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According to our Weekly Pastor Poll, 40% of churches have reported a decline in giving since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
While we rely on generosity to balance the budget, it’s important to remember the generosity is also an important part of spiritual formation. Abraham was blessed to be a blessing, and that calling falls on the shoulders of all of us. We are a conduit of God’s blessing.
But unlike acts of service like volunteering or making a meal for someone in need, generosity often strikes a different tone and carries its own unique baggage. Which makes engaging our members in generosity an act that requires thought, tact, and intentionality.
Services will continue to look different, even as we start re-opening. So how are other churches engaging their members around generosity? Let’s take a look at the three great examples we found.
Remind your church that generosity is spiritual. The Village Church recites this Generosity Prayer at each of their services as a continual reminder that everything we have does not belong to us.
Holy Father, there is nothing we have that You have not given us.
All we have and all we are belong to You, bought with the blood of Jesus.
To spend selfishly and to give without sacrifice
is the way of the world,
but generosity is the way of those who call Christ their Lord.
So, help us to increase in generosity
until it can be said that there is no needy person among us.
Help us to be trustworthy with such a little thing as money
that You may trust us with true riches.
Above all, help us to be generous
because You, Father, are generous.
May we show what You are like to all the world.
Best Practice #1: Framing generosity as a vehicle for spiritual growth not only helps remove the baggage associated with generosity, but serves as a reminder that being generous doesn’t just help our community, but it also helps us.
The Special Olympics is a partner of Liquid Church, and their members provided both volunteer and financial support for a local event in New Jersey. Liquid Church shot a video of the Special Olympics video director saying “Thank You” for their generosity and sharing the effect it has had on the organization.
Sharing stories and outcomes is often more effective than just asking people to give.
Don’t just ask, inspire.
Best Practice #2: Transparency matters. When you share specific updates about how your member’s generosity isn’t just going to your church but through your church, you create a clear flow of finances that communicates a culture of transparency, which in turn builds trust.
Bobby Williams at the Ridge Church sent this email to the 29% of people that gave more than 4 times in the past year to tell them they are a part of the “29 club”. While the club doesn’t actually exist, it reminds members that regular givers are not the norm, their generosity is important, and their giving is a habit worth keeping.
Best Practice #3: As we talked about in our article on The 5 Money Shifts Every Church Should Make, the very first thing you should do if you want more people to engage in giving to your church is develop a robust strategy of care for your existing donors.
Regularly acknowledge and encourage your members who are faithfully giving. When a football player makes a touchdown, the crowd cheers him on. We all need to be cheered on from time to time, especially when we’re actively pushing against cultural norms and practicing spiritual disciplines.
A part of that strategy needs to include communicating fiscal responsibility, corporate generosity, and your church’s recurring giving.
On a recent webinar for our Rebound Course, we talked in depth about what these look like, why they matter, and how to implement them.
The strategy of communicating generosity, and the motivations behind generosity, continues to shift with time and with culture. That constant change will never go away, so be intentional about focusing on what is effective now, and not just what you’ve always done.
Whether you’re sending encouraging emails, creating opportunities to practice generosity, or sharing stories, keep generosity as a major narrative in your church to create a culture of generosity.
Raising financial support for your church will look different—really soon.
Let me explain.
In recent years, one significant shift has been taking place that will negatively influence your church:
People tend to be less engaged in local churches.
Study after study has revealed a general decline in worship attendance across the United States. Now, this trend may not be influencing your church today, but there’s one more thing you need to know.
When it comes to younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials), their view of participating in local churches differ from older generations in one big way: They tend to be less engaged.
What does this have to do with raising financial support?
Well, it’s a simple equation.
Fewer people attending your church means there will be fewer people available to donate.
Your church may already feel the impact of this change, or it may be years until you experience the full brunt of this shift. In either scenario, you need to start preparing for this change now.
In this post, I’m going to share with you three ways you can leverage what you already have to create multiple streams of income.
Does your church own property?
If so, you may be sitting on several streams of income.
Think about it.
Depending on the size of your property and how you use it, there are at least three ways you can leverage it to generate income. You may be able to lease your facility (or a part of it) for:
1. Business space
2. Coworking space
Do you have enough space in your church building to lease it to a business? This is what Mosaic Church does. Mosaic Church had enough unused space on their property to rent to a fitness club to the tune of $8,000 per month.
With the extra income they earn from this lease, Mosaic Church can cover the entirety of their monthly mortgage.
And although this wasn’t mentioned by their church leaders, I imagine this stream of income provides a tremendous amount of peace because they know their monthly mortgage is paid.
Your church may not have enough free space to spare several thousand square feet. But do you have unused office space or a wing of your building you can lease as offices? Can you convert some of your building into a workshop for a local artisan? Is your church building in an ideal location to provide space for a coffee shop or retail store? These few questions will help you to think through the possibilities.
On a similar note, your church may be able to tap into the growing popularity of coworking spaces. For example, Bethesda United Methodist Church runs Haw Creek Commons—a coworking space—out of their church facility.
For this to work, you can rent out a handful of offices or use an entire section of your church building to provide coworking space.
Finally, a third option you can consider is hosting events.
If you think about it, there’s a good chance your church building is ideal for hosting live or virtual events. From providing a stage to seating to a foyer, you can quickly adapt your facility into a perfect event location.
From concerts and theater to seminars and ceremonies, there are countless ways you can transform your facility into an ideal event venue for your community.
There’s one thing many Christians have in common:
They like to read books.
Christianity is a religion of the Word.
An essential tenet of our faith is that we believe God revealed himself through the Bible. This belief not only compels us to read the Bible. It also leads us to read books.
Despite the general decline of people purchasing books over the years, according to Forbes, the revenue of religious publishing companies increased by 14.7% in 2019.
