Author: Len Moisan

Here We Go Again

So here it is, December 18th, almost Christmas and then a new year! So I must ask, how did we get here so fast? I haven’t even had my usual annual treks through department stores yet. Of course, online shopping has helped greatly.

Still I like getting out with the masses this time of the year. I enjoy simply watching people, and the closer we get to Christmas, the more frantic people seem to become. For example, the other day at Target I heard a group of girls talking about career aspirations. “Oh yea, I’m going to be a teacher. You get summers off and also all of those holidays during the year. Plus you get to work with kids.”

Then I stopped by Walmart to find Christmas decoration sales. I overheard a couple in a fight. They both wanted to get the right gift for their little daughter, but one spouse was a bit more curious than the other. The woman found the perfect present and then found a more perfect one.

After several iterations of this, the guy finally grabbed the doll his wife selected earlier and threw it in his basket. Then he announced to his wife and the rest of the world that he was leaving, and if she wanted a ride she’d have to follow him out of the store. That brought two thoughts to mind: 1) First, I began wondering about “Peace on earth and goodwill towards men” and 2) I was hoping that the doll had escaped unscathed and without injury.

Really, Christmas can be frantic, and I’m as guilty as the next person for speeding things up rather than slowing them down. It actually takes concentration to settle into Christmas. In fact, every year we tell ourselves that this year we’ll slow it down and enjoy the season, but the season doesn’t always cooperate. So here are a few ideas to fight the busyness:

  1. Smile frequently, make it a point to say hello to more people and wish them a Merry Christmas. Though it may seem small, it’s amazing how this can lift your spirits and truly enjoy the people around you.
  2. Do something for someone who can’t pay you back. For example, this year an 11 year old Massachusetts boy named Brady Procon paid off a layaway bill of $327.27 at Walmart. He wanted to do the generous deed because he realized there were kids less fortunate than himself.
  3. Make time for relaxation. If you purposely block out time for reading a book or watching movies together it may help you get into the season. I try to read at least one or two Christmas themed books annually and we watch several Christmas movies.
  4. Conduct an Advent wreath ceremony leading up to Christmas. Information is available online, but essentially it helps the family contemplate the great spiritual purpose for which Jesus came to earth…to redeem us through His eventual death, burial and resurrection. There are typically 4 weeks of Advent with prayers and candle lightings for each week. However, since our grandchildren are young, we do it all in one night.
  5. Have a birthday party for Jesus with cake and all. It is both fun and instructional. It focuses on the birthday of Jesus, but you can accompany it with a short story about why He came.
  6. Don’t be afraid to say, “no” to invitations. Sometimes we simply tell folks the truth; we have a family night planned. Setting boundaries is important when it threatens to cut into family time.
  7. Unplug from technology, so you can notice, listen to and focus on others. This one is self-explanatory.

And finally, to you and yours I wish you a blessed and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous and healthful New Year!  The weekly blog will resume in January.

How Churches Prosper and Grow

For several weeks I’ve been talking about reasons churches fail to grow and sometimes close their doors. Now today I want to discuss how churches grow. What is it in their DNA that accommodates and even encourages growth?

Of course, in many cases church growth comes for a variety of reasons, but there are also some fundamental factors that tend to induce church growth. They include the following:

  1. The church is clear on what it believes…In fact, most successful churches are clear on their beliefs. I’m a member of a very large church and it has been on a growth pattern for over 30 years. One of the things our pastor decided to do regularly is teach a “What We Believe” class to new people interested in joining the church.

To the extent possible, he wanted everyone to understand the main doctrines of the church. Of course, this doesn’t induce growth by itself, but when most people understand the church’s mission, values and main doctrines, it makes it easier for them to embrace the church and motivates church members to invite others.

  1. The church is friendly…There is nothing worse than visiting an unfriendly church. When people are welcoming it attracts others. Hopefully, most homes are friendly places, and you expect the same from your church home.
  2. The church empowers its people…When people are part of the decision making process at the church…when they’re allowed to do things to serve without someone looking down their collective necks…they tend to assume ownership. This can mean anything from doing janitorial work to Facebook postings to visiting the sick, etc.

 Of course, it requires that church leadership also give up some control. I’ve often said that a church can have engagement or control of its membership, but it can’t have both. This assumes also that the church acknowledges the contributions of its members and celebrates their success!

