Every church leader has to wrestle with the financial demands of ministry.
The apostle Paul was bi-vocational as a tentmaker. But Acts 18:5 may imply that his friends who came from Macedonia brought funds to now support Paul in full-time ministry (When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching...
—Acts 18:5a ).
Regardless, it’s clear that his support from other churches (“I ‘robbed’ other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you.” —2 Cor. 11:8 ) made his work in the Achaia province possible.
So when it comes time to raise money—and let’s get real: it may be for something as mundane as a leaking roof…or confronting a Goliath of poverty and injustice in your community—it needs to be framed and communicated well.
As a side note, I have a theory about “giving campaigns”: I think that every 4-to-5 years a church needs to be challenged with something bigger than themselves, particularly in the U.S. where consumerism is cancerous to discipleship. Periodically we need to shake ourselves of the stranglehold money has on us…and pastors have the responsibility to disciple their people on the discipline of sacrifice. Which, by the way, I assume pastors are practicing themselves.
I’ve observed 6 primary principles in raising money. Before we look at these, first ask: What’s the size and scope of the campaign? That will determine how much emphases you give to the following six points.
1. Build a compelling shared vision.
People will give to a vision before they give to a need. For instance, if your leadership team senses the need for a food pantry in your area, paint a vision where the needs of a community are met by the people of God and the love of Jesus…where real transformation can take place. Express the need with data and facts, but spell out a preferred future—a vision—of what could be if God showed up. If it’s a big vision, stress the need for “equal sacrifice, not equal giving” and urge your people to ask God what their personal sacrifice will be while sharing your own.
2. Involve as many people as possible.
Whether that’s a communication committee or a prayer team or a project management task force or whatever, get as many volunteers plugged into tactical and strategic processes as possible. The more people that are directly involved, the more “personal ownership” and engagement in the campaign will take place.
3. Use visuals and stories connected to your points.
A picture is worth a thousand words…unless it’s a great story. But a picture and a story?—Unbeatable. When we personalize a campaign with a real story of a member’s sacrifice or someone’s need, we make an impression on the visual receptors of the brain. We are whole people and our emotions are a critical part of how we process information and make decisions.
4. Memorable action-verb language is critical.
“Donate to the food pantry fund” doesn’t carry much weight; “Help feed a struggling family in your community” is more powerful. That’s not manipulative; it’s the true purpose of what you really want to do with your food pantry idea. You’re giving real meaning to money beyond spending it on ourselves.
5. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Just when you think you’re tired of communicating a vision, you’ve only just begun. Raising funds for a ministry requires lots of communication, so make sure you regularly update your church on: • how they’re progressing on achieving the goal, • how the money is being spent, • the difference their sacrifice is making, • and never ever forget to say “thank you”.
6. Last, provide different onramps for giving.
Is this a one-time gift? Are you doing pledges? Can spontaneous gifts be texted? How are you set up for online giving? Is it easy to access on your website? Are you thinking beyond cash: stocks, mutual funds, etc.? Spell out the different avenues for taking part in what you’ve communicated as a vital expression of the heart of God and the DNA of your church.
Church leaders should not be afraid to ask for money if the problem being addressed is a legitimate Kingdom expression. If it is, framing vision around that is relatively simple. And when we all sacrifice, there is very little we can’t do.
And, I would posit, periodically it's a critical need for the health of the local church.
Dave Workman | Elemental Churches