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.

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God vs. Money

On August 21, 2018, my new book, God vs. Money, will be released. I wrote this book because I am firmly convinced our society, including the church, is in the midst of a war between the will of God and the lure of money. I am also convinced that money is winning the majority of battles because the opposition, the church, has ceased to put up a fight. God vs. Money is a call to arms. I implore you, as church leaders, to engage in this battle because, I believe, our lives depend on it.

Because God vs. Money is likely the last book I will write, I put every ounce of energy I had into each and every page. In doing so, I hope to get the attention of Christian leaders who must make attacking this foe a priority each and every day. My friends, if you care about the Kingdom and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only true salvation for the world, get this book. Going to war is never easy, but this fight is one we have to take on and must win!

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction:

God and Money both made promises. God has kept all of His and money has kept none. But money has better advertising and we keep falling for it. We live in a society where God vs. Money is a daily battle. It is a war and right now we are not winning.

 

In this book, I lay out a plan where those of us in church leadership can educate and inspire people who are capable of winning the war. These are the tools you are going to need to develop people who know how to go up against the lure of money and come out victors on the other side. I hope God vs. Money becomes a manual for pastors and church leaders to train and grow congregations of generous people who resist the lure of money and, instead, seek God’s will for their lives.

God vs. Money was not written to help you get more money.

It is intended to help you develop true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, who understand they have been given infinitely more than they could ever give. In this book, I contend that a generous life is glorious and leads to everlasting life, while a life being controlled by stuff is a dead end that destroys us and the world around us. This needs to be a war we want to fight. Not just one we have to fight.

Let’s prepare for battle.

 

 

Here is what church leaders are saying about God vs. Money:

Mike Slaughter, Founder and Chief Strategist of Passionate Churches, LLC and Pastor Emeritus Ginghamsburg Church says…

Clif Christopher has been my main go-to coach in applying practical biblical strategies for stewardship in the local church. This is an excellent read for church leaders who find themselves in church cultures adverse to using the “Tithe” word. A great reminder that we as followers of Jesus are the means to resource God’s mission in the world with practical tools to help us apply.

Talbot Davis is pastor of Good Shepherd UMC in Charlotte, NC, and author of Head Scratchers and Crash Test Dummies says…

Clif Christopher has written a Stewardship Tour De Force in God vs. Money.  I found the book both sobering and inspiring – sobering in its analysis of our culture’s obsession with money and yet inspiring in its description of the spiritual power of generosity.  Christopher does not flinch in his directives for pastors and church leaders – and I for one am glad for his boldness.  Highly recommended.

 

 

 

How Giving Data Strengthens Your Discipleship Path

The key to sustainable ministry funding lies right at the heart of the mission of the church: helping persons become fully devoted followers of Christ.  When people take seriously their discipleship journey certain behaviors begin to change such as frequency in worship, serving on ministry teams, daily prayer, and giving of their financial resources. Giving and generosity are clear and measurable indicators of discipleship. It is no surprise that churches with an effective discipleship path tend to have substantially higher levels of ministry funding.

So, how do we strengthen our discipleship path? And how can giving data help us?

For years, churches have collected the data needed to measure the effectiveness of their discipleship paths. But getting that data into an actionable format from their Church Management Software (ChMS) is often a nightmare.

A couple of years ago, a tool was created to address this problem.  MortarStone developed a web-based tool that works with ChMS systems to organize the mountains of data that churches have stored in their databases.  MortarStone’s tools enable leaders of discipleship programs, missions teams, stewardship committees, and pastoral care to easily and directly access the information they need while still protecting sensitive donor information.

With a growing emphasis on measuring impact, churches are realizing it’s not enough to simply count activities and participants as the primary measures of a successful discipleship program. Individual generosity is, of course, a vital indicator of spiritual growth and a key element on the discipleship path.

Church leaders want to know if lasting transformation is taking place.

With MortarStone, churches can measure growth in individual generosity and connect it to the ministry activity that precipitated that change.  When churches understand what is working and what is not, they can reallocate resources to programs and ministries that are driving life change.

Here is a common example of using data to connect specific ministries with positive changes in key discipleship indicators.  An Executive Pastor compared the giving patterns of people who participated in small groups versus nonparticipants. The Executive Pastor discovered small group participants gave, on average, $2,133 more per year.  Based on the apparent impact of the small group ministry on the discipleship path, the church chose to invest $75,000 in new staffing to support small group ministries. Assuming a similar result for future small group participants, the church reasoned only 35 additional households were needed to cover the investment in staffing.

But this example is just the tip of the iceberg.

Church data can be used to track the impact of ministries such as Financial Peace University, serving ministries, and others. Want to know the impact of a recent mission trip? Curious about the effectiveness of your new member class or stewardship series? Want to know the differences in giving between your campus locations or worship services? With MortarStone giving data analysis, churches can effectively organize information and measure impact to make data-driven decisions regarding future ministry investments.

This technology exists to take the guesswork out of measuring the effectiveness of your discipleship path. By using increases in household giving as evidence of the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, churches can now make better decisions regarding programming and resource allocation.

As people deepen their walk with Christ through worship, spiritual growth, and service, the harvest of your generosity plan grows exponentially because you are cultivating in richer spiritual soil.

Joe Park is Horizons’ Managing Partner. Horizons is a national leader in guiding churches to increased funding, mission fulfillment, and transformation. 

Stewardship Discovery is our comprehensive diagnostic process used to assess giving practices in the development and implementation of plans to increase personal giving in churches. If you would like to learn more about developing a generosity plan for your church or using data to improve discipleship, please contact me at jpark@horizons.net or visit horizons.net.

This article originally appeared in Church Executive Best Practices Forum on Fundraising and Generosity.

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