So what’s the point?
There’s a good chance your church could benefit from starting a bookstore.
Before making a decision on this, here are five things to keep in mind:
3. Pace yourself
Is your church prepared to have a bookstore?
One of the most significant factors influencing the answer to this question is your weekly attendance. For example, if your church has an average weekly attendance of 75, then you may not have enough people present to make a bookstore a viable stream of income. However, if your church welcomes a few hundred people or more every week, then you may be able to sell enough books to produce a decent stream of income.
If you believe your church is prepared to provide a bookstore, then you’ll need to consider the store’s placement. For instance, you don’t want to place your bookstore in the janitor’s closet or away from the flow of people coming and going. Be sure to place your bookstore in view of people attending your worship services.
Pace yourself in launching your bookstore. Instead of purchasing thousands of dollars worth of products, consider purchasing a few hundred dollars worth of material. This way, if you run into a problem selling products, you will only incur a small financial setback.
How will you sell your books?
When you make your books available, be sure to have your payment information nailed down. There are many payment options you can provide: From using a Square Reader to providing a box people can drop cash or a check into, to asking people to make a payment via PayPal.
Finally, don’t forget to promote your bookstore.
Naturally, your preaching pastor will mention books during his or her sermon. If possible, identify what books or resources your pastor will highlight during their sermon or sermon series. This way, you can include those books in your bookstore.
If you’re just getting started, here’s a book table idea from All Souls in Seattle, WA:
Now, if you’re in a position to create a larger retail storefront, here’s an example from Crossings Community Church:
When it comes to your church’s finances, it’s a good idea to save money for a rainy day. If your church has faithfully saved money over the years, have you accumulated a decent nest egg?
Depending on your church’s financial situation, you can leverage your savings to create an additional stream of income. I’m not suggesting you invest in the stock market or pursue risky investments. Instead, consider placing a portion of your church’s savings or checking account money into interest-bearing accounts.
Several factors will influence this decision. Instead of giving you general advice here, I suggest you consult your church’s leadership and financial advisor to ensure your church is leveraging the money you have well.
No matter your situation, is important you and your church leadership think through options for expanding your streams of income. That way, your church will be better prepared to handle any ups and downs in giving that may occur now or in the future.
Leading your church to live and love like Jesus takes time.
You can’t press an “easy button.”
There’s no way to “update” your church like an app on your phone.
And teaching the Bible doesn’t work overnight.
Why bring this up?
Recently, many church leaders have asked us for advice on how to increase giving in their churches. From being behind on the church’s budget to desiring to raise more money for foreign missions, there are countless reasons why you, like them, would like to see your church’s giving increase.
Before addressing specifics, we encourage church leaders to take a step back. In other words, don’t focus on the tactics (fruit). Instead, focus on the heart (framework) of your church.
This isn’t some sort of Jedi mind trick or strategic move from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
But here’s the deal:
A new tactic in giving will only provide short-term results if you don’t cultivate the heart of your church. I’m not saying you shouldn’t implement new tactics until your church is ready. But it’s a good idea to have a two-pronged approach to increase giving in your church.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through steps you can take that will help cultivate a giving heart in your church.
These steps are:
We’ll also cover some practical ideas you can use.
Let’s dig in!
Living out the Christian faith doesn’t come natural—or easy.
When it comes to money, you can’t assume everyone in your church knows what to do. I’m not talking about making a deposit, donating money, or creating a budget. What I’m talking about is handling their money in a way that glorifies God and is good for them and others.
In short, you need to help your church know what God says about their finances.
From understanding what the Bible says about money and possessions to generosity and money management, you need to provide practical help for your church.
To do this well, there are four big categories you’ll need to address:
The first thing you need to help your church see is that how we handle our money is a reflection of our relationship with God. In other words, money is an issue of discipleship.
Issues of money are really issues of faith.
In the words of Jesus, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). What Jesus is saying here is that how you (or your church) handles money boils down to your heart. In other words, do you worship God with your wealth or worship your wealth? There’s a big difference between the two.
Practically speaking, as a church leader, you have to help your church see that money and faith are closely connected. As you encourage your church to give and manage their money well, you have to get to the root of the issue.
Budgets and plans are helpful, but they’re not the gospel. They can provide short-term results, but lasting change requires us to look at the heart of giving.
Boldly speak into what the world says about money and possessions. Like a skilled surgeon, you have to cut to the heart of the matter by addressing the lies the world promotes. While you’re making these incisions, you must replace the lies with truth from God’s word.
As your church grows in their relationship with Christ, their relationship with money and possessions will change too.
To help your church connect the dots between money and faith, you’ll need to teach them about biblical stewardship, which leads me to my next point.
The second thing you’ll need to consistently do is talk about stewardship.
As you talk about money, help your church to understand what God says about the topic, and the vision he has for them with their finances.
Here’s the deal:
Your money and possessions technically belong to God.
Whether or not we acknowledge this reality, God calls us to manage our finances in a way that brings him glory and is good for ourselves and others.
Not sure where to start?
Download this free guide: The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship.
But here’s one caveat:
There’s more to money than stewardship.
Stewardship focuses on how you handle your money with God. It’s a vertical relationship. However, God also talks an awful lot about giving and generosity, which influences our horizontal relationships. Said another way, show your church how giving is good for others, which leads us to the next point.
Giving itself is a third key component to getting to the heart of giving.
You’ll find countless verses in the Bible that command, challenge, and encourage you to live a generous life. Not only with your money. But with your time and possessions too.
I’m going to assume you agree with this point.
But here’s one thing I’d like to stress:
Giving is sacrificial.
This sounds obvious, but hear me out.
When you give money, you are giving away your money—literally.