I remember one church that had a very successful campaign…so successful that they created a multi-page booklet to commemorate the event. The only problem was that in the entire booklet the person who chaired the campaign wasn’t mentioned once. He got over it, but he expressed that it bothered him.

  1. The church cares for its pastor…At least part of caring for your pastor is empowering your people to help. Pastor burnout is real, and so is pastoral attrition. When the church cares for its pastor, usually as a person with a spouse and children who can’t physically do everything, then pastors tend to remain enthusiastic about the church.
  1. The church has an outward focus…When churches are insular and focused on themselves, they tend to become territorial and selfish. It is quite contrary to the idea of service that Jesus intended. By contrast, an outward focus asks questions constantly like, “How can we reach more people and how best can we serve them?”
  1. The church’s music and messages are powerful and relevant and not compromised…Today, most people are not looking for watered down, feel good messages. They are dealing with serious issues and need something to hold on to. They want the truth presented in ways that help them both understand and cope with daily living…and they want music that soothes their souls and expresses their deepest feelings.
  1. The church challenges its people…If you learn about the life and sacrifices of Jesus and His disciples, you should be challenged. However, beyond the teaching there should be opportunities to challenge people to stretch and serve in a variety of ways. That could be giving to a church campaign or volunteering in one of many ministries.

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s hard to believe it’s almost Thanksgiving. I remember not too long ago posting a blog for the 4th of July. Wow, it’s amazing how time flies! However, this holiday is one of my favorites, because it’s a time still protected from most commercialism. It really is a peaceful celebration when families reflect on and share all of the good things in their lives.

My Research on Thanksgiving

As I was doing research on Thanksgiving I found that it actually had its roots in the Protestant Reformation. Prior to 1536 there were 95 Church holidays plus 52 Sundays. Reformers reduced the number of holidays to 27, but Puritans wanted to eliminate all church holidays including Christmas and Easter. They’d be replaced by days of fasting and thanksgiving.

The modern version of Thanksgiving is traced to 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The pilgrims were celebrating safe passage from England and a great harvest. That harvest came after miraculous rain that arrived in the middle of a drought. However the annual practice of celebrating this day really didn’t come until the late 1660s. Still it wasn’t yet an official holiday in the US. That didn’t happen until 1863 when President Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. And then in 1941 FDR changed the date to the 4th Thursday in November.

The Purpose of Thanksgiving

While there is much debate about the origins of Thanksgiving there is really little debate about its purpose. It was created to give thanks to God for what He’s given us. It could be a family, a job, a warm place to live, people who love us or many other blessings. True, some folks lack these things, but they still have purposes for which to give thanks. Now there are people who will argue for a more secular purpose, but to do that one would have to deny history.

The Pilgrims gave thanks, not only for safe passage and the harvest, but also for the freedom now experienced in America to worship as they pleased. In Europe, both the church hierarchy and the monarchy controlled their worship practices. Conversely, the Geneva Bible stressed freedom of worship in Christ and inspired the pilgrims. In fact, there were several explanatory notes in the Geneva Bible that were anti-monarchy and anti-church control of the believer.

The Freedom of Thanksgiving

Written by such reformers as John Calvin, John Knox, John Foxe, & others, the Geneva Bible embraced the priesthood of the individual believer. Common people did not need the church hierarchy to interpret for them. They were free to read and interpret for themselves. Accordingly, the pilgrims broke away from the Church hierarchy and met in homes to worship freely. Eventually they sought a more permanent freedom and risked their lives to sail across the treacherous ocean and come to America.

Apart from the study of history, we wouldn’t know the origins or the faith-driven nature of this great holiday. No doubt there are quite a few things to worry about these days, and these worries tend to bring anxiety. Though we see much trouble communicated in the daily news, I find that focusing on worries just tends to add to my anxiety. However, when I can be thankful for my blessings…my wife, children, grandchildren and friends…my health and so much more, those worries tend to fade. Maybe that’s why thanksgiving is so much more peaceful…we worry less and give thanks more.

My wish during this season is that peace will be true for you as well. To all of our readers, friends, clients, family and friends, I wish you and yours an overwhelmingly Happy Thanksgiving!

