‘It was different because it was better’
It takes more than a tithing sermon from Malachi 3:10 to create an effective annual stewardship campaign in your church.
The question is, if you’re going to do more – if you’re going to approach your annual giving emphasis like a real campaign – can you do it by yourself?
Let’s assume your goal is to do more than prod your members to meet a budget. You want to teach stewardship and lead them to grow in the spiritual discipline of generosity.
That requires more than a single sermon and an all church mailing of pledge cards.
An effective effort requires a major time commitment to plan calendar, enlist volunteers, establish committees, design materials, produce mailings, conduct meetings and prepare appropriate sermons. And, the pastor and staff are expected to do all of this while keeping all their other ministry plates spinning.
Is it wise to engage the help of a professional consultant if you want your annual stewardship effort to be more than, well, more than an annual stewardship effort?
Two pastors of churches that recently conducted highly successful annual stewardship campaigns utilizing a resource development consultant confessed that they could not do it all.
Davis Chappell, pastor of the 8,000-member Brentwood United Methodist Church near Nashville, TN realized he had “so many wheels turning” in his second year at the megachurch that “I really needed someone I could count on who could help us.”
“As a pastor, you say you can do that in addition to your other duties, but you cut corners,” Chappell said. “The more you have someone who can take some of that off you the more successful you’re going to be.”
Chappell led the church’s annual giving campaign the previous year himself and saw growth. “We could do it ourselves,” he said. “But we’re stronger when we have a consultant who comes in to help.”
Bruce Cochran, pastor of 250-member First Baptist Church of Seymour, IN says the professional help they received increased their effectiveness, developed leaders, freed them for regular pastoral duties and resulted in significant financial gains to support church ministries.
Cochran said the difference in conducting their campaign internally as they have done, or in using a consultant “was polish, professionalism, efficiency and comprehensiveness.”
“It was different because it was better,” Cochran said. “It was communicated better, participation was better, and it was not just the pastor standing up and saying we should do this.”
First Baptist’s priority was to return to the place where it could again devote 20 percent of its income to missions – an historical standard the church had to back away from during the recession. Results were so positive the church is again giving to missions at that generous level.
The Brentwood church also gives missions high priority and dovetailed one of its satellite churches into its annual campaign effort with professional help.
Chappell said his church did not emphasize a financial goal or the need to fund a budget. “We pointed out that the stronger our generosity the deeper our outreach,” Chappell said.
The result was a growth in commitments of “roughly 340” new giving units and an $800,000 increase in committed gifts. “That is “really significant” for us, he said.
The satellite church, which was conducting its campaign at the same time, saw an increase of 65 percent – or $100,000 – which was “enormous.”
Chappell encourages pastors to address stewardship as a spiritual discipline. Besides, he said, “everybody’s talking about money” and the conversation is better directed from the pulpit than in the parking lot.
“The only thing worse than a church that always talks about money is one that never talks about money,” he said. “I’ve never known a person who accidently tithed. Discipleship is not an accident, it’s an intention.”
What about a capital campaign?
Although churches are more likely to go it alone in an annual stewardship event, what about a capital campaign for a big project? Such a campaign typically raises significant funds from members over a three-year period to accomplish something very significant that annual budgeting simply cannot do.
Look, no consultant brings money with him or her. All the money committed during a campaign will come from the members themselves, who catch the vision God is casting for their church. “We can do it ourselves,” members may say. “We are a generous church and hiring a consultant shows a lack of faith in our people.”
Consider a couple of responses to that.
First, wisdom and experience matters, and those who provide it come with a cost.
Second, no matter which member is assigned the task of coordinating a capital campaign, responsibility ultimately falls to the pastor. Always. Now consider all of the tasks that already consume your pastor. Do you fully appreciate the hours spent in ministry, sermon prep, administration, counseling, mentoring staff, community involvement, visitation, prayer and teaching? Do you want to add another plate to those he is spinning? Another straw to the burden?
Third, although I don’t have statistics, anecdotal evidence is rampant that a pastor spends all of his or her political chips when leading a campaign. The necessity to cajole volunteers and to hold them accountable, to plan, set up and conduct meetings, to train committees, monitor budgets and materials, combined with the ongoing additional work with architects and builders simply is overwhelming. When the campaign is done, they are burned out and used up, with no political capital remaining. Too often their last official act as pastor is to lead the building’s dedication.
Help in choosing a consultant
The idea of choosing counsel to help you teach stewardship and generosity in the context of an annual campaign is a fairly new concept. “Teaching” is an added element from most capital campaigns and choosing counsel with ministerial experience and a deep appreciation for the ministries of the Church is very helpful.
The right professional counsel will offer insight, technical assistance and production services typically too time consuming for most congregations to duplicate on their own.
Make your expectations clear. The right counsel will operate in the background and will always shine the light on staff, but his/her enthusiasm and energy will infuse your staff with hope and anticipation.
Be “up front” about your church statistics and whether or not you have any issues, or skeletons, that should be addressed upfront to increase your chances for success.
Remember, your first conversation with a prospective counsel carries no obligation for either party. Consider that a consultant is coming to you at his or her own expense, so it is incumbent upon you not to host a parade of prospective consultants just to hear what they have to say. If you connect with a consultant and decide to engage his or her services, cancel any later interviews scheduled with others.
Write a clear letter of agreement or contract that details the areas of responsibility for the consultant and the client. The letter of agreement should also detail the financial arrangements, the period of the partnership, and how it can be terminated at anytime by the client.
Chemistry is important when you make your selection. And, when you have decided, work to develop trust. When you trust, and incorporate him or her into your staff and church functions, you will increase the sense of family and everyone will operate more effectively.
Your consultant can bring a sense of urgency to your effort, gently driving actions and results.
He or she also can bring a sense of confidence to church leaders. They’ve done this before. Trust them.
Call or write me and I will be glad to help you work through any questions you have about the process, with no obligation.