An Interview with Horizons’ Founder, Clif Christopher

by | August 3, 2018

Since its inception, Clif Christopher has been on the frontline in responding to Horizons’ clients about church capital campaigns. Providing timely and insightful counsel to pastors and lay leaders is at the heart of Horizons’ mission to guide churches on their journey to achieve their mission. In anticipation of the release of Clif’s latest book, God vs. Money, I invited Clif to share his insights on some commonly-asked questions.

 

Common Mistakes

Kristine: What are some common mistakes churches make when considering the size of their church capital campaign projects?

 Clif:
Often churches fail to maximize their giving potential. For example, a pastor recently told me about the growth and enthusiasm expressed in his church regarding a $1,000,000 building project. The church’s budget was $750,000. Given the excitement surrounding the project, it seemed to me the church could likely raise more. I suggested the church look at other needs and consider adding them to the project and have our team assess the congregation’s overall support. Assuming the support is there, this church has the ability to conduct a more ambitious campaign and raise more money for the kingdom.

 

Timing of a Capital Campaign

Kristine: When is the best time to conduct a church capital campaign?

 Clif:
The short answer is the best time to conduct a church capital campaign is when the vision is clear and the congregation is rallied behind the vision. However, some churches are too eager to break ground and end up eliminating a lot of the giving momentum. If you break ground before the campaign, you take away people’s ability to participate in helping your dream become reality. Breaking ground before the campaign will result in getting  a building sooner, but you will have far less resources to pay for it. Also, it will be three years before you can conduct another campaign—and that will likely be for debt. Be patient and wait to break ground when you are ready to celebrate the conclusion of a successful capital campaign.

 

Estate Gifts

Kristine: Should capital projects be paid for using estate gifts?

 Clif:
Generally, this is not a good idea. Using legacy gifts for capital projects removes the responsibility of the church to help people mature in Christ through more generous giving. Estate gifts should be used to strengthen an endowment fund that enlarges the ministry and mission the church is called to do. It should never replace what present members are capable of and called to do. Have a campaign for the project you feel God is calling you to do, and then use the proceeds from the estate gift to move the church beyond that building and into life changing ministry.

 

Staff Positions and Missions Work

Kristine: Should churches consider adding staff positions or missions work to their campaign funding needs?

 Clif:
The problem is you are hoping to leverage enthusiasm for a building project to get money for staffing and missions. These expenses should be funded through the annual budget rather than included in a church capital campaign. Lumping capital needs in with operating expenditures is most often a bad idea. People may resent having a portion of their donations designated to expenses other than capital, and they may choose to withhold their giving. Also, funding a staff position through a three-year capital campaign creates a significant problem after the giving period is over. How will this staff position be funded in year four? If you need to fund a staff position or support a mission endeavor, include these expenses in your annual budget and invite people to support it.

 

Leadership Support

Kristine: How important is it for the pastor and church leadership to express their support of the church capital campaign?

 Clif:
Well how important is leadership in any arena? It is critical! If the boss showed up late for work and only showed interest in coffee breaks, would the employees exceed his passion? If a coach was not that committed to practice and winning, would the players give their all? Church members are very in tune with what leaders are serious about. They listen to hear what their pastor feels is at the core of Christian life. Specifically, they listen to hear whether church leaders just want money to pay bills or if they truly believe that generosity is vital to discipleship and living a fulfilled life. It is very important every pastor share their plans for giving every year and why they are making that choice. Members concerned about being a disciple will follow.

 

High Capacity Donors

Kristine: In God vs. Money, you suggest that pastors should build relationships with their high capacity donors. Why is this important?

 Clif:
As church leaders, we must stop seeing and relating to persons blessed with wealth as different from others blessed with unique talent and abilities that can be used for Kingdom work. If we knew a person with exceptional musical talent, we would be derelict if we did not spend time with them exploring how that talent might be used. Same goes for educational ability or leadership ability. One key job of a pastor is to help persons use the gifts God has given them for God’s work. This is no less true for those few who have been blessed with wealth. They need and deserve our time to assist them in fulfilling God’s calling on their life. This simply does not happen by speaking in generalities from a pulpit. It happens through relationship and personal attention.