Why Churches Decline, Fail to Grow and Sometimes Close (Part 3)

In two previous blogs we began a discussion of 12 reasons why churches decline, people leave and they fail to grow. Topics so far include that the church:

  1. Is not being united in prayer.
  2. Is a place of conflict, gossip and judgmental attitudes, refusing to deal with sin.
  3. Is not friendly.
  4. Does not empower their people.
  5. Is risk averse and takes forever to make decisions.
  6. Is unorganized, the music is poor and the services aren’t engaging.
  7. Has the domination of a few strong members.
  8. Is a poor steward and always on the brink of financial disaster.

Now today we’ll look at the final four reasons. However, since I’ve heard many church leaders talk about the need to attract younger people, this blog will focus on why young people either leave or don’t attend church.

A LifeWay survey revealed that 70% of 18–22 year-olds stop attending church for at least a year. Likewise, Barna surveys reveal that most 20 year-olds leave church, never to return. Here are just a few reasons:

  1. The church seems unfriendly to people with legitimate doubts…It’s important to feel safe in asking questions and dealing with doubts. In one study 36% of millenials felt they were unable to ask their most pressing questions in church.

 As a 13-year old, Apple founder Steve Jobs was a regular church attendee. However, he had questions regarding why God seemingly did nothing for the starving children around the world. His pastor gave him a rather simplistic answer and Jobs left the church never looking back. When people have doubts like this they should be taken seriously and addressed thoughtfully.

  1. They don’t feel connected to or valued by the people in their church. Psalm 130:14 says that we praise God in part because we’re fearfully and wonderfully made…and God’s works (including millenials) are wonderful. In 1 John 3:14 we’re told that, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”

When young people don’t experience that love in the church it’s not surprising that they leave. Churches are supposed to be communities where everyone is welcome. When they’re not welcome church growth stops and eventually that church dies either spiritually, physically or both.

  1. They believe the Bible contradicts itself, so they stopped believing in its teachings…It’s not sufficient anymore to respond to concerns by saying simply, “The Bible doesn’t contradict itself.” While that’s true, young people need more thoughtful answers.

For example, in “Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith,” Josh McDowell and Don Stewart note, “Certain passages appear to be contradictory, but further investigation will show that this is not the case… remember that two statements may differ from each other without being contradictory. “

The authors explain this concept further with examples, but their answers are thoughtful and well studied. 

  1. They don’t agree with the Church’s “simplistic and judgmental” attitudes towards sex or their antagonism towards science…In one study 1/3rd of respondents believe Christians aren’t flexible because they believe they “know all the answers.” Additionally, 30% believe the church is out of step with science and an equal percentage do not like the exclusive nature of Christianity.

There are several thoughtful answers to these objections, but they have to be presented logically and patiently. Jesus’ words were exclusive, but pastors need to earn the right to explain them by loving young people first instead of arguing with them.

In the next blog we’ll look at ways churches can address these issues.

Why Churches Decline, Fail to Grow and Sometimes Close (Part 2)

Last week we cited some alarming data on the state of churches in America:

  • 62% have experienced either no church growth or declines in their congregations.
  • 65% have less than 100 congregants including children.
  • More than 2 million have left the church every year for the past 7 years.
  • In just 8 years the % of Americans calling themselves Christians has decreased from 78% to 70%.

We then began to discuss reasons and noted that research demonstrates and our work confirms at least 12 conditions that negatively affect attendance. We began with 4 of those reasons including:

  1. Not being united in prayer
  2. Places of conflict, gossip and judgmental attitudes, refusing to deal with sin
  3. Not friendly
  4. Do not empower their people

Now this week we’ll discuss a few more reasons.

  1. Churches are risk averse and they take forever to make decisions.

Often churches are good at organizing committees to “study something.” They talk and debate, but in the end wind up not taking any action. Often their lack of action is a direct result of their lack of faith and not seeking God’s direction. In Romans, Paul challenges us to present ourselves to God and our members to God as instruments. That implies action…not inaction.

  1. The church is unorganized, the music is poor and the services aren’t engaging.

When we first moved to town we had a variety of church experiences before we found our church home. At one church we filled out a response card but then never heard from anyone.

At another church there must have been a quarrel between the choir leader and his singers. He and three others were in the choir and he said in a rather red-faced manner, “It’s nice to see so many of our choir members sitting in the audience.” After that he violently led what was left of the choir in “Victory in Jesus.” And to top it all off, the preaching was at best mediocre.