Does God call you to give?
Does God ask you to steward your money?
He sure does.
But at the end of the day, you have to make a choice.
You have to decide how much you’ll give.
To make a donation, you will have to rearrange how you spend your money.
This is why giving is called a sacrifice.
Speaking of making sacrifices, most Christians desire to give. It’s a part of who they are. But many Christians can’t give or give as much as they’d like because they’re mismanaging their money.
As a church leader, the fourth thing you can do to encourage giving is is to provide your church members with practical money management resources.
Here’s the deal:
Likely many people in your church struggle with debt or money mismanagement.
This isn’t a judgment, just a statistical observation.
To encourage your church to give, help your church members break free from the bondage of debt and manage their money well. As your church experiences financial freedom, your church will be in a better position to give.
To do this, you don’t have to be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). From Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to Ron Blue’s God Owns It All, there are numerous resources you can provide your church.
As a church leader, you need to set a good example.
Not only is this true in the way you live and love like Jesus, it’s also true about the way you and your church handles money.
There are three ways you need to model a generous life for your church:
First, God is a giver.
He gives us the life we live, and he gave us the gift of his son—Jesus Christ.
As a Christian, we give because God gave.
Even though this line sounds like a quote fit for a coffee mug, it’s true. This point ties into teaching your church about stewardship and giving. But it’s also important to point out that God models generosity himself. Help your church to reflect his example.
Second, you’ll need to be generous.
I’m not saying you need to let everyone look at your bank account or watch you make a donation. What I’m saying is that you should lead your church members in giving to your church.
Like a general leading his troops into battle, be prepared to lead your church in the areas of money and possessions.
Side note: It’s okay to talk about what you give with your church. You don’t have to share the details. But let them know—when it’s appropriate—that you give, and make sacrifices too.
Finally, lead a generous church.
The way you do this is by encouraging your staff and church leadership to live a generous life and to ensure your church is generous with your church’s budget.
Regarding your church’s budget, make room to give to local missions, foreign missionaries, and members of your church who may need financial support.
Don’t be afraid to talk about how your church gives.
Your church members will appreciate the fact that you’re sharing with them how the money they give is being used, which leads us to the next point.
Creating a generous church culture is about way more than padding your church’s bank account. It’s primarily about helping your church handle their money in a way that honors God and is good for them and others.
As you preach about money and teach biblical stewardship, be prepared to walk alongside of your church members during this time. Whether it’s one-on-one or in a small group setting, lock arms with your people to help them reorient their life and money in a way that aligns with God’s word.
Here’s the deal:
It’s uncomfortable to talk about money.
No one—including myself—is really cool with opening up their ledger statement or online bank account to show you what they spend their money on.
Don’t expect the members of your church to jump right on board with living a generous life. There are a ton of different things people may have to work through, including:
You’ll be able to accomplish a lot by preaching about money and providing financial stewardship training. But you’ll be able to help people personally transform when you create a safe environment for individuals and families to talk about their struggles.
One last thing.
As a church leader, consider keeping an eye on your church’s giving patterns. If you or your staff observe changes, in particular, a decrease in giving, then treat this as a clue. There’s probably something going on in the life or heart of your church. This doesn’t mean you have to directly approach members about their giving. But it may be a good idea to be more observant of what’s going on in their lives.
At their core, your church members want to make a difference.
They’ve placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and they want others to hear the gospel and experience deliverance from sin, Satan, and death.
To create a giving church culture, one thing you’ll have to do is rally your church members around a common vision.
Here’s what you need to know:
People don’t want to support your administrative or staff costs per se.
What people want to do is support a cause they value.
Sure, your church members know that a part of their donations supports the church’s operational costs. But they also want to know that their giving is helping to further the mission of your church.
Practically speaking, lead people by casting a vision of what you can accomplish together. Help them to clearly see that their financial support allows your church to reach more people with the gospel, feed and clothe people in your community, support foreign missionaries, and extend the love of Jesus however your church is able.
Throughout the year, share stories of transformation.
These can relate to any of the following:
As you cast a vision for your church, remember to avoid abstract ideas. Snatch these thoughts from the skies, and give them life by practically showing your church how their giving makes a difference.
Since storytelling is so powerful, let’s talk a bit more about it.
Your church probably has some “doubting Thomases” sitting around.
You know, the people who can’t believe without seeing.
Don’t worry if you do.
There’s at least one in every crowd.
Sharing stories from the life of your church will not only appeal to the doubters. But telling stories is also a great way to capture the hearts of all church members.
Think about it.
Talking about your annual report by simply sharing accounting facts is enough to lull anyone asleep. Instead, demonstrate God’s work through your church by sharing stories of life transformation.
Here’s one more idea to add to the list above:
Share stories from generous people in your church.
A generous person doesn’t have to be the person who gives the most. Depending on the size of your church, I imagine there are plenty of people who give sacrificially, and I bet they have an amazing story to tell too.
Here are some ideas to consider sharing:
There’s not just one story you should or can share.
God is at work in the life of your church, and you probably have a few ideas in mind after reading these words.
As you communicate these stories, your church members will have an opportunity to hear from others about their experiences giving to the church.
Days, weeks, and months have passed.
You’ve taught your church about biblical stewardship.
The members of your church see how their money supports your mission.
They’re now ready to give.
Now, to help your church express their generosity, you have to make it easy for them to give.
Placing unnecessary hurdles in the way of people interested in giving may discourage them from making a donation. Practically speaking, you have to provide more than one way for people to give.
There’s nothing wrong with accepting cash and check donations, and it’s totally fine to pass around an offering plate or bucket during your worship service.
But do you know what’s not okay?
Not providing online or mobile giving options.
Here’s the deal:
Every year, more and more people give online.
