How to Avoid the Epidemic Killing Our Churches

An epidemic of Biblical proportions is significantly impacting churches of today. Currently sweeping across the landscape of Christianity, this epidemic disables and ruins countless churches every year. This deadly disease is debt. The debt epidemic begins innocently... read more

Is Fear Impacting Your Ability to Make Giving Easy?

Have you observed how church giving has changed over the past decade? Have you noticed the offering plate makes its quick trip through the congregation and comes back mostly empty? Times have changed. How people donate has changed. Churches must adapt and make giving... read more

How to Create Your Stewardship Language and Why You Need To

How does your church talk about money and giving? More to the point, what does your church believe about stewardship and generosity?   Growing a culture of giving and generosity requires your church to have a common stewardship language. Money is tangled up in a... read more

How to Adapt to Attract Millennials: This Month’s Top Stories

This month has seen a surge of information on Millennials and how to engage them in giving and ministry. This critical generation is likely to forever change the face of giving and philanthropy. Here are some top stories:   Engaging Millennials in Small Groups... read more

How to Make the Offering About Love–An Offering Talk for Sunday

Instead of simply calling the ushers forward, help your congregation understand deeper meaning and connection inherent in the offering time of worship. Use what I call an Offering Talk to connect the offering to the giver’s relationship to God. An Offering Talk... read more

Expert Advice on Launching a Ministry with Financial Leaders

We have all experienced it. The jolt to the system when we discover one of our members has contributed a six- or seven-figure gift to the local university, hospital, or other nonprofit. In our recent webinar, we provided key strategies and advice for successfully... read more

Methods to Overcome a Scarcity Mindset You Need to Know

Does your church have an abundance mindset or a scarcity mindset? Is the glass is half empty (scarcity) or half full (abundance)? Your answer has a huge impact on church giving and your ability to achieve important missional objectives. The term “abundance mentality”... read more

How to Improve Your Millennial Giving Right Now

Millennial donors are considered the Holy Grail for most churches. Pastors are often heard saying, “If only we could get those young families to begin pledging…” thinking it will solve the church’s problems. However, most churches fail to engage Millennial giving.... read more

How to Build a Successful Financial Leader Ministry

Ever wonder why the local university or hospital received the $1 million gift and your church didn’t? Are you curious about how to build a successful financial leader ministry? Learn how to change the future trajectory of your congregation with this information.  ... read more

Giving and Growth Among the Top 200 United Methodist Churches

Over the last 10 years, I have been tracking data from the largest United Methodist congregations in America. Through this work, I have uncovered some interesting relationships between giving and growth among the top 200 churches in average worship attendance. You can... read more

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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. If people would just give, then the church really would have enough money, right?

In a typical church, about 50% of the households do not contribute financially…including many who are actively engaged in the church community. Why do active church families choose not to give?

 

Here are 4 reasons people aren’t giving.

1 – Personal Debt

In May 2017, people had more debt than they did at the start of the recession.  Student loan debt has doubled and both car loans and credit card debt have grown significantly.  Debt reduces people’s capacity to be generous to the church. For more on the impact of personal debt on church giving, click here.

What to do: Offer classes such as Financial Peace University to help people take positive steps to get their financial lives in order and eliminate their debt. The first step in increasing capacity for giving is to enable members to take control of their debt and become debt-free.

 

2 – Consumer Attitude

It is easy to buy into the message that stuff will bring more joy, more security, and more happiness. We buy bigger houses, newer cars, nicer toys (especially if technology is involved) and take bigger vacations.  Yet the joy is fleeting, the security short-lived, and the happiness elusive. To learn more about the struggle between allegiance to God versus money, read more here.

What to do: Invite people to participate in hands-on mission work. This type of involvement often adds a much-needed balance to a consumer attitude and enables people to turn their focus toward gratitude, joy, security, and happiness.