I clearly remember the multi-millionaire who shared how grateful he was for the extensive conversations a college president had with him that helped him determine how to use his vast amounts of money following the sale of his business. When I asked this active church member if any pastor had ever sat down with him and had a stewardship conversation, he said, “No, Clif, you know that preachers do not like to talk about money!”

 

Clif’s books include Not Your Parents’ Offering PlateRich Church Poor Church, and several others. His new book, God vs. Money, is now available on Kindle and will soon be released in hardcopy by Abingdon Press.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Everything you need to inspire generosity.

RECENT Posts

5 Important Steps Before Launching a Church Capital Campaign

Prior to moving forward with a church capital campaign, here are 5 important steps that can substantially improve your results.

Clarify your why

Before you get started on a church capital campaign, spend time to understand your “why.” Being able to articulate your why, or the purpose of your project, is critical to inspiring your supporters.  Whether your project is new construction, renovation, debt retirement, outreach, or increasing endowment, it is essential to communicate why it is important. How will your completed project transform lives? What impact will your project have on your ability to do God’s work in the world? Clearly state why a church capital campaign is necessary and why it is urgent. By doing so, you will build momentum and support before you launch, ensuring a successful campaign. (For more insights on clarifying vision, click here.)

 

Discuss plans with your financial leaders

Those who provide financial leadership to the ministries of your church also play a vital role in your church capital campaign. Before your plans are final, meet with your financial leaders to discuss the project details and inspire them with your why. Some of your financial leaders are business leaders in your community. Ask for their input, invite them into the conversation, and learn from their wisdom. Those who have the capacity to make major gifts can dramatically impact your results. People typically help fund a project they helped to conceive. [For more information on how to engage Financial Leaders, go here].

 

Meet with leadership groups and create project advocates

Once you have clarified your why, and gained the support of your financial leaders, engage the various groups within your church. Build excitement around the project, answer questions, and develop advocates for the campaign. Once your core constituents and leaders have caught your vision for the project, they will be able to share their enthusiasm with others. Early momentum and excitement will build as you prepare to launch your campaign.

 

Review communication channels and make necessary changes

Regardless which communication channels you use, have the necessary processes in place to ensure clear and timely communication. Is your church software current and able to track capital campaign commitments? If you plan to use direct mail, email, or texting, do you have up-to-date contact information for your members? Do you have a current social media plan? Are your members connecting with you on your various social media platforms? Is your church actively encouraging egiving (More on egiving here and here)? Before you launch, consider all the ways in which you will share information and shore up your processes to ensure clear and timely delivery of your messages.

 

Engage a professional church capital campaign consulting firm

Hiring a professional consulting firm will ensure you are raising as much as possible to fund your vision for ministry. Some churches choose to conduct capital campaigns without the benefit of counsel, often with a lackluster result. In-house campaigns typically raise less than professionally-run campaigns and can significantly strain staff resources. At Horizons, we believe in the importance of hiring not just the best firm, the best fit for your church. Hiring a consultant is similar to hiring a part-time staff person because of the time commitment and importance of the relationship. The vast array of Horizons’ Ministry Strategists’ styles, experiences, and denominational backgrounds ensures a perfect match to meet the needs of every church.

 

 

For more information about Horizons or to schedule a free 20-minute strategy session, visit horizons.net.

Kristine Miller, CFRE is a Senior Vice President and Partner with Horizons. She is co-author of Bounty — Ten Ways to Increase Giving at Your Church (Abingdon Press) and is a frequent conference speaker. Kristine is an avid reader, writer, cook, and wine enthusiast.

Advice on Taking the Trail for the First Time

Many years and miles of backpacking in America’s wilderness areas have taught me a few things about taking a trail for the first time – about intentionally wandering into a much bigger and wilder world where you are not in control of everything. Visionary and entrepreneurial church leaders are drawn to something analogous – to stepping out in faith onto unfamiliar new paths. Are you ready to finally get out there? Ready to do something bold and different? Ready to go somewhere unknown where you are not in control? Here are six lessons I’ve learned from taking the trail for the first time.