Whether it’s with their smartphone, tablet, or computer, people are making donations online. Basically, many (perhaps most?) people in your church prefer to give online.
Make it easy for this group of people to give by providing them with digital options they prefer, and you’ll experience an increase in online giving.
Creating a generous church culture takes time.
If you rush this process, don’t be surprised if you break things—namely, your church members.
Treat this as a dance.
Take a step, and see how the members of your church respond. All of their responses will look different, and there will be times when you step on each other's toes.
In whatever you do, be sure to always point your church to Jesus Christ—the Giver who is the ultimate reason for our generosity.
Leading a church is challenging.
As a pastor, not only do you spend time counseling people, preparing sermons, and doing administrative work, but you’re also responsible for leading your church.
In this position, you’ll face a hard reality:
You need money to fuel your church’s mission.
There are times when you’ll need to run an extensive capital campaign for a building renovation or new facilities and there are many different times when you'll need to raise money to support a new ministry, provide funds for local or global missions, or cover a gap in your church’s budget.
If you need to raise funds for a specific cause, there are hundreds of fundraising ideas you can pursue. But there are four overlooked church fundraising ideas you can’t afford to miss.
Let’s take a look at some ideas right under your nose.
When you need to raise money, it’s easy to forget about reviewing your church’s finances and resources first. But before you raise one single dime, it’s best to take a close look at what you can use within your church to fuel the vision of your ministry.
Funding a ministry with your church’s resources, without external help or starting a capital campaign, is called “bootstrapping.” Said another way, to bootstrap your ministry is to find the financial resources you need from what you already have to work with.
There are several benefits to taking this approach:
When you bootstrap your ministry, you are not limited to any timetable. You don’t have to start an extensive campaign. You don’t need to wait for next year’s budget for funding. You can get started as soon as you scrap together whatever you need.
If you’re taking this approach, you’ll be forced to be resourceful. You’ll be in a position to bend (not break) the rules, adapt to your circumstances, and carefully manage your resources.
Speaking of managing your money, bootstrapping a ministry can lead you to be frugal. Without a reliable or ongoing source of income, you’ll be encouraged to count every penny and steward what you have wisely.
“My church’s finances are limited. Where can I find the money I need?”
This is a great question, and it really depends upon your church.
Review your church’s budget to see if you can transfer money from one line item or cut back expenses elsewhere to make room for what you need.
If you don’t uncover enough money during this step, then you can prayerfully consider providing the financial resources yourself or you can pool together what’s needed.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. That’s the whole point of bootstrapping—you kind of just make things up as you go along.
There’s not too much to know about crowdfunding.
In short, crowdfunding is when you raise money (usually online) from a crowd of people. This fundraising tactic has been around for years, but it was recently made popular by Kickstarter.
Now, when it comes to your church, crowdfunding provides several benefits. It:
1. Makes use of available technology
2. Leverages a crowd of people
3. Integrates with social media
After you have your fundraising goal in mind, with the availability of technology, you can create an account in minutes. However, I encourage you to take more time to first put together a solid plan.
With crowdfunding, you don’t have to invest money in new technology, and you don’t have to pay a huge fee to use the available services.
To run your crowdfunding campaign, you can use a service like Kickstarter. But keep this in mind: If you don’t meet your fundraising goal, then you will not receive any of the pledged money, which is a huge bummer.
Writing for Church Tech Today, Lauren Hunter shared these crowdfunding sites:
There are pros and cons to any tool you use.
Take time to explore the options to see what works best for you.
The other benefit of crowdfunding is that it leverages a crowd of people. Instead of relying upon a few people to provide most of the funding, you can tap into the generosity of many people by sharing your plan online, which is easy with crowdfunding campaigns.
Finally, one of the huge benefits of crowdfunding is how seamlessly it integrates with social media. You, your church, and family and friends can easily share your campaign on social media to create additional awareness.
Another way you can quickly raise money is by leveraging the social network of your church members. A tried and true approach to this strategy is what’s called “peer-to-peer fundraising.”
Examples of peer-to-peer fundraising include:
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a strategy used by countless nonprofit organizations, and it’s a method that accomplishes three big goals:
1. Inspires ownership
2. Leverages social networks
3. Creates friendly competition
Peer-to-peer fundraising events are a fun and easy way to inspire ownership among your church members. To do this, you’re not delegating responsibility. Instead, you’re encouraging church members to leverage their social network of family, friends, and people in the community to raise financial support.
Depending upon what peer-to-peer tactic you use, challenge your church members to collect pledges from their social network to support your cause. For example, if you host a walk-a-thon, you can:
This is just one straightforward way to organize such an event.
The last benefit of peer-to-peer fundraising is creating friendly competition. To do this, you can challenge individuals or teams to compete against each other or provide prizes for whoever raises the most money or whoever collects the most pledges.
I’m not a big fan of chores.
Sure, I love to have a clean house and a tidy yard.
But there are plenty of times when I’d love for someone else to help do the work.
Know what else?
This is also true for people in your church and community.
To tap into this need, consider organizing a chores for charity (or chores for church) fundraising event.
Here’s how it works:
1. Ask people in your church to volunteer
2. Clarify the chores you can offer
3. Determine the monetary value per chore
After you ask for men, women, and children to volunteer, you’ll need to clarify the chores you can offer. From technical work to mundane household chores, make a list of what chores you can do.
Here’s a list of ideas to get you started:
After you make a list of the chores, you’ll need to assign a minimum dollar amount to every task. People are more than welcome to donate more money if they would like. But it’s best to have a minimum amount they should give.
Do you know what I love about these fundraising ideas?
They don’t require a massive investment of time or money to get going.
After you know how much money you need to raise, you can get started with one of these ideas as soon as you’re ready to launch.