Neither my wife nor I wanted to deal with the lack of follow-up, poor preaching or drama that we found at these churches.

  1. Domination of a few strong members.

One church was thinking about organizing a capital campaign and they were seeking our advice. As I probed, I found that some of the elders were perplexed. Evidently they had very reliable information that the pastor had been having an extramarital affair with a woman in the church. The members of their group wanted the pastor to resign his duties, but there were others representing powerful voices who wanted him to stay.

First, it surprised me that this was even an issue. Second, I told them they were not ready for any kind of campaign until they dealt with this issue. Specifically, I felt that they needed to confront the other elders with the evidence and get on the same page. Then they needed to confront the pastor with the same evidence, ask him to step down and leave the church. After that they should tell the members that he was asked to leave, “for cause”.

  1. The church is a poor steward and always on the brink of financial disaster.

Whether it’s a church, a school or a sports team, people want to be associated with a stable organization that is achieving great things. That is certainly true of a church. Churches should not only teach good stewardship they should live it and report on their actions. If churches live beyond their means and always ask for help to bail them out, something is wrong. After a while, people stop caring and they leave.

Next week we’ll look at the last 4 reasons for declining church attendance.

The Church Today is Facing Some Serious Issues

Increasingly world trends penetrate that traditional safety barrier of the church. Whether it’s the “Me too” movement, marital infidelity, financial scandals, etc.; church staff need to be prepared. In fact, a recent Christianity Today article listed the top 5 reasons people file lawsuits against churches:

  1. Property Disputes – A Minnesota court recently ruled a local congregation could keep its church after leaving (PCUSA)…It was a dispute between liberal and conservative factions.
  2. Sexual Abuse of a Minor – While this has declined recently, for the previous decade this issue made up more than 1 in 9 church lawsuits…
  3. Personal Injury – Church improvements in handicap accessibility and property maintenance have decreased such suits, but pastors still need to be vigilant.
  4. Insurance Coverage Disputes – This covers a whole host of issues, so pastors should be sure that policies are as comprehensive as possible…fire and water damage, abuse allegations, building use, personal injury, liability. HR and more.
  5. Zoning Issues – Church neighbors now sue for noise, Sunday morning traffic, free speech, or just plain bias.

In most cases these issues were not part of the seminary curriculum. Therefore, few pastors know how to deal with all of this. They need advice and help from well-equipped members. There are also other concerns emerging that include but aren’t limited to the following:

  1. A Lack of Planning – On a fairly regular basis churches come to us to help them raise millions of dollars. Often when we begin to ask questions about their planning, they don’t have answers. In fact, a few of them haven’t even discussed what we’re asking. We’ve found that effective fundraising usually comes from a planning process. People who may support a capital campaign, also want to know that you’ve thought about this up front and you’ve done your due diligence.
  2. A Lack of Gospel Centered Preaching on Stewardship – The need for increased church operational funding is growing. Yet we often find that pastors avoid preaching on stewardship, even though it’s part of the full counsel of the Gospel. People need to understand Christ’s call for us to give and to help others, and it’s the pastor’s job to ensure that’s happening.
  3. A Tendency to Allow Politics to Invade the Pulpit – In any given church members have mixed political views. However, when pastors share their views it tends to polarize the church. Sure, some may agree with the pastor, which makes it friendly and inviting to some, but potentially that can extract a huge price. Others, who may disagree with the pastor’s political positions, can find the culture unfriendly and hostile, which defeats the purpose of the church. The church should be a place of respite, where people find spiritual guidance and support while learning to put things in perspective through Gospel teaching and community. The church was never intended to be a political action committee used to mobilize Christian forces. Instead, churches tend to flourish when they keep the Gospel front and center and apolitical. In fact, there is a direct correlation between a pastor’s political pronouncements from the pulpit and their loss of spiritual authority.
  4. Our People View Traditional Christian Morality as Extreme, Antiquated and Hazardous – Rising tides of individualism in the US are clearly affecting the church. It’s all about “looking out for number one,” regardless of what happens to others. Witness the political bickering, pleasure seeking and public confrontations we see daily. Such individualism has now entered the church and challenges Christian morality. How often have people rationalized, “I know the Bible says this, but that was written for another time?”

