No More Excuses for Church Generosity

Leadership // May 9, 2010

Several of us agreed a couple of months ago to stop talking about the economy. Enough already. Stop whining. Indeed, what has been viewed by many as an obstacle to funding ministry and capital projects is having less and less of an impact today.

I have been blessed to engage with several churches and non-profit ministries this spring, and the results are coming is as I write this article. Suffice it to say, for these clients anyway, the economy is not holding them back.

One has received commitments in excess of 4 times the annual income of the church. Another is at 2.4 times. Early commitments are in from two other clients who are having congregational commitment events later this month. The results of their “leadership” phases are running at or above what I would normally anticipate.

These are not examples from wealthy areas with large memberships of affluent people. They represent a huge cross section of the country – economically, denominationally (if that’s a word), geographically. They represent ministries with average ages from low 30’s to upper mid 60’s.

Let’s review what will increase the likelihood of success for any initiative. The felt need should be:

Urgent – the project must have a sense of urgency about it. If we don’t do this now, there will be a negative impact upon the ministry. We must move forward!

Compelling – a project that is captivating, one that demands a response. There is much competition for the charitable dollar today. Those with compelling cases are being funded, while others are cast aside. You not only need a compelling case, but you must present it in a compelling way! Communicate it effectively.

Aligned – the project must be aligned to your ministry’s God-given mission. Prior to the economic downturn, back in 2006-2007, a time of “fat thinking”, projects that were “nice to have” could be funded. Not today. Your constituency expects an initiative to be one that furthers the cause to which you have been called. Our budgets (church and personal) have little room for discretionary appeals. Make sure you can demonstrate alignment between your mission and the initiative. If you can’t, then you have work to do prior to launching a funding appeal.

Can you raise money today? Is it possible to increase excess operational revenue? Absolutely. The economy should not be used as an excuse to hold your ministry back any longer.

(I acknowledge that unemployment remains high – it is the lagging economic indicator – always is – but even with the rate approaching 10%, that leaves 90% gainfully employed. Let’s continue to be sensitive to our friends who are out of work, but not to the detriment of moving forward toward God-inspired vision.)

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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