 

1. Have a plan and carry a map.

Your sense of adventure and faith are admirable, but a successful journey is going to take some serious preparation and work on your part. Regardless of what you may think, you are not likely the first explorer in these parts. Learn everything you can about where you think you are going. Do the research. Talk with people who have taken that trail. Walk with someone who has taken the trail, if possible. Know as much as you can about what you are getting into. Study the landscape, topography, and the changing weather. Adequately prepare for the dangers and the wonders you may encounter. Know how to use whatever your compass is. If you have no idea what your definition is of true north, then you will never find your way. Sure, you may well decide to deviate from your original course; but creativity works better if you have a clear picture of your context to start with.

 

 

2. Carry as little as possible with you.

I do not know a better way to say this than … you do not need more and more stuff to carry on your back. You are not going to make it very far carrying a lot of weight that you don’t actually need. From experience, I can tell you … the more times you take a trail, the lighter your backpack becomes. Thoughtfully pack the necessities you will need for your journey and leave the rest behind. Pare down. Then pare down again. Focus on the basics — the fundamentals. The problem with most churches is not what they might do in the future – the problem is the drag of all that they think they need to carry with them into the future. Before taking the trail for the first time, lighten your load by removing extra baggage; only take the stuff that matters.

 

3. Walk with someone you can count on.

Taking a trail for the first time is not something you can do all on your own. It is not likely you will travel with a large group, so choose your companions carefully.  Find a mentor, a visionary, an entrepreneur, another leader, or a friend to share the journey. Your trailblazing companions should provide perspective, insight, encouragement, caution, help, and company along the way. Yes, it is possible to trek alone, but you are more likely to successfully reach your destination with trusted companions alongside you.

 

 

4. Open yourself up to a new perspective.

Explore. Discover. Ask new questions. Be amazed and awed and blessed. If you have already lost your sense of wonder and amazement, then you are better off staying comfortably at home.  Walk with your head up instead of watching your feet. Remember to look around! Stop often just to take in everything. Be open to new ideas — perhaps even grander than you dared to imagine. Listen well. Write and keep a travel journal.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Understand how small you are … and how astonishingly big the world is.

The wider world is an enormous place that you are just a small part of. That viewpoint may be the most important discovery of your journey. This trail was never actually about you anyway. This journey is about God’s plan – the same one that created the wilderness you are exploring. Go discover what else is out there.

 

 

 

6. Mentor: become a trail guide.

Help other people to experience what you have experienced. The trail you walked is not real to anyone else until you help them to step out on their own. You have encountered something inspiring and amazing. That is wonderful! But now, how do you help other people experience that journey for themselves? How can you create and facilitate experiences to help other people walk their own paths of discovery?

 

 

 

Mick Tune was a pastor for eighteen years and has worked as a consultant with churches across the country for more than twenty years. He is a partner with Doug Turner at Culture of Ready (a ministry partner with Horizons Stewardship) and the author of Wildering: Anyone’s Guide to Enjoying the American Wilderness.

Images by Mick Tune

10 Lit Ways to Engage with Millennials in Ministry & Giving

The Secret is Engagement

In this informative and fun 1-hour webinar hosted by Church Executive, learn how to reach and connect with Millennials from ministry experts Kristine Miller and Len Wilson from Horizons Stewardship Company.

Dispel myths and discover basic truths about the Millennial generation and the key events that are shaping them, including latest research and best practices for your ministry setting.


You’ll learn:

(1) What is true (and what isn’t) about the Millennial generation
(2) The latest research findings about Millennials and their views on philanthropy and giving
(3) What engagement is, and why it’s the No. 1 key for this generation
(4) How to develop messages, channels and communication tactics for reaching Millennials in your church.

 

 

To access the full webinar, click here.

You can find the presentation that accompanied this webinar by clicking here.

 

 

 

Get more great content on how to improve giving in your congregation with a free Giving 365 membership. Click the Giving365 logo to sign up or access your account if you are already a member.

Giving365 - Blog - Horizons - church stewardship resource

OUR NETWORK

Follow Us

PO Box 627
Cabot, Arkansas 72023

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This