Launching a generosity initiative is the beginning of an amazing spiritual journey for your church. Creating the right framework for the process will give you the greatest opportunity for a financial victory as well. Below are two churches I partnered with recently that worked hard to achieve success. An initial Generosity Assessment for both provided invaluable information needed to customize just the right plan for them:
Meet College Heights UMC – Adam Sparks, Pastor (Elizabethtown, KY)
For many years, College Heights United Methodist Church has had a vision of building a family center where church fellowship and community outreach can take place with open, easy access for all ages and abilities. Rev. Adam Sparks contacted Generis and Tom Melzoni to work with him and a team from College Heights to develop a framework that fit their needs as a community of faith with many long-time members but with the desire to grow their outreach to young families, children, and the entire community.
Our suggested goal for this working class church was staged in benchmarks with a $1.2 million estimated building cost, which we helped them establish knowing lender regulations. Our first benchmark (goal) was $500,000, which was very challenging to this type of congregation. Thus, we were able to keep both the actual need and cost to build and the initial campaign financial goal in front of the people. As well, our pre-campaign Generosity Assessment showed about 10% of the congregation had concerns about the building—this information proved to be invaluable in our communication efforts to help those with questions understand the complete ministry action plan.
The results were called miraculous by Pastor Sparks as we announced $510,800 had been committed at the conclusion of the initiative. Our follow-up process tracks these givers, which helps the leadership have a more accurate accounting of what to expect in the three-year giving cycle. (NOTE: College Heights UMC is Rev. Sparks’ first church as a newly ordained UMC minister.)
- Annual Ministry Income: $290,000
- Initiation of Generosity Assessment Process: Mid-December 2012
- Estimated Project Cost: $1.2 Million
- Campaign Goal: $500,000
- Team Orientation: January 30, 2013
- Launch Sunday: May 5, 2013
- Celebration and Commitment Sunday: June 9, 2013
- Pledge Total: $510,800 (Nearly twice the annual ministry income)
Meet Victory Lutheran Church – Shawn Bowman, Pastor (Jamestown, ND)
Located a short distance from Fargo, Victory Lutheran Church is experiencing the effects of North Dakota’s phenomenal growth due to a massive energy boom. The congregation has a good mixture of oil field workers, engineers, farmers and physicians. The church plans to build a new sanctuary at a cost of $2.7 million. Our Generosity Assessment report revealed that a goal of $1.2 million would be a good challenge. Additional information from our Assessment revealed valuable information that about 40% of the congregation had questions that needed to be answered before they could consider a financial gift. The team used this input to create a communication plan including a clear focus on the vision and project and it will impact lives.
Our Assessment also suggested that significant gifts ($100K) were possible, thus we designed a process to educate and inspire this potential group early in the journey. The campaign results from three-year pledges came in with overwhelming results at $1,585,245.00. We did not include the possible amounts in the announced totals, but the leadership knows that an additional $60K – $90K is possible over the next three years. The church’s gifts to the project during the first month of the three-year giving period were $400K.
- Annual Ministry Income: $375,000
- Initiation of Generosity Assessment Process: Mid-January 2013
- Estimated Project Cost: $2.7 Million
- Campaign Goal: $1.2 Million
- Team Orientation: February 28, 2013
- Launch Sunday: April 28, 2013
- Celebration and Commitment Sunday: June 2, 2013
- Pledge Total: $1,585,245 (More than four times the annual ministry income)
The first quarter of the tax year is ending and many churches (I recommend this occur in all churches) will be sending a quarterly statement of giving. This is a great opportunity to use information to inspire, say thank you and inform.
- Inspiration: Share how the funds were used, maybe an impact the church had in the life of an individual. Testimonials of ministry inspire.
- Thank You: Write a personal handwritten note (maybe on the statement itself) .You will be amazed at the positive results this will bring.
- Inform: The personal statistical information will be informative. Use this as a way of sharing the actual financial picture of the church.
Make the statements come alive with Celebration and Thanksgiving. Your culture of generosity in your church will be enhanced. Generosity is Contagious. Unleash the power.
Christ was with us on earth for only a short time, but he spent every moment teaching us how to love, forgive, care, serve and give. As we consider the Easter story of Christ’s sacrifice for us, what better way to demonstrate our love and gratitude for Him than by helping others?
Investing our resources through an Easter offering for mission needs emphasizes who we are and how we are to impact lives for God. We want to ensure that the money in our wallets can and does transform lives. This is also a great way to onramp new donors to the joy and blessing of giving.
Begin to plan now for this offering. Here are my Top Ten points to consider:
- To what cause will it be given? What will be the life impact by giving through this cause?
