A Story of Faith and Transformation You Need to Know

by | June 13, 2018

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.

 

2 Comments

  1. Do you all also work with churches who want to eliminate their debt, in order to begin a foundation for future building needs (we are also in need of additional educational/training space), and our leaders do not want to even talk about another building effort until the current debt is gone. Let me hear back please.

    Reply
    • Kristine Miller

      Hello Rebekah,
      I edited out the specifics of your church as the comment will be public on our site.

      Yes, we do work with churches to reduce or retire debt. Someone from our team will be in touch with you soon!
      Kristine

      Reply

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An Interview with Horizons’ Founder, Clif Christopher

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.

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.

 

 

 

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