In the last few weeks we have been covering some awkward questions that often stymie leaders in congregations. Either no one thinks to ask the question or no one wants to bring it up. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Our last question is the big one. And it isn’t one that brings everyone to silence—quite the contrary! It brings everyone to the table and everyone has an opinion.

Do We Need a Capital Campaign?

For some, a capital campaign is an opportunity to engage new people with the mission of the church. It is a chance to raise additional funds for a much-needed project. But for others, they read CAPITAL FUNDS CAMPAIGN and only hear that last syllable—PAIN.

I want to first define what a capital campaign is in a church. Then, I will outline the reasons why it might be a good idea in a church family. And finally, I will offer up some ideas about how to take the next step.

(Re)Defining

Let’s not call it a capital campaign. That name is too corporate and too ‘fund-centered’ to be of much use. Let’s call it what it really is: a massive church-wide communication effort to raise the stewardship level of the entire congregation and, as a result, receive donated funds that will provide for a specific and well-thought-out project or need of the congregation. Whew! That is a long definition but I think it is fair.  

Whereas an operating fund effort (Annual Stewardship Effort) focuses on general giving for the general mission of the church, this effort will highlight one or two (but only a few) specific needs for the church. The object of the effort is to raise funds, over and above general and regular giving, for something tangible, specific, and necessary: a plot of land, a new building, a van, a new roof, mission efforts, or to pay off debt.

So, for purposes of this article, let’s give a name or title to this massive church-wide effort for purposes of explanation. Let’s name this effort as if it were really happening. Let’s call it: Arise and Build, after the Book of Nehemiah.

I will not describe how these campaigns work. But they do work. Over my years as Rector of Christ Church, Plano, I led seven different capital campaigns for land acquisition, new buildings, renovations, and final debt elimination.

But they do more work than just raise funds. Here are Five Positive Effects of Arise and Build in the life of the church.

The North Star is Clear

The first positive effect is that this effort actually creates a clarity of vision. Over the life of a church, members join for many different reasons and they stay connected to the congregation for many more. Churches are collections of people who are there for a variety of reasons. But during a stewardship effort, the church gets focused on one thing: the project. It is a beautiful thing to see (for me).

During the 4-6 months of the communication plan, every leader and every family, every member and every staff person is asked to look at a project and its purpose.  The focused effort of the congregation creates a “North Star” effect. It creates a confidence and a direction that people will all see and connect to at the same time.

Imagine the strength of a church united around a clear and compelling vision that is achievable. See more about how to ‘frame’ the vision of your church. 

In my experience, the North Star effect created by Arise and Build was one of the greatest blessings I could have ever seen. Arise and Build had a clear task and clear goals and the effort allowed everyone to see the same thing at the same time. The church was strengthened because of it.

Infectious Enthusiasm

I have written about the impact of testimonies here. They are one of the most effective ways for lay people to encourage other lay people. When a person in the church has the courage to stand before their peers and disclose a living process or a prayer journey during the campaign, it is powerful. Indeed, it is the of the intent of Arise and Build to help every member of the church walk through a process of discernment. Through prayer, Scriptural guidance, conversation, and reflection, people are asked to make a final decision about how much they will give toward the project. It is not easy and it takes time.

I have heard dozens and dozens of stories from lay people about this process. If it were just a question of affordability, the journey would be short and boring. But the process of the campaign asks them to pray and discern and wait upon the Lord for a number that represents their faithful response. Many testimonies describe this journey as a struggle between their flesh and the Spirit of God.

This is the centerpiece of Arise and Build. As Nehemiah prayed before the Lord God and consulted with others before he made his final decision to go, every person who makes a pledge is asked to make the pledge in response to a spiritual process. This, in fact, is an echo of what Paul wrote about the Macedonians; that they gave themselves “first to the Lord and then to us.” They did not just ’tip’ or ‘throw change’ at a problem. They treated their giving as the end-product of deep and prayerful discernment.

We are shaped by stories. When a whole church body is asked to pray about something as important as this and listen for the leading of the Lord, the stories that result are powerful and formative. To learn more about these testimonies and other generous habits, read here.

New Leaders Emerge

The effectiveness of Arise and Build hinges on developing a greater number of lay people who are involved in the process. In a typical effort, most of the congregation receives some sort of personal touch: a phone call, a personal visit, a meet-up for coffee, or a participation in a small group. If the leaders use only the ‘core group’ for these activities, they will quickly run out of people. More people are needed to communicate and share the vision of what the church is trying to do.

This is a process of engagement and again, like prayer, it leaves the congregation more healthy than before. As you can imagine, this is every pastor’s dream: to have more people move from the outer banks of occasional involvement and into the healthy flow of the church’s life. Consequently, the church leadership core will discover that they are NOT the only ones who are active or want to be active members of the church. There are dozens and dozens of people waiting to be involved in some ministry or program in their church; they just have never been asked.

