What Pastors Need for Successful Church Campaigns

Recently, I wrote about how our church capital campaign model functions. Consider that over a 20-year period we’ve had a 99% success rate with only one church failing to achieve its goal. No doubt the model works well, but there are other factors beyond our model that influence success in church campaigns. Primary among those factors is the church leadership, which starts with the pastor. Simply stated, the pastor affects greatly the results of any initiative in the church, and this is particularly true of campaigns.

We’ve found that successful pastors have at least 4 characteristics. They include being:


Several years ago James Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote a best selling book on how leaders gain and lose credibility. They wrote, “Leadership is a reciprocal relationship between those who lead and those who decide to follow.” The authors argue that the kind of reciprocity they mean is achieved only when leaders earn and maintain credibility. That credibility comes first from their integrity, “saying what they mean and meaning what they say.”

When pastors make clear what they mean, communicate it broadly and then follow through with action consistent with what they’ve said, they build credibility. When people believe pastors mean what they say, they’ll trust and line up to follow them. Of course, the pastor’s thinking needs to be realistic, but fulfilling promises is where trust and credibility begin.

Grounded in Reality

This relates directly to credibility. There’s a fine line between stretching a congregation and breaking them, and effective pastors know the difference. For example, one pastor wanted our help in generating $3 million. After conducting a church survey and then interviewing several church members, we were convinced that the church couldn’t generate anywhere near that amount.

They agreed to put the basic goal at a much lower level, and the church exceeded it by 10%. We continued to work with leaders after the campaign on increasing donations and the final number went even higher. They had raised 33% more than the stated goal. It didn’t complete the full vision, but this realistic approach proved successful, and it allowed them to celebrate. It also added greatly to the pastor’s credibility.


This pastor was successful because he was teachable. He listened and acted upon our informed estimate of what he could raise, and he achieved success. In fact, his teachable attitude allowed us to help them raise an additional $275,000 towards the larger goal after commitment weekend.

The opposite was true with the one campaign that failed. They didn’t want any due diligence before the campaign because they were in a hurry. Additionally, they wanted a shorter pledge period than recommended, and they failed to follow through on several other recommendations. In other words, they paid us, but they weren’t teachable and didn’t follow our direction (points they freely admit in retrospect).


If leaders desire to be successful they have to be visionary. I love the story about Walt Disney being fired from a newspaper because he, “lacked imagination.” A recent Forbes article was entitled, “Leadership success always starts with vision.” Among several examples the author provides there was one about John F. Kennedy. He once cast a vision that we would safely land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In July of 1969, Neil Armstrong achieved that vision.

Pastors aren’t just caretakers; they’re visionaries casting a shared vision about where the church is headed. Campaigns then, are a means to that vision that helps advance the kingdom of Christ. When pastors understand this and are credible, grounded in reality, teachable and visionary, they usually succeed in whatever they endeavor to do.