Can the church survive this? No doubt, but it will take prayer, awareness, insight and vigilance on the part of pastors!

Why Churches Decline, Fail to Grow and Sometimes Close

Over the last several years there has been an increasing amount of research studying churches. Consider a few facts:

  • 62% of all churches in America have experienced either no growth or declines in their congregations.
  • 65% of churches have less than 100 congregants including children.
  • More than 2 million people have left the church every year for the past 7 years.
  • In just 8 years the percent of Americans calling themselves Christians has decreased from 78% to 70%.

So why do people either leave church, fail to return after a visit or not attend at all? Research demonstrates and our work with churches confirms at least 12 conditions that negatively affect attendance. These include the following:

  1. Churches are not united in prayer…1 Timothy encourages us to make petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving for everyone. Encouraging collective prayer not only brings answers, it also builds unity around common purposes. Churches that don’t preach, teach and practice prayer don’t unify their people around it. Therefore congregants have less of an incentive to stay.
  2. Churches are places of conflict, gossip and judgmental attitudes and actions and refuse to deal with sin…This is the number one reason people leave. Often there are factions, disagreements and dysfunction that get ignored. It festers and grows, resulting in disunity and gossip. In one study, 78% of the people who left church cited this as a problem.

In our church leadership consulting, we once worked with a church that was dealing with an abundance of issues. The elders didn’t trust the pastor and eventually fired him. Meanwhile, the staff didn’t trust the elders, and the elders didn’t trust the staff. Needless to say this all had a negative effect on congregants. In fact, they lost members left and right, and still the political bickering and finger pointing continued. Elders openly gossiped about other church members, and a spirit of humility was definitely lacking.

Not surprisingly, when we conducted a church survey, the ratings were well below average on almost every item we measured. Likewise, the open-ended responses regarding church weaknesses and critical issues were just as bad. The results offered a clear explanation of why people were leaving. They lost confidence in the leadership and they were tired of all of the drama.

3. Churches are not friendly…Some 66% of people who leave churches report that the lack of hospitality and concern caused them to feel as if they didn’t belong. Accordingly, they had very little reason to stay. Churches, above all other organizations, should be places of caring and hospitality. 

Leviticus 19 tells us…”When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger…as the native among you…you shall love him as yourself…I am the Lord your God.”

And then there’s this in Hebrews 13…“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” Being friendly and hospitable is not a suggestion; it’s a mandate.

4. Churches do not empower their people…a lot of pastors talk about the importance of engagement of members but few actually do that. You can have engagement or control, but you can’t have both. The more control pastors attempt to impose, the less people will be engaged. People want an opportunity to use their gifts to serve others, and if the church doesn’t provide an outlet for that, they leave.  In fact, a study of people who left their church revealed that 66% left because they couldn’t fit in.

These are just 4 of the 12 reasons. We’ll look at more next week!

Growing Church Giving

This Sunday at church I found out that we are upgrading our online giving platform, making giving easier and more secure for me. I’m pleased, but not surprised that my church is so avant-garde in stewardship. The problem is that many churches are not, so I did a bit of research and found some interesting data.

Church Giving is Growing and Changing

Last year of the $410 billion in total philanthropy, the largest share (31% or $127 billion) went to church or Para-church organizations. And that doesn’t include faith-based giving to religious schools, hospitals and social service agencies.

Almost 7.5 % of that was given online. Online giving has increased by more than 50% over the last several years, growing from $19.1 billion in 2012 to $31 billion in 2017. In addition, the average online gift was $128 and 67% of nonprofit organizations are set up to receive donations online.

What I find interesting is the fact that the largest recipients of online gifts have been faith-based organizations. I also found other important church data:

  • 49% of church giving happens using a credit card.
  • People attending church regularly are 11 times more likely to give.
  • 8 of 10 people who give to churches have zero credit debt.
  • Tithers comprise 10-25% of a normal congregation.
  • Churches that accept tithing online are increasing donations overall by 32%.
  • 37% of regular church attendees don’t give to church.
  • 17% of American families reduced amounts they give to churches.
  • 77% of tithers actually give 11%–20% of their income.
  • On average, Christians give 2.5% of income.

So what Can Churches do?

What does all of this mean for the church…or how can we use this data?

