A New Way of Thinking About Fundraising for Church Construction

A New Way of Thinking About Fundraising for Church Construction

With a capital campaign, you could end up employing a number of techniques that feel justified based on the amount of cash they potentially can pull in, rather than their grounding in Scripture. There is a different way.

In my last article We Have a Really Ugly Church Building, I described the process we've gone through at Faith Community Church in Hopkinton, MA to reimagine our 95,000 square foot facility of ugly.

We hired new staff, created a new ministry model that better fits 21st Century New England, refocused our outlook to be more missional to our region, and revamped our programming and worship.

In order to house all of this new energy and vision, we contracted a design-build company, described in my last article, and now we're equipped with multicolored floor plans, stunning graphics and cool animation of our proposed new space.

Now all we need is money.

It's sort of like the hype that goes on when Powerball gets up around $600 million and people start imagining what they would do with all that dough. Well, we've done the imagining a mere $14.5 million worth and now we need a plan to raise it!

Goff, our design and build company suggested a number of capital campaign groups that came highly recommended. One of them stood out to me and our lead pastor, Mike Laurence: the Generis Company.

Mike liked them because they were in sync with a group called Generous Church.

The president of Generous Church, Patrick Johnson, led our congregation the year before in a spiritually mind-blowing process of understanding and growing in generosity. Generis and Generous Church do different things but use a lot of the same themes and emphases for Christian generosity.

Generous Churches helps congregations understand and grow in biblical generosity; Generis helps churches fund grand visions!

Generis also caught my eye because I read every word (who does that anymore?) of Chris Willard's book Contagious Generosity: Creating a Culture of Giving in Your Church (Zondervan, 2012) a book that led the way for me in shifting my thinking in how we talk about giving in the church. And Chris is one of the principles at Generis.

We contacted Generis and Chris hopped on a plane and flew from Orlando to Boston to meet with us. (Chris is originally from the Boston area but now lives in Orlando because, like other former New Englanders, he is delusional in thinking that Florida is closer to Heaven. At least he still sides with the Red Sox!).

When Chris arrived, however, he was met with crossed arms. Mike and I have both been lead pastors of churches that ran capital campaigns. I even wrote and led one myself with decent results. What is new under the sun when it comes to these campaigns? I can cite the routine with my eyes closed.

Well, a lot has changed. And for the better!

Organizations like Generous Church and Generis offer fresh approaches to educating congregations about the joy of living generously.

The old language of Christian stewardship and some of the gimmickry that accompanied it, didn't have anything to do with biblical generosity. And capital campaigns were worse, employing a number of techniques that were justified on the basis of the amount of cash they pulled in rather than their grounding in Scripture.

Chris introduced us to a new way of thinking about raising support for our bold new vision of reaching New England with the Gospel: the One Fund. Mike and I were used to challenging congregations to give "over and above" their regular giving to fund a capital campaign.

Chris, though, suggested that Mike's big vision for reaching New England fit better the One Fund: calling upon the congregation to fund the entire big vision, including the day to day operations, for two years and not just the "over and above" campaign. The way it works out for us: it will cost us $5 million to do our regular ministry for two years plus $8.75 million to revamp our facility for a new ministry model, another $500,000 to launch a new campus and $250,000 for global mission outreach.

The total to do everything to fund our entire mission and ministry for two years including day to day operations comes to $14.5 million. Attendees submit two year commitments to the One Fund to cover these costs.

The One Fund concept makes more sense to me: challenging our church family to give to the total mission and ministry of the church for a two-year period which includes some major initiatives.

We then assembled an amazing team to plan out the eight month effort. Our team comprised of the lead pastor, our business and operations director, communications coordinator, spiritual growth pastor (identified as the next campus pastor), worship director, first impressions coordinator, events coordinator, family ministries director and me (executive pastor) as team leader.

We mapped out all of the events and worship services in an excel planner, divvied out responsibilities and met weekly to coordinate our efforts. My advice is to staff this team with capable, organized and prayerful people who meet weekly to track progress and evaluate events as they occur. Generis resourced us with lots of materials and a basic structure and Chris coached us as we navigated the events leading up to the "initiative" the preferred word instead of "campaign"—worship services.

The events leading up to the initiative's weeks are designed to inspire church leaders with the new vision for the church's ministry. Our lead pastor's well written narrative combined with interesting videos, animations of the facility redesign and graphics went a long way to educate leaders on the reasoning for the new plan. The pastor also met with scores of people one-on-one for their feedback.

The result has been the steady building of strong support for this ambitious vision.

I am writing this article two days away from the launch of the initiative: a six-week (plus follow-up weeks) series. Our team is busy setting up themed décor, readying collateral, spiffing up the dedicated web page, setting up banners and flags around the facilities, and finalizing remaining events details.

The lead pastor and worship team have planned these themed services for months, rehearsing every detail so that the visionary messages are delivered effectively. I feel like we're at Cape Canaveral with the big clock ticking down to launch something we've worked long and hard to make happen.

Looking back over this process so far, here are some insights we've gleaned in selecting a strategic partner to help us:

1) Be clear about the language, concepts and methods you want to use to teach generosity in your church.

There is a continental divide between groups and consultants who teach traditional stewardship methods and those espousing newer language and approaches to biblical generosity. 

2) It is an uber plus to have good chemistry with your coach (consultant).

Once you've landed on the kind of approach you want to use (#1), it goes a long ways to feel like your coach listens well, understands your church culture and can massage the methods to fit the culture.

3) Consider a consultant who has done One Fund initiatives.

While not for everyone, the One Fund approach as described above calls the church to support the total vision and mission of the church for two years rather than a second "over and above" giving effort dedicated solely to capital endeavors. The One Fund, in my mind, makes good theological and organizational sense.

4) Ask before you sign on the dotted line about your coach's availability during the initiative.

In our case, Chris met with us several times in person, was easy to reach by phone, established a planning protocol (basecamp), and responded quickly to our questions and requests for samples (e.g. "How did other churches create that video?").

5) Make sure your coach is clear about "best practices" in following through on the tasks and messaging for the initiative.

Create a planner with all the tasks that are required, assign responsibilities and hold the team accountable to fulfill them. Lead the effort like a drill sergeant with high EQ (I know: that's an oxymoron but you get my point). Your coach should help you do this and offer lots of great advice as you work the plan and design targeted worship experiences.

6) Some capital campaign consultants are paid according to the results of the campaign.

Some are results driven a percentage off the top while others like Generis charge a straight fee.
I prefer the latter. If you go with a group that charges a percentage, make sure you are comfortable with their methods and messaging.

7) Lastly, our coach helped us make the initiative our highest priority.

This is not a tangential event to everything else going on in your crazy busy shop. Everything else needs to take a backseat to the initiative that is plastered everywhere.

Clear your church calendar (and personal calendar!) of anything you don't absolutely need to do so that your energy and that of the church is focused on lifting up the vision and mission of the church and getting everyone behind it.

T minus two days.and so far, all systems are go!

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