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Back to Stewardship Basics

A capital campaign is not all about raising funds — it's a spiritual warfare that calls for faithful adherence to biblical principles.

We have heard the horror stories: The campaign divided the church. The pastor left before, during or right after the campaign. Everybody had a better idea of how the campaign should have been built.

Why does something that can be so exciting for your church cause fear and problems? Why does something that can stretch the faith of your congregation and take you to the next level fail so many times?

I offer this reason: Because we do not employ true biblical stewardship principles in our capital campaigns.

I know that sounds a bit haughty of me. But from my experience working with churches and parachurch ministries, I have found that some pastors don't know even the basics when it comes to implementing stewardship into the campaign.

Please allow me to share some principles that could help your congregation develop a healthy attitude towards campaigns.

Set up a prayer committee composed of prayer warriors, not gossipers. Remember, the ultimate goal of the campaign is increased ministry. That goal has an enemy. Don't think that your campaign is about money — this is a spiritual warfare.

Begin teaching stewardship as a lifestyle at least one year before the campaign. When we teach stewardship right before the campaign, it seems to most church members just a slick way to get them ready to give big bucks to the campaign.

Teach stewardship as a lifestyle, not as a fundraising strategy. Our lives should be a constant form of worship to God. Teach stewardship as a key component of our walk with Jesus.

Involve people in the vision-casting for the new building. Get input from your people and involve them in all areas of the project as much as possible.

The ultimate goal of a capital campaign is not money, bricks and mortar. The end result is a tool for increased ministry. Focus on what the ministry impact will be in the new facility. Focus on outcomes and results.

Be generation-sensitive in your teaching, training and communication. Remember that builder-generation members view giving differently than boomers and busters. If you are not sure of the differences, talk to them. They will tell you what they like and do not like about tithing, stewardship and giving.

Use counsel. Most campaigns use counsel to offer guidance through a very complex strategy. Sometimes they are there to tell you that you are not crazy and to keep going. Other times they can advise those members who are sure they could do it cheaper and quicker. A consultant is a valuable ally in this battle.

Emphasize that stewardship is a key component of the Christian faith. If we look at II Corinthians 8:7, we see that Paul exhorts us to "excel in the grace of giving." He equates it with being people of faith and love. This idea that Christians ought to be givers at the very core of their being is something that is not being taught consistently.

Make it your battle cry to be a true "biblical stewardship church." It is not enough to raise the money for the campaign. Other goals should include meeting the annual needs of the church, having a benevolence fund available for those we will never see on Sunday mornings, and that the nursery, junior high, and parking lot ministries will always have volunteers on the waiting list.

Celebrate God's goodness, direction and provision at every step. Find the joy in your campaign.

There should be no division among leaders. Everyone must sing the same song and articulate the same vision.

Follow proven campaign principles. There are many strategies to conduct a campaign; violating campaign principles is a big mistake. Take a look at I Chronicles 27-29. David hears the vision, communicates it to his leadership, and then they lead in giving. The people follow the leadership and give from a top-down fashion. Avoid the "one size fits all" myth at all costs. Deuteronomy 16: 17 states that "each of us should give in proportion to the way we have been blessed." Do not be shy about teaching this principle. Those with more are expected to give more.

Create the stewardship committee first, then create the building project committee. Everybody wants to be on the committee that gets to spend the money. Recruit the leadership to raise it first. Set this committee as a priority months before the architects and builders in the church start their meetings. (They will do all their great work and then say, "OK, give the money.") Do not be fooled by the idea that people will only give if they see exact floor plans. People give to a vision for ministry. They will believe in the future if you do.

Involve all types of giving right from the start. Encourage gifts in kind, planned gifts, property, appreciated assets, etc. Donors are sophisticated today, but they think the church is not sophisticated enough to handle these complex gifts. Get professional assistance and allow your church members to give in a variety of ways.

Create a ministry fair as part of your campaign. Allow all the ministry groups and teams to put up a booth and demonstrate their unique programs. Recruit volunteers and invite people to use their talents. A spiritual gifts and talents analysis and other similar resources are very helpful in identifying peoples' gifts.

Create a reporting process that keeps the congregation informed. Yes, report finances. But also report ministry progress, milestones and spiritual goals. This is what people give to. They want to make an impact and a difference through their giving. Make sure you let them know when it happens. And make sure you tie this to the stewardship principle of the parable of the talents. Remember, we are to multiply in our use of resources.

Watch for momentum. Capital campaigns are not just about money. They embrace vision and are emotion-based. Keeping people on task and looking to the future requires momentum. Do not forget the rah-rah. It helps keep the momentum!

Keep teaching scriptural principles about stewardship during the campaign. The church is supposed to teach the truth whether it is popular or not. Remember, we do not raise money because we need a new building; we raise money because God's people are called to give.

Create levels of success. If you have plateaus that will create a momentum or a project fully pledged — claim success. Not every campaign completes every project. But you must be successful. So create a strategy with multiple levels or goals for success.

Depend on God. Sometimes we get so into strategy (I am guilty of this) that we go to God with our plans as if to say, "God, I know you are busy so I wrote this plan and would like you to bless it." Many campaigns change or adjust throughout the timeline. Be flexible and listen to God. And celebrate when he directs you.

Continue teaching stewardship after the campaign. After all, stewardship is more than just achieving the goal, it's about the journey. If you have a church full of stewards you will be much richer than just completing a campaign goal.

Stewardship can be the key to the most successful capital campaign your church has ever undertaken. It can move peoples' hearts closer to the Lord, invigorate involvement in ministry, and yes, complete your building project.