Choose one of these overlooked fundraising ideas above to raise the money you need to fulfill the mission of your church.
Your church needs money.
This isn’t a bad thing.
It’s just the reality every church faces.
Think about it:
That’s not all.
At some point in the life of your church, there may be a time when you’ll need to raise a significant amount of money above and beyond your church’s annual budget.
To do this, you’ll need to organize a capital campaign.
I’ll be honest:
Running a capital campaign is no joke. They take a ton of time to put together.
They can take 1 to 3 years (after launch) to complete depending upon your goal. And you’ll face many challenges to see them through to the end.
Here’s the deal: Don’t take capital campaigns lightly.
If you’re not scared of running a capital campaign, then read on. I want to walk you through the steps you’ll need to take to prepare your church.
In this post, I’m going to cover:
Alright, let’s get started!
Here’s the truth about capital campaigns:
There’s no easy button.
Take a moment to let that really sink in.
Getting excited about your vision is easy. You can clearly see where the Lord is leading your church. You’ve experienced a number of people committing their lives to Jesus. Your church has ushered in numerous new members. You’ve been able to provide life-giving support to your community.
As the leader of your church, you can see …
As you dwell upon the Lord’s goodness, it’s easy to get excited.
But hang tight.
Being pumped to start a capital campaign will give your church a boost. But your church will need gospel-grit to see the capital campaign through.
I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but let me wave some smelling salts beneath your nose to wake you up to the reality of what you should expect.
Do you need to raise $250,000?
Is your church making plans to raise $3 million?
Regardless of the amount of money you want to raise, there will be a ton of things you, your staff, and your church will need to do—and it will probably be more work than you originally anticipated
For example, if you’re constructing a new building or renovating your current facilities, here’s a list of what to expect:
Within each of these categories exists a tremendous amount of details, which will require a huge amount of time to complete.
I don’t want to bore you with the details now. But you get the gist.
Starting a capital campaign takes an enormous amount of time.
In general, capital campaigns usually take 1 to 3 years to complete.
Know what else?
This amount of time doesn’t include getting ready to launch, which can take months or longer depending on the size and scope of your campaign.
It’s easy to gloss over this timeframe, but it can take hundreds (maybe more) of hours to prepare and launch your capital campaign. For example, will you need your church to help to renovate your facilities or to prepare a new building? If so, know that this type of work requires many hands chipping in to help out.
It’s easy for your capital campaign to cost more than you expect.
Even if you have a team of experts and well-planned estimates, hidden costs can easily creep into your plans. For instance, church leaders often overlook costs associated with hiring expert support, creating the marketing materials you need, and inflation, if you’re running a campaign that will take a few years.
What’s more, if the duration of your capital campaign lasts more than one year, something unexpected is bound to come up. That’s just the nature of life and ministry.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
This quote, often attributed to Mike Tyson, rings true for capital campaigns too.
Below, we’re going to walk through the steps you’ll need to take to prepare your church for a capital campaign.
But here’s what you need to know about your well-crafted plan:
It will change.
Your plans will get punched in the face by something.
From delays in construction to layoffs in your community, there are a variety of factors—both big and small—that will influence the duration of your capital campaign.
What’s the moral of the story?
Create a plan, but be prepared to make a pivot.
Alright, with these landmines uncovered, let’s jump into getting your church ready for a capital campaign.
Are you ready to get started?
We need to have a long talk before you rally your church. There’s a tremendous amount of time, work, and prayer involved before your entire church should even hear one word about your fundraising goals.
This isn’t a smokescreen I’m blowing, either.
Your capital campaign will not be successful just because you need to raise money. You have to prepare yourself, your church, and get the timing right before you can go public with your plans.
To prepare your church, here are five steps you’ll need to take:
1. Know your “why”
2. Build a team
3. Complete a feasibility study
4. Set your fundraising goal
5. Plan your capital campaign
Alright, now you can get started.
Before you take a step, you need to know where you’re going—at least in general.
This is definitely the case with capital campaigns.
Before making a plan, building a team, or getting anyone excited, you’ll need to know why your church should run a capital campaign.
You’ll have to identify a need or capture a vision for future expansion.
Your “why” can be a number of things, including:
There are many more things you can include in your capital campaign, but these big categories are common reasons why churches launch capital campaigns. In other words, there are many secondary and tertiary goals you can include, but you’ll need to identify one overarching reason why your church needs a capital campaign.
At this point, you don’t need to know all of the details.
As a church leader, you just need to know why.
The “why” behind starting a capital campaign will serve as the fuel you need to keep running. Holding onto this inspiration will propel you to keep pushing on after months and possibly years of hard work.
After you’ve identified your “why,” it’s time to start building a team.
Pastor, I need you to hear this:
Organizing a capital campaign isn't something you should do alone.
Practically speaking, the work involved is too much for one man or woman to handle. To successfully fund your campaign, you’ll need to build a team around you.
Before you pad your roster, it’s best to have representatives from three groups.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s label these groups:
Starting with your church, it’s ideal to have a portion of your capital campaign team comprised of members from your church. When referring to church members, I’m not talking about your church’s leadership—e.g., deacons, elders, board. What I’m referring to are church members who do not hold an official leadership position.
By inviting church members to join your team, you’re opening up ownership of your capital campaign. Creating ownership of this project will be a boost to morale, and it also lets your church know that the capital campaign wasn’t devised in secret meetings behind closed doors. It’s open to the public and for everyone to participate in!
As for your staff, yes, it’s a good idea to ensure your accountant or treasurer is included. Having the overseer of your church’s finances on hand is essential to making sure you’re keeping a close eye on the financial aspects of the campaign.