First, since we know that increasing numbers of congregants or parishioners prefer giving by credit card and online, if they haven’t done so already churches need to adapt to accommodate that. Develop online giving platforms and also include credit card options on giving envelopes.

Second, if regular attendees are more likely to give and only 10-25% of the membership tithe, there is much room for growth. However, capturing that growth requires well-planned strategies that include but are not limited to the following 7 suggestions:

  • Create a friendly church culture, so people return. Also plan 3-4 messages on stewardship and in particular on tithing. A lot of pastors are reluctant to do this, but it’s part of the full counsel of the Gospel.
  • Don’t just pass the plate on Sunday. Allow people to use smart-phones. Change your website. Choose digital giving software that allows people to give by text, mobile apps., etc.
  • Generate thank you notes to people who give online, through text, or directly. Use online responses or hand written notes. Currently, most churches aren’t good at showing appreciation.
  • Incorporate personal testimonies of church members into the messages on stewardship.
  • Offer financial classes for members. If they can manage funds better, they‘ll have more to give.
  • Create church annual reports that are transparent about outcomes and how funds are used.
  • Appeal to the 37% who don’t give by clearly articulating your needs and how funds given are used.

Finally, giving begins with your church leadership. Leaders set the pace. If the elders or deacons or parish council members (those closest to the church) aren’t willing to give, it’s difficult to motivate other church members to do so. While it’s difficult to tell what people have given individually, it’s much easier to say that the leadership group has 100% participation and collectively they have committed X amount of dollars.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

They’re at it again in the news and Congress. Of course, there were “discussions” of the pros and cons regarding the ongoing Brett Kavanaugh investigation. Schumer attacks the judge; Graham defends him. What did he actually do in high school? That query alone would keep me from ever seeking office.

Sensational News

It reminded me of another high school “scandal,” when Mitt Romney was accused of bullying a classmate. Later his wife Ann wore a $990 blouse that set off a media firestorm. Then Michelle Obama met the Queen of England wearing a $6,800 jacket. I thought both women looked great, but really I could care less about who wears what clothes. Yet, I did wonder where this is all headed.

I heard Christine Ford make uncorroborated accusations and Brett Kavanaugh respond to them. After that, Jeff Flake called for a seventh investigation, Matt Damon mocked Brett Kavanaugh on SNL and President Trump mocked Diane Feinstein’s body language. Kanye West supported President Trump and was booed by some and applauded by others. Senators grandstanded on both sides of the aisle and the Supreme Court appointment lingers on in a circus of finger pointing and delay.

At another site, I read more joyful news. An injured pro football player flipped off his team while being carried from the playing field with an injury. Evidently the team brass wouldn’t give him a contract extension. Then I heard that a college coach was fired for politically incorrect language, and Rosie O’Donnell was criticized for using a “gay slur” towards Lindsey Graham. There was also a story about Twitter wanting to crack down on dehumanizing language and asking for public feedback (Congress and the media might be good places to start). A social media star is shot and killed, and on and on.

A Violent Response

I’m reminded of a news saying that rings true, “If it bleeds it leads.” Not that we should avoid important stories, but as I watched these sites I was struck by how sensational and negative they were. Certainly these things are happening, but the news is also distorted towards the negative. There are plenty of positive things occurring that are either unreported or under-reported.

The danger is in how people respond, and some respond violently. In fact, CNN reported that in 2017 alone there were 307 mass shootings in the US involving four or more people, and that didn’t include the Congressional baseball practice shooting. I wonder, are the media and social media complicit in any of this?

A Simple Solution

So how do we get around this anger and violence? We begin talking to one another again in a civil manner, and not just with people who agree with us. We must engage with others who may have opposing viewpoints. I’m reminded of both anti-Catholic and anti-protestant criticisms I’ve heard from people who know little about either denomination. The way that abates is by sitting and talking; yes, about our differences but also about our commonalities.

No doubt, some Democrats really care and are reasonable, but we seldom hear of them on Fox News. They desire to protect our borders, care for individuals, improve the job market and support a strong national defense. And contrary to what we hear on CNN, there are Republicans who want to create higher paying jobs, improve access to quality healthcare, and protect our environment.

However, that image of people compromising and working together doesn’t fit the narratives of either side so it goes unseen. Yet restoring civility can start simply by turning off the news, walking around our neighborhoods, sitting in restaurants and coffee shops and getting to know the people around us.

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.