 

3 – Fear

Fear is a long-lasting consequence of the recession that continues to shape people’s attitudes. Many still feel anxious about the future and how it will impact them financially.  A common response to fear is to cling tightly to what you have.  There is a reason why a clenched fist is not an image associated with generosity.

What to do: Preach the message of hope that is found in one’s faith in Jesus Christ and provides a stronger foundation for life.

 

4 – Flawed Perceptions

Non-givers often have the impression that any sermon or conversation about giving is about the church’s need to pay its bills.  In addition, personal finances are just that—personal and not the church’s business.   They complain about the ‘annual money sermon’ or even ‘beg-a-thon’ and protest if the pastor knows what people give.  Though flawed, their perception is their reality. These misconceptions can lead to serious consequences.

What to do: Change the focus of your conversations around money and giving. Talk about people’s need to give rather than the church’s need to get. Share the message of transformation through generous giving and make giving about God.

If your church hopes to cultivate generosity and help people grow in their giving, address these real-life issues. By taking these positive steps, the day will come when that joke is no longer true!

The blog was updated from the original published 8/15/2017.

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 God’s leading proved to be a winning combination. Add to the mix competent, capable, and faithful leaders and the story becomes a roadmap to growing generosity and achieving God-sized ministry objectives.

Here is the story of faith and transformation from Clarkston United Methodist Church.

In 2012, when conversations began about values, timing, and next steps, the leaders at Clarkston UMC had already been dealing with the constraints of a space that no longer fit their call to ministry. Their prime location had great potential, but the leaders were cautious to not adopt a “build it and they will come” attitude. Instead of building for building sake, they set out to engage the congregation in meaningful conversations about ministry needs and how to address them. A series of TownHall meetings provided the opportunity for sharing detailed information regarding the plans for expansion and re-purposing of existing space to meet current and future ministry objectives. The entire church community received an invitation to join in the discussion regarding how Clarkston UMC was being called by God to live out its vision.

Clarkston’s leaders began searching for a capital campaign firm that would enable them to fund their project and fulfill God’s vision for ministry. Based on recommendations from other senior pastors and a desire for an organic process that fit their culture, Clarkston UMC chose Horizons Stewardship. Rick Dake, Clarkston UMC’s senior pastor said, “We had not been thriving in the area of stewardship and wanted someone to tow the line with us.” Capital campaign co-chair, Ric Huttenlocher added,

Horizons stood out because of their customized approach.

They took the time to understand us and develop a personalized program.

Following a comprehensive pre-campaign study, Horizons determined Clarkston’s capital campaign was likely to raise between $2.3 million and $3.0 million over the next three years. The projection was based on a review of historical data, meetings with Clarkston’s staff, multiple face-to-face interviews with key church leaders, and an online church member survey. The survey also provided insights into how the campaign process should be designed for the highest degree of effectiveness. Rev. Dake explained,

 Our leaders were deeply involved in making the campaign suitable to our culture.

We were able to step up and embrace the challenging parts, but also empowered to give direction to the process to fit our context.

Over the next several months, the congregation engaged in intentional prayer using a 21-day devotional guide and gathered in various groups and settings to share their questions and enthusiasm for the project. The highlight was Gratitude Sunday which, according to Rev. Dake was “our Good Friday and Easter rolled into one. It was without a doubt a holy time for this congregation. We became unified in our understanding that what we do matters and that we are, in fact, changing lives through this ministry.” The campaign unfolded during Lent, which was, at first a concern for Rev. Dake. “I did not think it was a good idea to conduct the campaign during the holy time of Lent. When I saw the impact the campaign’s spiritual component had, I realized I had been wrong. It turned out to be the best Lent we ever had,” explained Rev. Dake.

Clarkston’s people prayed, gathered, shared, and gave thanks.

They also pledged over $3.3 million to their capital campaign.

Six months prior to the conclusion of the campaign,

they have collected over $3.5 million.