What’ s more, if you lead a larger staff, consider inviting a few additional staff members to join the team. For larger staffs, including other staff members will create a similar benefit to your church members—it creates a sense of ownership and participation.
The next group of people you want to invite into your capital committee is from your church’s leadership. For your church, this can be deacons, elders, or a board—whoever your church has commissioned to serve as leaders.
From this group, you don't have to invite everyone to participate. This is a common mistake you want to avoid.
Depending on the size of your church’s leadership, aim to have 1/3 of your capital committee represented by your leadership.
Also, if you’re raising money for a specific ministry, don’t forget to ensure that representatives from this ministry have a place at the table. Again, this is about creating participation and ownership of the capital campaign, which will build momentum as you move along.
Finally, one group I didn’t mention is expert counsel.
As you’ll see below, you’ll need to tap into special skill sets and experiences to run a successful capital campaign. If your church doesn't possess the skill set you need or you just want to tap into the seasoned experience of someone else, consider paying an expert to help you plan or review your work.
Hiring an expert will cost you money. But think of this as an investment—not an expense.
There’s one last thing we need to talk about concerning your team:
Build a team of specialists and generalists.
As you’re building your team, you’ll naturally invite people who are not knowledgeable about running a capital campaign, and this is okay. If you build your team correctly, you’ll have representatives who have experience with this sort of thing, and you’ll have members who don’t.
When you’re identifying who should participate in your capital committee, you want to make sure that you have members who are knowledgeable.
Men or women who have experience raising money, working through permits and government regulations, or leading construction or renovation projects will be a tremendous blessing.
Having someone with experience in finance, raising money, and project experience with the work you’re pursuing will make all of the difference in the world.
You’re ready to pursue a new expansion or renovate your facilities. But is your church prepared to make such a move? This is where a feasibility study comes into play.
Before diving into the details, let’s answer one important question:
“What’s a feasibility study?”
In short, a feasibility study is an assessment you make to see whether your project (capital campaign) can be successful. During this time, you’ll need to figure out if the timing is right, if your fundraising goal is realistic, and if your church is willing to get behind your campaign.
Before starting your feasibility study, keep this one thing in mind:
The scope of this study depends upon the extent of your capital campaign.
For instance, if you want to launch a capital campaign that’s small in comparison to your annual giving, then you may not have to spend a ton of time on this step. However, if you want to prepare your church for a multi-million dollar campaign that will last a few years, this step may take more time to see if your church is willing to follow your lead.
There are many factors you’ll need to consider, and it’s best to work with someone experienced to make sure you accumulate relevant information. But here’s a list of questions for you to consider:
One last thing:
With your feasibility study, be diligent to interview a variety of church members.
From early adopters to someone who may never support your campaign, interview a diverse percentage of your church members to get a feel for how well your campaign will be supported.
You know what you need to raise money for.
You have a team in place.
You’ve checked the pulse of your church to see if your campaign can succeed.
Now it’s time to set your fundraising goal.
In general, there are three things you need to do:
1. Identify your fundraising goals
2. Uncover hidden costs
3. Create suggested donations
When you identify your fundraising goals, you’ll need to clarify the one big purpose—“why” you’re raising funds. With this goal, work with your team to identify everything you need to do to accomplish your mission. It’s essential to determine everything you can—even items of smaller monetary value (you’ll be surprised at how quickly things can add up).
What is more, clarify any secondary goals you have. From funding local and global missions to launching a new ministry, take the time to add up every expense associated with the goals you want to accomplish.
To uncover hidden costs, there are three big things you’ll need to consider:
To run your capital campaign, you’ll have a variety of marketing costs. At a minimum, you’ll need to account for creating, designing, and printing promotional material. For more massive campaigns, these costs can add up quickly. Also, be sure to include expenses associated with events and contract workers.
Regarding inflation, this isn’t something you need to worry about if your capital campaign is only one-year long. However, for campaigns that will take 2 to 3 years, you’ll need to consider how much inflation will influence your fundraising goals.
Finally, based on the growth of your church, do you anticipate adding new church members, staying the same, or possibly losing a few members? Before launching your campaign, take the time to clean up your church’s membership roll and take into consideration attrition to make sure you know how many members you have now and likely will have in the near future, which leads us to my next point.
For your capital campaign, it’s a good idea to create suggested donations. In other words, provide your church members with recommended amounts they can give on a monthly basis during your capital campaign.
Providing suggestions is one powerful way to raise more money. When studying the influence of suggested donations, one study discovered an increase in contributions of 12 percent. Another study found that setting high suggested donations can increase the amount of money donated, whereas small suggested donations may increase the number of people who donate.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to suggested donations. Many factors will determine what will work best for you. Work with your team to identify the best practice for suggested donations within your capital campaign.
After you set your fundraising goal, it’s now time for you and your team to plan your capital campaign.
For your plan, there are three big items you need to plan:
For your work timeline, think about when you need to start your project and how long it will take. As for your project, it can be new construction, renovations, or launching a new ministry. Regardless of your goal, make it measurable, with a precise start date, significant milestones, and an end date.
As I mentioned above, if you’re running an extensive campaign over a few years with a lot of moving parts and items outside of your control, hold onto your milestones and end date loosely. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to hit these dates, but I’m suggesting that they can be delayed for a variety of reasons. So be prepared for these moments and pivot accordingly.
When you create your marketing timeline, you need to clarify the following:
The launch date of your capital campaign is crucial. If you get the timing wrong, then you can cause your entire campaign to fail from the beginning.
According to the fundraising experts at Generis, it’s best to launch your capital campaign in the fall or the spring. However, there are caveats to this suggestion. For example, in the fall, you want to launch your campaign a few weeks after families get settled down with their kids starting school but before Thanksgiving.
