the church.  You can connect with Lyord at: (205) 305-7031 and

NOTE: Birmingham Change Fund recently sponsored a community forum titled “The Black Church and Philanthropy,” which engaged a range of panelists and audience members.

About valaida

writer. thinker. listener. idea whisperer. traveler. mad word geek. absolute scrabble freak. drinker of life. da*n good friend. ridiculous foodie. imaginative dreamer. afflicted party planner. kind conqueror. okra lover. hillbilly w/ southern roots far-stretched global sights. author of book that reframes portraits of philanthropy. Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists |
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