- Use inserts on weekends, website, DVD and other media opportunities to market the offering. This should begin March 3.
- Print special offering envelopes with the cause articulated on the envelope plus a place for name and needed information from the donor.
- Insert the offering envelopes in weekend folders on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday (some mail them also)
- Pray for the offering.
- Receive the offering on Easter Weekend.
- Send personal thank you notes to all who give. This may be your first time sending thank you notes. My experience says it will be received with warm hearts. Most people love to be thanked in a personal way for giving,
- Celebrate the amount given the following week in publications and weekend worship times.
- Share thank you notes in publications and weekend worship times from the ministries receiving the offering. A guest testimonial would be even better.
- Consider giving your entire weekend offering away! Caught you off guard, didn’t I? But think of the impact and celebration you would experience in offering “all that you have and all that you are” to meet the needs of others in Christ’s name. After all, isn’t that what He did for us?
Think about it, pray about it…be the church that gives.
Years ago someone told me “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I often thought (assuming I could afford such) what my portfolio would be if I had bought a share of Apple every day!
I recently priced an apple at the local market and the cost was $1.00. What would the world be like if each of us gave $1.00 to someone each day next year. The challenge for all is to give an apple a day. Why wait…let’s start today.
A friend and valued colleague of mine recently shared his thoughts with me about creating a teaching and discipling component in the church environment that continues to lay the groundwork for a generous, biblically based lifestyle. His thoughts focus on two popular ministries: Crown Ministries and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Here is his overview: Lessons on Financial Management and Biblical Stewardship
A strong foundation in stewardship education is key for any church to accomplish its mission of “going into all the world” to tell people about Christ and his transforming love. The financial resources needed to run a church or fund a capital campaign initiative don’t represent “giving to the church” — they represent the enabling of God’s Great Commission. When people understand and put this reality into action, the harvest will be beyond your wildest dreams!
Let me know what stewardship education offerings you have in your church — and share with us their effectiveness. Tell me your stories!
Churches throughout the world have been moving through the holy season that leads to victory on Easter day. It’s a season that tells of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter sets the stage for us to proclaim to the world, “He’s alive!” It makes us who we are as a fellowship of believers.
But what about life after Easter? What plans have we made to continue the proclamation? In reality, our lives now as Christ followers should be re-invigorated and more robust. Our boldness should be seen and heard through loving invitations to those needing the love of God in their lives, through involvement in teaching, learning, and serving, and through acts of radical generosity. For example, I recently read of a church that began a sermon series on Easter rather than ending one!
On Easter, our congregations swell by 40 to 50 percent with people who are mostly absent from church throughout the rest of the year–except at Christmas. However, according to a recent survey published by Barna Research, less than one-third of born-again Christians are planning to invite anyone to join them at a church event this Easter season. In other words, we are merely hoping they come–and come back.
However, another Barna study revealed that 64 percent of the population is completely open to pursuing their faith in an environment or structure that differs from that of a typical church. And 75 percent believe that God is motivating them to connect with Him through different means and experiences than were common in the past. It’s time to help them find Christ–and do whatever it takes to make that happen.
The churches I work with have seen God move in incredible ways through their capital campaign initiatives. In a sluggish economy, they have painted a picture of bringing others to Christ–and their people have responded with indescribable generosity. They see their efforts as creating opportunity for people to seek and meet Christ, learn of His unconditional love, and the share that love through service and giving.
Let’s all take this heart for others to the next level. Put plans in place to offer up yourselves, your church, and the new environment you’ve created to practice intentional invitation and hospitality to those around you. Look for opportunities to reach beyond the norm. Be relentless in opening your hearts and doors. Make every day Easter day.
Yes, there is life after Easter. It’s why we’re all here.
Today I am in the beautiful mountains of Southeastern Kentucky at my Dad’s college, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville. As I round the bend in the winding mountain highway, the sight of this gem of the Cumberland Mountains with its creek stone facades is breathtaking. We are dedicating Melzoni Alumni Hall, a multifamily residential building, in memory of my Mom and Dad. My Dad was a minister who wanted to give back to God every dime he earned in ministry so he could proclaim he served the Lord for free!
We will also celebrate the 60th presentation of the Melzoni Scholarship—and establish the “Coffee Fund.” My Dad could not afford a cup of coffee when he attended this school so my sister and I are establishing a fund to underwrite coffee for all students as long as the school exists.
My Dad taught me how to leave a legacy that touches others for generations to come. Whether it’s as profound as providing a home for those learning and yearning to proclaim the Word of God or simply a cup of coffee with friends anytime they need a break, God will honor a heart of generosity.