As for the spring, you need to be aware of the weather in your area as well as Easter. If your church’s attendance drops during the winter months, then you’ll want to launch your campaign when your attendance normalizes. However, it’s best to launch your campaign before your church’s Easter promotion begins.
Finally, you’ll need to plan for ongoing promotions.
During your launch, you’ll need to share about your capital campaign over and over again. After your initial launch, you’ll need to provide ongoing awareness, and for multi-year campaigns, you’ll also need to plan for different concentrated promotions.
We covered a lot of ground in this post.
To review, here are the five steps you need to take to prepare your church for a capital campaign:
1. Know your “why”
2. Build a team
3. Complete a feasibility study
4. Set your fundraising goal
5. Plan your capital campaign
You need to take these steps one after the other. Start with knowing your “why,” and don’t leap forward three steps, and then take one step back. If you do, then you’ll set up your capital campaign for failure from the beginning.
If you’re still wondering whether you should move forward, I’d encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer and to receive counsel from trusted friends. Getting input from God and others is the best way to start anything new—especially a potential capital campaign.
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Your church budget can be a tremendous source of stress.
Some churches will meet and exceed their budgets this year. But there are far more churches (maybe yours?) who will “just get by” or who won’t reach their church budget this year.
If your church is behind budget, don’t lose hope.
There are many practical things you can do to get your church’s budget back on track.
Below, I’m going to walk you through seven steps:
These tips will not resolve your church’s financial situation overnight. But they will help you to move in the right direction.
So let’s get started!
Here’s the first step you need to take:
When your church is behind on budget, it can cause a strong response of fear, anxiety, and stress, which is natural to expect. But before you make any quick decisions, sit down, relax, and take a deep breath. The best thing you can do at first is to get control of yourself.
Let’s be honest:
Getting control in a state of fear isn’t easy.
You see the numbers.
You know your church's bills don’t go away.
And you notice there is a lack of donations to cover your expenses.
All of this is a recipe for a stressful situation.
But here’s what you need to know:
Making big financial decisions while carrying significant stress can lead to bad decisions.
According to research on decision making, when you’re under stress, your ability to make clear and informed decisions is strained. In stressful situations, it’s natural to focus on yourself and your problems, which only makes things worse.
When you’re behind in your budget, there’s a good chance you’ll have to cut expenses, rearrange budget items, and, depending on the severity of your church’s finances, you may have to cut some of your staff.
These types of decisions are difficult to make, and they’re even more challenging when you try to make them alone or by your “gut instinct.”
Instead of reacting, it’s best to respond to your church’s financial situation.
Pause for a moment, and read that last sentence again.
It’s the foundation for the rest of what follows.
Ready to respond to your situation and fix your church’s budget?
Then you’re ready to take the next step.
Stress can lead you to obsess over your church’s finances.
Like the images of a movie with a lousy ending replaying in your head, stress can cause you to replay the worst-case scenarios over and over again.
Unfortunately, when this happens, you’re only reinforcing your negative emotions, which only intensifies how they feel. In other words, you’re making your stress worse. It’s like pouring gasoline on an out of control fire.
Here’s the deal:
You need to get grounded.
You need to confront the stress you’re feeling head on—instead of hiding from it. If you avoid dealing with your anxiety, then you won’t be in an ideal spot to lead your church well.
I’m not saying you have to be completely free from fear, anxiety, and stress. But I am encouraging you to walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7) by being transparent with your church’s leadership, your family, and friends.
To help you along the way, here are some ways you can battle stress in your life:
The first step to solving any problem is to acknowledge there's a problem.
If you’ve succumbed to stress in your life, don’t feel alone or ashamed.
Based on a poll by Gallup, eight in 10 Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently throughout the day. In your church and community, there’s a large percentage of people who are battling stress to some degree.
Remember, in Christ, you are the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).
In him, you are forgiven by faith—not based on how well you handled your church’s finances. But based upon what Jesus has done for you.
Identify your problem.
Share what you’re feeling.
And receive God’s grace to empower you to move on.
Any stressful situation is a reminder of how much we need to trust in Jesus.
As a church leader, you cannot fulfill your calling without Jesus’ help. When you’re feeling stress over your church’s finances, his call to trust in him becomes louder and more prevalent (John 14:1).
He is your rock.
He is your source of strength.
And he is your deliverer.
Regardless of your church’s finances, trust in Jesus.
Are you having a hard time trusting Jesus?
Not sure if the Lord will help you?
To combat unbelief, you have to fight for belief.
To do this, you have to read the Bible.
I’m not saying you must spend hours on end reading the Bible every day. But I am saying it’s a good idea to meditate on God’s promises daily.
In short, reading the Bible leads to believing the Bible.
Here are some verses I’ve meditated on during stressful seasons:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Your church’s finances are also your church’s problem.
You don’t have to handle them alone.
If you feel overwhelmed, you’re probably trying to carry this burden by yourself—not with the help of your church.
As a pastor, the “buck” does stop with you. But having responsibility for something doesn’t mean you’re the only one who has to handle the problem or the only source of a solution.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Share what’s going on with your church’s leadership.
Let your church know about the situation.
Not sure what to share with your church’s leadership or family?
Take the time to work through the next step to clarify your problem.
One essential rule for firearm safety is to identify your target.
Before firing your weapon, you need to know exactly what you’re shooting. The same holds true for tackling your church’s financial situation. You need to clarify the problem you have to solve.
When you fall behind on your church’s budget, you need to know what’s causing the problem.
Here are some questions you can ask:
These questions will help you to start thinking through your church’s financial situation.
During this process, prioritize 3–5 problems to solve. There’s a chance you’ll uncover more problems. Instead of tackling everything at once, just address a few things at first.
Now that you have a better idea about your situation, you’re ready to start solving problems.
