Don’t assume you have the same level of buy-in outside of your leadership team that you do inside. Instead, build concentric circles of support.
Building a new church facility or adding to an existing one isn't an inexpensive endeavor. With costs easily running into the millions for a new building, church leaders preparing to embark on that journey will need to consider launching a capital campaign to fund the project.
What is a capital campaign?
According to DonorSearch.net a capital campaign is, "a targeted fundraising effort that takes place over a defined period of time." Churches typically use capital campaigns to raise funds for building renovations, new facilities, and other large projects.
Launching a capital campaign means you're likely about to ask your congregation for a significant sum of money. That's not something to go into lightly or without a substantial amount of time devoted to prayer and careful planning.
After speaking with a capital campaign consultant and church leaders who've recently completed successful campaigns, I've compiled a list of several key recommendations you will want to consider before starting a your own campaign:
#1 THE SENIOR PASTOR MUST LEAD IN CASTING VISION
The Senior Pastor is the person the congregation hears from most often and the one they expect to lead any significant church initiative.
Carol Wyatt, facilities & communications director at St. John Church, states, "Our Senior Pastor led the charge in rolling out the campaign to our church. He first introduced it to the leadership team. After that, our pastor introduced it to the staff, Board of Directors, Board of Elders and their spouses at an off-site session.
The Pastor also hosted key stakeholder meetings (small gatherings at his home). He asked those individuals to be in prayer, but didn’t ask for a monetary commitment at that time. We felt it was vital to have our Senior Pastor casting the vision and even made sure as we wrote copy for the website that it sounded like him."
Jim Sheppard, principal at Generis, echoed the importance of having the senior pastor lead this type of effort. Sheppard explains, "Pastoral leadership in these campaigns is non-negotiable. Your pastor will need to lead the charge during services, at private gatherings, and other forums. He’ll need to devote time and energy to the effort."
#2 DISCUSS THE CAMPAIGN WITH SMALLER GROUPS FIRST
Before rolling out a campaign to the congregation, take the time to discuss it with the church's Board of Directors, Elders, and other leaders. When you discuss the potential campaign with these smaller groups, you're likely to gather wise counsel and ideas on how to improve the overall campaign.
Sheppard cautions, "Make sure you’re confident that the project you’re about to undertake is one the congregation will trust is necessary. There’s a danger of groupthink among leadership, without realizing what the congregation may think about the project. Don’t assume you have the same level of buy-in outside of your leadership team that you do inside. Instead, build concentric circles of support.
Hold informal discussions with small groups of staff members and volunteer leaders/key influencers and ask, “What are we missing here?" Ask what excites them about the project and if any aspect of it is unclear. Also, before you decide on the project, take time to assess your true financial capacity. Create margin (from a financial and time perspective) to focus on the project."
#3 TELL THE STORY
People will give to fund something they believe in and that they are confident will make a difference. However, they're not going to immediately see how an add-on to the children's area, for example, will have a lasting impact. Church leadership must take on the responsibility for telling the story of who will be impacted and how this will look once the project is complete. Your congregation may also need to know how those same people would be negatively impacted if the project doesn't happen.
Jim Sheppard mentions, "The first thing you must do before launching a capital campaign is develop a robust argument for what you’re doing.
Make sure you have a compelling story for why your church needs to do this new project.
You also need to make sure you can communicate a sense of urgency. In other words, why do we need to do this project now? If you miss either of those, it will cost you in terms of support."
One example Sheppard cites is: "Growing churches must provide a robust kids ministry. When you launch a campaign to improve your children’s ministry areas, tell your congregation about how those areas are currently being used. Parents may not realize what’s going on behind the scenes (overcrowded classrooms, etc.). Communicate why you need to expand/change the children’s ministry areas and why this project is necessary now."
In the case of Saint Mark Baptist Church's Dream Big campaign, they clearly laid out their story and reasons why a new Children & Youth Center was necessary. Per the church website, "Our ministry has impacted thousands of youth in our community by providing a myriad of programs geared toward biblical training and social development. Our new Children and Youth Center will allow us to reach more children who are losing hope and being left behind."
In addition to this post, the church cited statistics and information about the need in their community for this type of facility and the programs that would be run from the building.
#4 USE A VARIETY OF COMMUNICATION METHODS
We all have our preferred ways of receiving information. Some want to see details and statistics on paper. Others want to see what the new building will look like. Leverage a variety of tools to cast vision and generate awareness of your campaign.
At Carol Wyatt's church, their pastor did a message series for 5-6 weeks. They also sent videos out via email, posted them on social media, and played them during services.
Sheppard brings up a crucial point. The need to communicate the same message differently in order to effectively reach each generation represented in your congregation.
"The more you’re a multigenerational church, the more you’ll need to use various types of media and communication methods. Do them all and do them all well. Use Facebook Live and have your pastor talk about the giving initiative. Emphasize what your pastor discussed in his message on Sunday via video and text on social media. Post those videos and that information on the church website. Use email campaigns - make your emails interesting, draw the reader in, and embed videos into the emails. People want to see and hear from their pastor."
Jason Ray, pastor of operations at Saint Mark Baptist Church, mentioned how they used various communication methods for their Dream Big campaign. "To rollout the campaign, Ray and his church used a variety of methods to communicate the vision to their congregation.
- Our pastor discussing it from the pulpit
- Videos of children taking about why they needed the center
- 3D models of what the new center would look like when completed
- A dedicated page on the church website
- Print media
Video content can be tricky.
Jason Ray shares which of their videos had the greatest impact on their campaign efforts. "The video in which we shared facts about the project was one of the most successful tools of the campaign. People want to know facts and numbers," tells Ray. "Another helpful video focused on the ministry and community building aspect of the center, so that people would understand its intended use spread well beyond Sunday mornings."
Launching a capital campaign is only the start of a project which will run for many months, if not years. It's imperative to invest the time - before starting the campaign - to consider these campaign strategies and decide how best to roll out your vision for your congregation