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

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