by Steve Chittenden
Your church needs money every week, because your church does ministry every week. And while meeting the budget might not feel like a huge accomplishment, it’s actually key to a sustainable ministry over the long haul.
But there comes a time when you need to raise money for something special — something big that will help your church make a greater impact on your community. It could be for a much-needed building project that will take your church to the next level. Or, it could be to raise money for renovating or expanding your existing facilities. Maybe it’s for retiring debt to reallocate funds to community ministry. And there’s a good chance funding for this project will fall outside the operating budget.
What do you do?
That’s when you need to think about leading a capital stewardship campaign for your church.
START WITH VISION
A capital stewardship campaign must be vision based, not project based. Time and again God’s people have made deep financial sacrifices, not for bricks and mortar but in support of the vision of changed hearts and lives. They see the project — whether it’s new worship space, education space, or even debt retirement — as simply a tool to advance the kingdom of God. And once that truth has been planted in the hearts and minds of people, their perspectives shift and they want to be participants in what God is doing.
As you set out to share the vision God put on your heart, communicate clearly. Unanswered questions are the greatest hindrance to any initiative, particularly a financial one. So before you say anything about a capital stewardship campaign, link it to an understandable vision you can communicate with clarity. Otherwise, it will likely be viewed as a dreaded project rather than an exciting opportunity. Make the vision clear — and then watch God paint that same vision across the hearts of your church!
The vision must also be to the point and easy to repeat. Forbes magazine says 70 percent of employees cannot recite their company’s vision. Don’t let that be said of your vision! Having a bunch of words on paper does not make something clear. In fact, too many words may have the opposite effect. You should be able to print your vision on a t-shirt … or state it on Twitter (you know, 140 letters or less).
Last, the vision must be compelling. Before you talk about what or how, you’ve got to define a compelling why. A compelling vision answers questions: What will happen if we do this? What’s at stake? What will happen if we don’t do this? What’s on the line if we don’t take action? Answering these types of questions will motivate people at a much deeper level than sharing architectural drawings. Most church members don’t get fired up to give money to routine building maintenance or operating budgets, but when their giving is connected to individual stories of life change, their souls are stirred.
Yes, your campaign should be vision-driven and mission-focused, but you also need a project that embodies that vision. For example, a new building or existing renovation will stir the imagination because it is easy to visualize. People get excited when they see progress. However, you still have to keep the project connected to the clear, crisp, and compelling vision of changing lives, not a new space. If the vision is all about the building, there can be a letdown when the building is done — or even critical attitudes as it is going up. With the focus on ministry, and the new building being merely a tool toward that end, people will stay focused on the compelling why!
Is your project to climb out from under a burden of debt? This can be one of the hardest projects. There’s a compelling need, but Americans have become very comfortable with debt. The congregation may even view it as being asked to pay off someone else’s debt. To further complicate matters, your church members might not get excited about retiring church debt because they are too busy dealing with their own! So, if your big project involves debt retirement, it’s crucial to remind people God is calling your church to do something you cannot do because of debt.
A united leadership team is a pillar of a successful capital campaign. Everyone needs to understand the campaign isn’t the idea of the pastor or finance team alone, but a church-wide initiative. It is vital for all ministry leaders, all age groups, and all programs to work together toward this common goal. The reality is, if your leaders aren’t on board, your campaign will not have the same success as it would with unified leadership.
There are at least three categories of leaders that must be on the same page for your campaign to be successful:
Positional/ministry leaders. These people likely have titles, whether on staff or volunteers. Regardless of their position or ministry, these leaders must align with and support the vision.
Financial leaders. These people financially support the church’s ministry. Typically, 80 percent of your funding comes from 20 percent of your donors. There are key people in your church, some of whom might not serve in a visible or official way, who God has sent to help your project succeed.
Community/influential leaders. These leaders have the ear of the people in your church. They may be politicians, schoolteachers, business owners, or others who are in positions of influence. Here’s what’s exciting: they may serve somewhere in the community — but perhaps not yet in your church. And, believe it or not, a capital stewardship campaign might be the very thing that helps them step into becoming actively involved in your church’s ministry!
For a capital stewardship campaign to work, the congregation has to trust the leaders. Period.
You have to build trust with your congregation — and that takes time. In other words, people must see church leaders make wise and timely decisions over an extended period of time.
You have to do what you say you will do and have a good decision-making system in place — including healthy checks and balances, filled by trustworthy leaders in key roles. Build trust and learn to celebrate the small wins — they will amount to big victories.
OKAY … SO NOW WHAT?
When God called you to lead His church, you probably didn’t dream about pouring over spreadsheets and budgets. In fact, you likely get way more excited about preaching from God’s Word, or meeting one-on-one with a new Christian, than attending a budget meeting. But think about this: Jesus taught money is not only necessary for food, clothing, and necessities, but also to be used as a tool to grow his church. And, he taught us people’s money and hearts are connected.
So, whether you’re thinking about a new building where people will worship, a renovated facility where children will learn what it means to follow Jesus, or erasing debt that will free funds to start new ministries, this is a great opportunity to challenge people to follow Jesus in every area of their lives — including their finances. Done right, it can stretch your church, and God’s vision for your ministry will become a reality.
Steve Chittenden is a senior consultant with INJOY Stewardship Solutions and a certified speaker, teacher, and coach with the John Maxwell Team. As a Baptist Bible College alumnus with 20 years of vocational and marketplace ministry, he understands the demands of both worlds. He stands ready to work alongside you and your team to see your vision fully funded. For more information, contact email@example.com.