Think about these:
- How are you helping your people leave a legacy – individually and as the Body of Christ?
- How are you helping those around you know the eternal significance of leaving a legacy for Christ?
- How is God speaking through the legacy you are leaving?
God’s richest for all of you,
Victorious! John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Yes, the love and peace of Christ transcends the world around us with all its challenges. We can have victory in our relationship with Him even when daily life seeks to overcome us.
A culture of generosity is a true victory in the life of any church. To the world, its tenets seem foolish. Giving money away to help those in need? Building and maintaining a House of God and ministry home from which to make and nurture disciples who serve with joy? How strange! But we who are victorious have overcome the dark thinking of the world. Thanks be to God!
Such a victorious church is St. Luke’s United Church of Christ in Jeffersonville, IN. Their recent “Foundations” campaign was model of spiritual and financial victory. Let’s take a look…
Meet St. Luke’s United Church of Christ in Jeffersonville, IN
Pastor Jennifer Mills-Knutsen and her congregation evaluated the need for renovation and renewal of their downtown church’s nearly 100-year-old building – especially following a 2009 flood. The time and climate was right to launch “Foundations,” a funding initiative to accomplish repairs and renovation as well as enhance St. Luke’s bold spirit of ministry, outreach and community presence.
The “Foundations” Steering Team and Pastor Jennifer worked together to inspire and engage the congregation using campaign materials produced in house as well as frequent updates from Pastor Jennifer. She also utilized her blog, regular email updates and St. Luke’s Facebook page to keep the momentum going with fresh information. The congregation openly discussed the finances of such a project and were able to create a clear snapshot of how much was needed and what would be accomplished with the pledged amount.
Keys to Success: Clarity of vision and case for the campaign, assessment of readiness revealing a culture of generosity, strong and confident pastoral leadership, an engaged and active steering team and congregation, frequent and open communication using a variety of media, a heart for mission and community outreach, an ever-present call to prayer, a sound potential financial base, and the desire to celebrate God’s goodness to approach the next chapter of ministry with boldness and joy.
Annual Giving: $120,000
Campaign Goal: $350,000
Campaign Commitment Total: $438,000 (more than 3 ½ times their annual giving!)
Campaign Prep: Fall 2010
Launch Date: January 16, 2011
Celebration Sunday: February 13, 2011
As I travel around the country, I love the adventure of discovering new routes, new ways to get where I’m going, and using all the resources available to me to reach my destination. However, as I write this today, I am “stuck” at an airport, flight(s) cancelled, snowed in, no solution in sight for making my connection with a precious church desiring to grow their vision of making more room to welcome and grow disciples for the Lord. It grieves me to think I might be forced to postpone our appointed meeting time, because to me, building and managing healthy relationships are key in forming trust, confidence, and a successful outcome.
STUCK! No way out, nowhere to go…or is there? What can you do when you’re “stuck”?
1. PAUSE: Take a moment to think about what happened and why–it may prevent the same thing from happening again. How about that small group opportunity to cultivate generosity or teach about Christian stewardship…why didn’t people respond and take part? Did you extend personal invitations…yes, in person! Did you enlist champions to speak positively about the opportunity? Was it addressed and affirmed from the pulpit (or by leadership)? Try again…
2. PURSUE: So you’re “stuck” taking the conventional route…look off the beaten path. Try an intergenerational approach to stewardship and your annual giving campaign. Have life-seasoned pilgrims share stories of working through everything from the challenges of being married (and staying married!) to making the tough financial decisions in order to give generously to others. Ask a sweet child to talk about what it means to bring an offering to church…you’ll be surprised how faithful they are and how much wisdom they can impart. Develop the concept of a family small group experience leading up to commitment time that gives real life challenges that stimulate and nurture generosity–I’m thinking a board game or scavenger hunt??
3. PERSIST: Don’t give up! Getting on the “generosity highway” takes time. It’s a culture change that resembles turning a ship around–awkward, slow, takes preparation, but is liberating when you’re headed in a new direction! Enlist a Generosity Team to keep focused on how to live daily as stewards for God. Let those around you know you are supporting this team and encouraging their input.
4. PRAY: And keep praying! Pray over generosity scriptures, such as : Deuteronomy 15:10; 2 Chronicles 31:5; Psalm 112:4-5 (you get the idea! Or go to www.biblegateway.com and search ‘generous’) Proverbs 11:25 says, “…whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Pray about who you and your church can “refresh” with generosity…God will answer!
Let me know if you’re “stuck” or let me know what you did to take action. Let’s get on the generosity highway together!