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Success is Sweet, and As Rare As an Inside The Park Home Run

19 Jul. 2016 Posted by Denis Greene in Church Capital Campaigns


October 27, 2015 Alcides Escobar hit a leadoff inside the park home run for the Royals during the World Series, the first since 1929. Everyone in Kansas City celebrated.

Last Friday night I celebrated with almost the same level of joy. It was because a pastor did the right thing at the right time, and totally scored a home run for his church. 

A friend of mine (and client) is a pastor of a mega church (10,000 members). He invited six of his church's top supporters over for dinner. The agenda was: a) Thanks for being such awesome supporters, b) I want your input on setting priorities for the next five years. We enjoyed a glass of wine and snacks for 30 minutes, then dinner for 90 minutes. He introduced me as the facilitator, and the director of stewardship, Jeremy, as the expert in residence. Sometimes Shawn, the church business administrator, is the expert in residence for other "engagement events". 

As a church capital campaign consultant, I am frequently asked by a church to come right over and raise a million dollars immediately. Ned Yost, coach of the Royals, would not have asked Alcides Escobar to please go out there and hit an inside the park home run. Rather, in the preseason, Ned would have put Escobar through solid training drills, repetitive practice, and given him scouting information, all to prepare him for success later. To his credit, this pastor asked me "Denis, at some point in the future, we will need to do a church capital campaign, how can we prepare now for success later?" 

My best advice, after managing over 100 church capital campaigns, is engage your members in a dialog about planning for the future of the church. Before you even do a feasibility study, conduct a series of "engagement events". The purpose is not to ask for a pledge, the purpose is to engage members, so that they have a sense of ownership of the church. They will tell you if you should do a church capital campaign, or if you should delay it until later, of if you should address some crisis before anyone can think about the future. 

We covered a range of topics - from "What drew you to this church" to "What problems do you think we need to address" to "What can we do to ensure the long term success of the church?" Their ideas were magnificent. The participants obviously cared deeply for the church and the pastor. Their suggestions, which included "we need to launch a capital campaign soon" were offered in the spirit of doing the right thing for the common good. 

When I heard that suggestion, my heart skipped a beat with joy. 

Our research indicates that if a person is involved in making a decision regarding supporting a church capital campaign, there is a 90% probability that they will support it financially. Furthermore, our research indicates that if a person extends themselves on behalf of the campaign, their giving will be 11 times greater than if they did not. 

Conclusion: member engagement events before a church capital campaign are the equivalent to solid spring training before the inside the park home run during the world series.