Alright, so your church’s budget is behind, and you've identified some problems.
But how can you confirm these are real problems?
The best way to know if your church’s finances are out of alignment is to compare them to a church’s budget that’s in alignment. Let me explain.
When creating a budget for your church, you don’t have to create it from scratch.
There have been millions of church budgets created throughout history, and there is a ton of helpful advice you can glean from what others have done. By observing how churches have managed their money, you can compare your numbers to healthy benchmarks—the best practices for managing your money.
In putting together these numbers, AG Financial Solutions identified three crucial elements of your church’s budget:
As you review your church’s budget, compare your expenses to these benchmarks to see how well they align with these standards.
In your budget, do your expenses for personnel, facilities, and office costs fall within these ranges? Or do your costs exceed these benchmarks?
If your expenses exceed these benchmarks, then your church’s finances are slowly bleeding out, which will lead your church to experience financial difficulties. If your church’s budget falls within these parameters, then you’re doing a good job managing your church’s money.
As you address your short-term problems, also keep an eye on your church’s budget to see whether or not you need to make adjustments to get back into alignment.
Now that you have an idea of what’s going on, and how you can resolve your problem, it’s time to get your church behind you.
There’s one thing people don’t donate money toward:
Before you talk about the church’s financial situation with your congregation, be prepared to talk about more than just your budget.
A small percentage of people in your church will empathize with the problem and will give toward offsetting the costs. But not everyone in your church will be motivated to pay for office expenses or just meeting your church’s budget.
Here’s what you need to know:
People give toward your mission—not your budget.
Let me explain..
As you talk about your church’s finances, frame what you say around the mission of your church. Help people to see the kingdom work their financial contributions support.
Sure, you need help to pay the bills or fill gaps in your budget. But your church—and people in general—will not get excited about contributing to your electric bill, office supplies, or a hole in your roof.
Think about it this way:
The money in your budget for personnel, facilities, and office expenses is for supporting the mission of the church. This is why casting a vision is so powerful in helping your church connect the dots between their donations and your church’s mission.
To connect your vision to the minds and hearts of your church, here are five practical tips you can use:
Leveraging these tips will help you to share a compelling vision with your congregation.
Are you and your church leadership at your wits’ end?
Not sure what to do next or how to align your church’s budget?
If this is you, you’re not alone.
Here’s the funny thing about problems:
Often, you need the help from someone on the outside—someone who can assess your situation and help you to chart a new course moving forward.
In the words of Albert Einstein:
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Here’s how an outside eye can help with “different” kind of thinking.
If your church has fallen behind in its budget, then it didn’t happen overnight.
To get to where you’re at today, there are a series of issues that could have happened, such as:
When you’re in the middle of a situation that has been a gradual decline, it’s difficult to see the problem for yourself. You’re simply too close to the case to objectively see what’s going on—and that's okay. It's a part of life.
When you invite someone from the outside to help, you are giving them an opportunity to lift the hood to your car, examine your situation, and provide a new perspective—one that’s not tainted by any biases.
There will be times when you exhaust all of your ideas.
Don’t lose hope in these moments.
Remember, you’re not alone.
You can get a different insight into your situation by seeking the counsel of multiple advisors.
But don’t take my word for it.
Here are several passages from the Bible confirming the importance of counsel:
“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.”
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion … A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Getting outside help sounds nice and all, but you’re probably thinking:
Doesn’t it cost money to hire a consultant?
I thought we should save money and cut expenses, right?
You might have a friend who’s an expert in church finances and is willing to help you get things back on track. But if that’s not your situation, then, yes, plan on forking over some dough for help.
I know this sounds counterintuitive.
But hear me out.
Getting help from an expert should be treated as an investment in your church.
Finding the right support can provide you with a ton of benefits, including:
Think about the last point for a moment.
What if paying an expert saved you months of struggling to get your church’s finances in order?
By paying someone to help you resolve your situation, you’re actually saving your church a ton of money by getting things in order sooner—not later.
Convinced you need outside support, but don’t have the cash to pay an expert?
If you’re having a difficult time coming up with the funds, here are four ideas to consider:
If the first three option aren’t viable, I bet your church can identify a tangible solution by praying together and thinking through your situation.
In the life of your church, you’ll start and stop new ministries.
This is just life.
What works well today in making disciples, leading people to Christ, or serving your community will not always be as effective.
During a financial downturn, it’s tempting to start pumping the brakes on everything or slaying sacred cows. But now’s not the time to let everything fizzle out.
There are three options you need to consider:
Before you pull a church ministry off of life-support, see if you can adapt the ministry. In other words, can you adapt the ministry’s budget, reallocate funds, or cut back on some activity—not all—to keep the ministry alive?
If you’ve assessed the ministry and decided there’s no way to maintain it—even at reduced capacity—then it might be time to stop the ministry.
You may have a good financial reason to stop a ministry in your church, but you still need to move forward with care. Most people don’t like change, and many people may be fond of the ministry you’re about to stop.
If you decide to stop a ministry, here’s a 3-step process you can use to handle the situation with care: How to Stop Doing a Ministry.
This might sound crazy, but a financial downturn may be an ideal time to start a new ministry.
You see, when your church is strapped for cash, you’ll be forced to think of creative ways to meet the needs of people, reach out to your community, and make disciples. In the business world, this is what’s called guerrilla marketing—promotion with little to no money.
To help you start a new ministry from scratch, here’s a step-by-step plan you can follow to building a new ministry.
So there you have it.
The seven steps to getting your church’s budget back on track when you’re behind:
Remember, to get your church’s budget in order, first start with yourself. I know this might sound trite and what you don’t want to hear, but treat this situation as an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus and further the mission of your church.
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