According to Rev. Dake, the capital campaign had a considerable impact in many areas. Rev. Dake said his understanding of generosity shifted beyond simply an adaptation of stewardship language. He clarified,

We have moved the needle in this church and now are able to talk about money in a very different way. Generosity is a spiritual discipline that begins with gratitude and ends with joy. This will be our culture moving forward.

Clarkston United Methodist Church continues to grow in worship, giving, and ministry. Following their successful capital campaign, Clarkston UMC also partnered with Horizons to conduct a Taking the Next Step annual budget campaign. According to Ric Huttenlocher, “We needed to devote the time and energy to helping people understand the meaning of generosity and how to apply generosity principles to their daily lives.”

As a result, Clarkston’s annual giving increased by 13% over the previous year. Also, Clarkston achieved a 46% increase in the number of commitments received.

 

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 fixing a few issues that can plague even the most efficient church fundraising efforts.

Here are the building blocks of a successful capital campaign.

  • Identify the group that supplies most of your annual income.  Generosity is an important spiritual issue. Pastors should know how members are growing spiritually.
  • Nurture positive relationships with your major donors before you ask for a gift.  We have to earn the right to ask. By regularly meeting with your financial leaders to show interest in the things they are concerned about, you convey that they are part of the community and that you care about them, their families and their business. Mentor and minister to them spiritually to develop relationships and earn the right to ask when the time comes.
  • Find out how to connect families to your vision.  Find out what questions your donors have about the capital campaign. If you know what questions, reservations, or objections they have, you can address them in advance of your campaign. A pre-campaign study is a vital step in successfully connecting your most valuable donors to the project vision.
  • Involve your financial leaders early and invite them to help you establish momentum.  Leadership gifts build momentum, which shows the rest of the congregation that the goal is achievable if they will do their part.
  • Value every gift.  Without more considerable gifts you will not raise what you need. Nonetheless, it’s important to value the widow’s mite contributions equally with the large donations.  All your members working together will achieve a bigger result than what a few can accomplish alone.

 

Here are the three issues to avoid in your next capital campaign.

1. We need to go right now!

You may feel like momentum is on your side, or like a big church vote points to a need to act swiftly. Or maybe you have a note coming due. When a church comes to me with such a sense of urgency, I wonder if they did not know all of these things several months back. I respond that we can certainly go “right now!” but I sure wish I had more time. When things are rushed, the chance for errors increases markedly. You frequently do not do things as thoroughly or creatively as you might like because the clock is ticking. If you see even the possibility of a campaign in your church’s future, call immediately. Talk with a professional about timing. The cost to have someone under contract is the same, whether it’s for one year or for two months. Ideally, you should have this conversation from one year out to no later than nine months out.

2. We only want to raise ___________.

Don’t settle for less than what you need for your budget. When someone comes to me asking for less than what they might really need, I ask them if they could use two times the amount. Usually, I get something like, “Well I guess, but we have not talked about it.” This is a big mistake. For a campaign to raise you half your budget will cost you the same as if I raise 2-3X the amount. At least test for a higher target. Once your church has done a capital campaign and declared victory; that’s it. You can’t turn around and do it again in a year – you’re done for a while. Whenever you think you will need a campaign, make sure you are trying to reach your maximum potential.

3. We need a campaign because we are way behind on the budget.

You are fishing in the wrong pond. Capital dollars do not fund operating budgets. The annual pocket or (better yet) the generosity pocket supports your operating budgets. This approach is entirely different from a capital campaign. It may even take longer, but it will pay long-term benefits.

The lesson in all of this is to be cautious and thoughtful. First, diagnose your problem or need. Then identify the right solution. And finally, take a step-by-step approach under the guidance of a qualified, experienced partner. The result will be a smoother, more successful capital campaign that will sustain your efforts for longer and even help to build community through the funding process.

This article was originally published by Voices on Stewardship (voicesonstewardship.com).

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