6 Questions to Consider Before Starting a Building Campaign

by Brad Leeper

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3. Am I encouraging biblical generosity and stewardship?

For years now, churches have reaped the fruit of financial gifts that flow more from excess than from a heart of generosity and sacrifice. Givers need fresh, relevant teaching in biblical generosity and sound financial stewardship.

Studies such as Crown Financial Ministries (www.crown.org), Good $ense (www.goodsenseministry.com), or Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (www.daveramsey.com) can help you teach basic biblical principles regarding money. Crown also has a special edition study for high-capacity givers to help you minister to their special needs.

4. How long should my campaign be?

The traditional three-year campaign was developed primarily because of the need to maximize pledges to secure a long-term loan. But with less lending options and cheaper alternatives to building, there is a trend for more frequent mission expansion projects with a smaller giving season.

For example, one church I work with just finished a massive construction project and immediately outgrew the space within months of opening. Ordinarily, the next step would have been to build an even larger facility at a projected cost of more than $30 million. Instead, they are opting for a multisite strategy at less than 10 percent of that cost. The church, rather than pursuing the standard three-year giving season, is looking for financial gifts within the next nine months only. The cash will be in hand when the multisites are launched, and no bank loan will be required. If the multisites are successful, they will tackle another campaign within the year.

Should your church consider a series of smaller campaigns over three years rather than one large one? Here are some of the advantages:

  • Members today are much more comfortable with short-term commitments because of uncertainty about their jobs or financial investments.
  • Bank loans are not necessary for many projects now if you can raise the necessary resources in a shorter amount of time.
  • Supporters favor paying as they go in projects rather than committing the church to long-term debt in these times.

5. How am I communicating to each giver?

A traditional campaign assumes that most of the communication is one-size-fits-all. Just like our culture, church populations have diverse and unique groups that have their own special needs. So the conversation must be customized for each of those groups. An expensive brochure or creative video alone will no longer be adequate. Intentional layers of communication spread out over more time are more effective.

High-capacity givers need one level of conversation, and within this group, there are as many female givers as male. Newcomers require a glossary of terms because they are just encountering the process. Lay leaders have different expectations and should be engaged on a deeper level. In this sense, communication has become far more complex. You will need to take more time to communicate deliberately with your various groups of givers to maximize their financial investment.

6. Am I giving people what they need to connect?

In classic capital campaigns, most of the information is communicated in a five-week window, assuming that people are in church each of those five weeks. But the idea that projects can be launched and completed in less than 40 days will no longer be the best practice.

It is very rare for people to be physically present in church every Sunday. Online social networking and other cultural shifts have changed how we communicate. People now long for intimacy, affinity and community within an authentic context. To engage the heart, mind, and money of their people, churches are radically shifting how they tell their stories.

In addition to providing a brochure, you need to focus on fostering conversation. Create places of dialogue where givers can get face-to-face with you and other visionaries in an intimate setting. Churches that generate a steady stream of meaningful communication in the six to nine months prior to the actual public phase of the campaign often build momentum to a tipping point that culminates in a successful financial outpouring.

While you may wonder if some of these trends are relevant for your church, there’s no doubt that the traditional campaign is evolving. I pray that these questions will help your church adapt to new methods of ministry expansion beyond anything you have ever hoped or imagined.

Brad Leeper is a senior strategist at Generis (www.generis.com), one of the nation’s leaders in church giving and generosity counsel. As a specialist in multisite strategy and other pioneering church movements, Leeper works with all types of churches across the U.S. to help them advance the Kingdom in their community.

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