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The Right Way to Announce The Next “Big Thing” to Your Congregation

The Right Way to Announce The Next “Big Thing” to Your Congregation

Breaking the news to your church, of a renovation or expansion, can be a daunting undertaking. Pastors and professionals share how to communicate the Next Big Thing' to your church body.

You are ready and have God's assurance to embark on an endeavor to help realize your ministry's vision—-building, renovating or expanding.

Industry experts and seasoned pastors agree that frontloading your project with patience, intentionality and due diligence is the best way to prepare for one potentially difficult, but critical phase: communicating the project to the church community.

Vision Sundays

Ideally, before a project is on the radar, vision is being cast regularly. Both leadership and membership are aware of and on board with where the church is going.

"The best way we have found to share big projects with our church is to share vision," says Denny Hodges, associate pastor at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. "We do this once or twice a year by taking a message on a Sunday and sharing the vision of what we can do and where we can go."

"Vision Sundays" at Church of the Highlands have been the introductory venue for several projects, including the addition of a chapel at its main campus. The vision for a small venue for weddings and funerals was fostered over years and when the opportunity to build it was presented, the church was prepared to take it, says Hodges.

Jim Babbage, senior vice president of Community First Financial Resources, a division of First Bank, agrees that if solid vision is in place, gaining support for vision-aligned projects will be simpler. "When any big project is discussed, it's an opportunity for leadership to reinforce vision and share how the project aligns.

People will rally and unify to be part of a movement that is progressing, accomplishing and achieving a common goal," he says.

Answer Why', Not What'

Keeping that in mind, Rodney James, director of business and finance with Oklahoma-based, Churches by Daniels advises that when communicating the already on-vision project, the focus should be on the "why" and not the "what". "Place the emphasis on the ministry purpose for the project.  The why' we need the building is much more important to communicate than what' we are going to build," he says.

First Steps in Sharing Big News

With foundational vision in place, the first step in sharing big news with the church body is communicating it to leadership. Dennis Richards, executive pastor of Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, Texas, recommends doing so in small, concentric groups.

"[We] start with our elder board, prayerfully considering the next steps, then go to senior leadership, then to our financial advisory team. Before a plan is unveiled, we have small-scale meetings with our membership where we share vision, costs and research.

After that we go to the church at large using all mediums available."

A chief advantage of Preston Trail's process is that it cements unity among leadership in graduated steps, which, according to James will make unity as a church all the more sure. "[Once] those leaders begin to line up with the vision, share with the congregation. When you do, the vision needs to be the vision of the pastor and leadership."

Lean On The Professionals

In addition to seeking alignment in small groups, it's important to seek professional support. Allow for time and privacy at this stage to vet and hire appropriate industry professionals for the project, because what they bring to the table is invaluable.

"Time should be spent with a partner who can help formalize a concept for the project. This is the most critical step," says James. "Engage a partner who will help you with critical due diligence steps and preliminary design. [This provides] accurate data and information for presenting to the congregation."

Scott Rolfs, managing director of Ziegler's Religion Finance group, adds the importance of financial guidance: "Always consult with an experienced church lender on the affordability of the project before presenting it to your congregation. Unfortunately, we’ve seen instances where leadership communicates a project, and perhaps even begins work with a fundraising consultant and architect, before gathering facts on whether the project is financially feasible."

Identifying professionals that will work to fulfill your vision (not their own) is key. Lauren Shaw, director of marketing with Birmingham-based LIVE Design Group expounds, "A clearly defined vision and a team of [professionals] who have listened and understand the church's unique DNA and needs is the ONLY way to get the dream accomplished. If gaining an understanding of your vision isn't a part of their processthat's a red flag."

Today'sTools for Communicating

With vision, unified leadership and reliable professionals in place, it's time to share with the congregation. Working with a professional partner ahead of a project's unveiling, not only equips you with data, real costs and timelines, but it should also garner you visual support.

"At the time you take the concept public make sure you have excellent visual aids to help communicate the vision and need," says Rolfs.

"Animated video is a tool which many church architects make available whereby a full motion walk through can be simulated. If a picture paints a thousand words, the animations I have seen would equate to millions!" shares Dan Mikes, executive vice president of Bank of the West's Religious Institution group.

According to Shaw, LIVE provides graphics, renderings and fly-through animations of the Building Information Model (BIM) for clients' use in signage, videos, collateral and websites.

Richards says that Preston Trail shares 3D architectural images, renderings and data from feasibility studies with its congregation using every available medium. "We share as a live announcement from the stage, or as part of a sermon series—-through print collateral, emails, in-person informational meetings, and social media—-everything!"

Incorporating vision and news about upcoming projects into a sermon series is a popular means of announcement and ongoing communication. Pastor Rick Lorimer of Christ's Place Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, a client of James', shared vision and a project through a weekly sermon series that included research and visual elements. That project is now under construction with congregational financial support.

Project Vision/Capital Campaign: Dual Role

Typically rolled out alongside the project vision, capital campaigns play a dual role, says Babbage: "In addition to raising funds and promoting generosity in a church body, a capital campaign presents an opportunity to re-establish mission and vision to the congregation, as well as the surrounding community."

As most churches have communications and marketing programs, it's relatively simple to add messaging about the capital campaign to existing efforts.

Richards shares this style of unveiling project vision when Preston Trail launched its campaign, One More Life.

First, collateral was produced and distributed along with standard communications. Then, leadership focused on organizing meetings for 20-30 people at a time where detailed information was shared and pledge requests were made. The third tier was the development of a devotional around the vision. One More Life, was very successful and over two years enabled the church to buy property and build on it.

Hiring a professional is this area is also beneficial, according to Mikes: "I can tell you from deep experience that hiring a [stewardship firm] will assure the best outcome in terms of vision casting, pledge totals and collection rates," says Mikes, "and [leadership] can interview them at no cost or obligation."

Lastly, Follow-up and Consistency

Whether a capital campaign is part of your project plan or not, once the excitement of the initial announcement has passed, it's easy to go silent. But, follow-up and consistency are paramount to success.

"The challenge is not communicating too early or too late, but updating regularly. If members capture the vision for a new project and get on board through prayer and/or financial support, they will want frequent updates to feel like they're a part of the team God is using to complete the project," says Babbage.


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