A recent study of over 1,000 churches across the United States who had recently completed capital campaigns revealed that seemingly subtle differences in the ways various churches approached their campaigns yielded startling and significantly different campaign results. The study was conducted in June-July 2010 by Volkart May & Associates, a Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota based marketing and market research firm.
By Sean Mitchell
During feasibility studies, a number of things surface and are set into motion. For example, the congregation's thoughts regarding the presented vision are heard. As a result, some of the presented plans might be tweaked. Others may be left behind. In addition, church participants are challenged to begin thinking about sacrificing additional resources of time, talents, and money to assist with a potential capital stewardship campaign. Some church members are enthusiastic and excited about giving more. Others are worrying that they have very little to give, and then there may be some who are fearful that now is not the right time for their church to undertake such a project. Faith. Fear. Hope. Anxiety. But, while all of these things are bubbling up in the study's context, what is happening with prayer? Are individual worshipers, and the congregation as a whole, continuing their conversation with God by seeking for His will to surface in this context?
In John 17, Jesus prayed that His group of followers would be one. Jesus' prayer should become ours. It should become the prayer of churches as they journey through capital feasibility studies. Think of the ripple effect in the life of a church if unity is not present. A church capital stewardship campaign will face obstacles if there is disunity around the vision of the plans. Does this mean that the campaign needs a 100% approval rate from the congregation before it should be undertaken? No. But it does mean that those who have disagreements with the plan may have to lay those down for the sake of unity and peace. These people will need to pray, and ask God to help them do that. The church as a whole will need to gather and pray and ask God to give them everything they need to make loving others and loving Him the primary goal of the campaign. For without love, unity will fall apart.
Secondly, congregations will need to pray for courage. Due to these economic times, courage is needed now more than ever. Around the country, churches are confessing to feelings of inadequacy. They are questioning if now is the right time to engage capital projects such as building plans and deferred maintenance. These churches are certainly wise to take the economy into consideration. Maybe waiting a few years down the road would be wise for some, but it is crucial to not allow fear and anxiety to make that decision for you, instead of listening to God's desires. It would not be wise if God is directing to move forward today. It would be wise to go in the direction God is leading and trust Him to provide the resources to complete the task.
For those congregations who are sensing the urgency of the moment, a remembrance of God's ways is crucial. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is found to be the strength and hope of His people. He fights their battles. He forgives their sins. He heals. He meets His people in their inadequacies and gives them the grace to take the journey He has given them. God gets things done - through His people.
His people follow.
He gives strength.
His people trust His strength will be more than enough.
Is your congregation facing a challenging context? Does it appear that you do not have what it takes to answer your calling? If so, you are in a good place. You are in a place where you can't move ahead on your own. You are in a place where you are called to pray for courage and trust God to be your strength and provider. It is in this place where God's strength will be greater than anything you have ever imagined it to be.
If and when your church conducts a capital stewardship readiness assessment, invite every member of the congregation to fully participate by both thinking and praying. Encourage them to pray Jesus' prayer for unity. Encourage them to pray individually and pray corporately for the courage to trust God and His calling above the voices of fear and anxiety.
And then encourage them to pray again.