Again, this effort is like an infusion of vitamin B12 into the Body. New blood starts to flow with the knowledge of the campaign and its need for volunteers. The most common complaint of the inner core of any church is this: Why don’t other people get involved in this church? While outsiders can’t always articulate it, their answer is that there is no apparent need for them to step up. Arise and Build will activate involvement.

Increasing the ‘GQ’

As I have lived through these campaigns and have raised annual budgets over 30+ years, I have come to use a very simple calculation as an index to determine growth and development of a generous disciple. I have called it the “GQ Index” not because I have a subscription to that edgy magazine (I do not) but because I need a method for determining the effectiveness of my efforts in a campaign. The GQ Index is a measure of Generosity. (The Q stands for quotient, which, you may recall from early elementary school, means ‘how many.’)

For example, if a family of four is donating $4,000 per year for the ministry of the church, their GQ is 1,000. That is good. But as they understand the biblical principles of stewardship and the blessings and responsibilities they have over them, they give more and more over the years. After several years of effort in the week-to-week life of the congregation, they increase their giving to $6,000. That is a huge increase. And their GQ is 1,500.

But then the church decides in prayer to take on a new project or buy a piece of land or start a construction project. This family is asked to pray about giving to the Arise and Build campaign. They turn in a pledge card of $12,000 given over three years. They are going to give an additional $4,000 a year. So this family has just taken a giant leap of faith and commitment. They began their journey at the church with a GQ of 1,000. Then it moved to 1500 when the same family gave $6,000. But when this family adds $4,000 to their giving of $6,000, their GQ went to 5,000!

I wrote Giving Up to help steer leaders from any awkwardness about talking about money. When you move from thinking about grand totals to thinking about growing GQ, you are reminded that this process is about people. It is the joy of every pastor to see true increase at every level of Christian commitment: time, gifting, and generosity. And, as before, regardless of the amount that people give, the church is strengthened.

Above and Beyond

So far, all the blessing and benefits of Arise and Build have been seen in non-financial terms. Indeed, I truly believe that there are long-lasting non-financial effects from a capital campaign that impact the life of the congregation and its members for years and years to come.

But there is a financial boost for the project, of course. The money raised for the project enables it to materialize. Money is given and then the shovels start.

(And, by the way, NEVER start construction on a project or purchase the needed equipment for the church until the campaign is over and the money begins to be received. Why? Because if, for example, the church buys the land and then asks the people to pay for it, it is a debt-elimination campaign. The cost of the land has determined the upper need of the church. Arise and Build becomes, Reduce Our Debt. Far less appealing!)

Many of the new churches in our ACNA community would do well to consider a capital campaign for themselves. And do not believe that a church must be large or settled to do one effectively. I recommended a consulting group to two local churches in the DFW area. Both began their version of Arise and Build about the same time. One church, with a budget of about $400,000 raised an additional $1,200,000 given over three years. The other church with a budget of about the same is on track to raise even more.

Encouragement

There is no doubt that the church needs to find some courage and conviction when it comes to capital campaigns. I speak to dozens of church leaders every year who tell me that they are just barely making their budget for ministry. They fear that any capital fund effort would draw money away from their program budget. They can’t take the risk that people will stop giving to the annual fund in favor of their capital gift.

These concerns are understandable but unfounded. This is just a fear of failure or inexperience showing through. It doesn’t happen that way. The GQ index increases. The tide comes in and raises all boats. The pie grows larger. 

Whatever the metaphor: you are dealing with fears and fantasies of failure. Be healed! The Lord has great increases for you and your ministry; you can see significant increases in resources if you pray and get clear on what the need is and then ask, in a systematic, thoughtful, prayerful way, the people in your church to give and give more.

Consultants are Always Amazing and Always Free

It is always the temptation for any leader or vestry to try to do a capital campaign with resident talent and wisdom; to purposefully NOT  hire a consulting company to help. In almost every case, I think this is a huge mistake and one that can reveal deeper problems.

First, an unwillingness to look outside for help could be a symptom of an unhealthy desire to control. Pastors can feel that it’s their church and only they know what’s best. It can also reveal an insecurity in pastors. They worry about being scrutinized or evaluated by outside experts. As I said above, Be healed! These issues shouldn’t handcuff your congregation from growth.

Every consultant you could call will help you with your church-wide communication effort to raise 3-5 times your annual budget. And they will provide things that you cannot. They will come and help amplify, direct, and guide your efforts, prevent you from making stupid mistakes, bring a level of seriousness to your effort, and walk along your pastor and make him/her a hero.

And they will do it for free.  

Yes, that is right. Consultants will charge a fee for their services and they are worth every penny. But their fee is always free. It is free because the money used to pay them is replaced with funds you do not have yet but that will come from the campaign totals. These funds can exceed 25 times the cost of their service. Or more.

Of course, I have my go-to favorite leaders whom I would recommend to any church, but you would be wise to seek proposals from a few other companies. Call me if you need a recommendation.

It takes a bold leader to discern the time to lead a church into a capital campaign. It will be an awkward conversation with plenty of opinions in the room. Be patient, prayerful, and persistent.