How to Make Sure Your First-Time Donors Repeat Their Gift

The Law of Inertia states an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted on by an external force. The same tends to be true about church donors. Church members who do not contribute are challenging to inspire. When someone donates for the first-time, it is cause... read more

4 Reasons People Choose Not to Give and What to Do About It

“I have some good news and bad news.  The good news is the church has enough money to pay its bills.  The bad news is that money is still in people’s pockets.” This preacher joke isn’t new, and neither is its message. Not many people in your church are giving.... read more

A Story of Faith and Transformation You Need to Know

Inspirational stories such as the story of Clarkston United Methodist Church, Clarkston, Michigan, provide encouragement, insights, and motivation. Their clear vision for ministry, hearts full of gratitude for God’s blessings, and willingness to follow... read more

8 Ways to Improve Your Next Capital Campaign

Every gift is valuable when you’re running a capital campaign – continuing to provide events, programs, and services to the community takes investment. In 2018, you can make your capital campaign more successful than ever by keeping in mind a few best practices and... read more

What You Need to Know About Debt Campaigns

Recently, I was reading through a magazine for church leaders when a quote in one of the articles caught my attention. The quote was, “Donors don’t give to pay down debt.” Having been personally connected to dozens of debt campaigns that have raised in excess of $170... read more

An Enlightening Perspective from Your Investors

I am an Investor. Think of me as a potential venture capitalist for your organization, or as a mission capitalist for your vision. I am not looking to make money back, but I am looking for a real return on my investment. What direction are we going in? How will we... read more

The Importance of Believing in the Great Commission

Stories about outrageous and extravagant generosity inspire me. Just a few weeks ago, an older woman told me how excited and privileged she felt about giving a generous gift to her church’s capital campaign. Vera went on to say, “The truth is Scott, I probably won’t... read more

How to Conquer Your Fear of the Ask

Most people are downright terrified to ask other people for money. Asking for money seems intrusive, awkward, impolite and uncomfortable. Asking for money can be intimidating, but changing your approach can make it easier—and even fun!   Here are 5 tips for... read more

Are Your People Stumbling? Why Vision Clarity Matters.

If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves Proverbs 29:18a The Message   It is common for a congregation to spend substantial energy creating a vision statement. But coming up with a clear, concise, and compelling vision statement is only... read more

Facing the Truth about Poor Giving and its Devastating Consequences

When confronted with poor giving and lackluster stewardship, church leaders often try to justify their situation rather than face the truth. Of course, it is easier to justify poor giving than to address it. However, the long-term consequences of believing the excuses... read more

Everything you need to inspire generosity.

RECENT Posts

How Canceling Services Actually Increased Church Giving

It is a source of angst for many pastors: a forecast of inclement weather scheduled to hit on a Saturday night or Sunday morning. Whether heavy snow, ice, hurricanes, major storms or brutal cold temperatures, pastors have to make the decision of whether to cancel church services entirely or hold worship for the faithful few who will brave the elements regardless of the forecast. The angst is not just about what canceling services will do to the annual attendance figures or preaching a sermon (that took 15 hours to prepare) to a much smaller crowd. Rather, the angst typically centers on church giving, or the lack thereof.

 

How will church giving be impacted when services are canceled?

When weather negatively impacts attendance, the church may face a financial crunch without that week’s regular offering. The impact on the budget may be felt for months as the church tries to “catch up.”  And if bad weather hits on more than one weekend, the effect is multiplied.

Pastor Aaron had not canceled worship services for over twenty years. There was no snow deep enough or temperature too low to keep him away from church on Sundays. As lead pastor at St. Paul’s UMC in Joplin, Missouri, a multi-campus church with 1,000 average Sunday attendance, he was willing to preach to 10 people if they were willing to come out. But last winter he faced a forecast that even he could not overcome.  Inches of ice falling from Saturday evening into Sunday afternoon were predicted. A mandatory order was issued for people to stay off the roads. Church was canceled. Like many pastors who faced the same wintry weather, Pastor Aaron was concerned about the impact of canceling services on church giving.

 

On a day when the doors of the church were iced over, imagine his joy when he learned the offering was $4,000 higher than the same Sunday a year before when good weather prevailed, and worship services actually happened!

 

What made this possible?

It all started a year earlier when the church went through Horizons’ “Stewardship Discovery” program. We reviewed data, met with staff and ministry leaders, and had conversations with financial supporters. Through the Stewardship Discovery process, the church gained valuable insights into their unique culture and how it impacted church giving. The recommendations were accepted, and the church engaged a Horizons coach to assist with implementation.

 

The church leadership initiated the following Horizons recommendations:

  • In the church bulletin, remove the weekly offering “received-to-date” data. The amount “received-to-date” provided an inaccurate and incomplete depiction of annual church giving.
  • Communicate more effectively through enhanced giving statements, regular mailings, emails, and meetings. This strategy provided a more comprehensive view of overall church giving.
  • Share life-change stories in worship of how money given to the annual budget was used to impact people’s lives. Giving to the church was being used to deepen ministries and grow disciples not just pay the bills.
  • Encourage electronic church giving through the website and text-to-give. Provide instructions and testimonies in worship from people contributing electronically.
  • Write thank-you notes to those who gave, whether financially or by teaching/leading a Sunday School class or small group, volunteering in a ministry, or helping at a church work-day.

 

These strategies cultivated a deeper understanding of church giving as a spiritual discipline.

When Pastor Aaron sent an email announcing church services were canceled, he reminded and encouraged members to make their offerings electronically. Because the church had developed effective electronic giving practices, people knew how to respond. Not only did the ice eventually melt, so did the stress about needing to ‘catch up’ or cut expenses.

 

Most importantly, the mission of the church continued without disruption.

It may be another twenty years before Pastor Aaron is forced to cancel worship again. But if inclement weather should strike, he won’t need to be anxious about church giving. Now, about that well-prepared sermon…that’s another story.

Rev. Aaron Brown is Lead Pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin, Missouri. 

Rev. Dustin Cooper is a Senior Vice President and Partner with Horizons Stewardship. Having served the local church for over 25 years, Dustin enjoys working with pastors and church leaders to achieve their visions and create disciples for Jesus Christ. Email Dustin at dcooper@horizons.net.

 

 

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, but hiring 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

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