September 22, 2015

Why is Fund Raising Not Fun?

PiggyBankMost pastors do not realize that the professional fund raising industry for churches began to strongly establish itself in the 1970’s with the founding of a few key firms. Today, the foundation of the largest and most successful firms, along with several smaller and individually operated groups, still derive strategies from these initial firms. Even still the most popular approaches today in modern church fund raising can trace their practices back to the strategies developed in the early 1900’s by famed YMCA fund raiser, Charles Sumner Ward. It was Ward who developed initiatives like, a short run campaign, celebrity endorsements, use of professional marketing, and the “campaign clock” or aka, thermometer.

Many of the largest church capital fund raising firms have had a challenging journey the last decade as a result of the 2008 recession. Today, the business is thriving again for most firms, but the call of the pastor is different. There is less interest today in short-run, expensive campaigns that yield a high immediate return at the cost of a healthy culture. Over the past year our firm has watched a number of churches call with a fund raising need, but with a greater desire for a more substantial experience. Pastors tend to resist fund raising seasons though they know they are nearly unavoidable. This gap of needing funds and the resistance to raise funds must be bridged. God has blessed pastors with vision, gifted His people with resources, and is calling His church toward an impactful future.

Here are some responses intended to answer the question, “Why is fund raising not fun?”

1. Because fund raising is money focused. (Disciple chasing is obedience focused.)

There simply is no way to get around it. Pure fund raising is often need based and driven to achieve a financial transaction. The very clear stated objective at the outset of any major campaign is the need for money, usually large sums of money that a church does not have readily available. The stress and pressure is definitely felt. However, as the church we have the confidence that God-initiated dreams are His responsibility to fund. Man should not feel the pressure to produce. God has all the resources needed and more. As a matter of fact, He already has a plan in place to fund His vision. What He desires is to lead His people on a journey so they are ready for what He plans to do through them in the future.

2. Because fund raising can be a lucrative business. (Disciple chasing is wise stewardship.)

For several years I served on church staff and experienced multiple campaigns. With each campaign we hired a different fund raising firm and cringed at the cost and approach. Eventually I would leave staff and start my own generosity firm. I am so glad today to be a salaried employee in a non-profit that seeks to provide professional generosity coaching at a price that is good stewardship for the local church. The truth is that local church staff and leadership will do the vast majority of the work. A professional is hired for experience and expertise. It is so empowering to reframe fund raising in a discipleship context for staff teams. It creates such collaboration, builds confidence, and releases resources.

3. Because fund raising is outside in. (Disciple chasing is inside out.)

Fund raising sees the project first, then the funding gap. Discipleship sees the vision. This vision is fueled by faith in a God who promises to accomplish it through His people. I always want to be a part of projects that inspire biblical faith, require bold prayers, and put us totally dependent upon God. These elements grow a disciple. Generosity is far more a heart issue than a wallet issue. Once a heart is in love, generosity can’t be stopped.

4. Because fund raising is a short run fix. (Disciple chasing is a long-term surplus.)

Whenever we are interviewed by churches, leaders want to talk about campaign follow up. They readily admit that it is important to success as well as a point of previous failure. However, I am still amazed when the future campaign is complete how few churches maintain the stewardship trajectory began during a healthy process. Money is something every human handles every day. God is a generous God and He created us to be generous. Generosity feels great to both the giver and receiver. It is such an easy and common conversation that should never grow old. Overflowing, joy filled generosity can happen every week, not just when there is a critical need.

5. Because fund raising is not pastoral. (Disciple chasing is very pastoral.)

I do not believe God called pastors to be fund raisers. I do believe He called them to be visionary disciple makers. Generosity is in the heart of every human. On the other side of generosity is freedom, reward, and fruit. Every pastor desires these things for the people he leads. Your people need your help. They need to know and experience what the Bible teaches. However, most pastors lack the confidence to tackle this timely issue.

August 18, 2015

How to Lead the Best Money Meeting Ever

Group of happy business people clapping their handsRecently I had the privilege of launching a Generosity Culture session with a pastor who is leading one of the most successful churches in his state. Over the years they have grown from a few hundred to thousands of people generating millions of annual income. You would think that this kind of numeric success would be sufficient to just stay the course. However, 10% of their people are giving over 50% of the revenue and they are praying for an even more significant impact in their city, which requires a flood of resources.

After several hours of meeting, sharing, and dreaming with the team, it was simply one of the most inspiring money meetings I have ever witnessed. Here are some insider tips:

1. We talked about generosity and not money. Money is paper, metal, and plastic which is not very inspiring. Generosity is a heart joy straight from the Creator of our souls. Language creates culture; words create worlds. Learn the language of generosity.

2. We invited everyone to the conversation, not only the finance office. Everyone handles money. However, sometimes the dollars and cents are left to a small few. How different is a generosity conversation when the Children and Worship Pastors are in the room? Their passion and perspective was invaluable.

3. We talked about life impact not expenses or receipts. When budgets are the topic, numbers and line items can rule the game. It was so enlightening to hear stories of how money was being used to transform a life. Money looked much different when seen through the eyes of addiction recovery and cancer treatment care.

4. We talked about the future first, not the present or the past. When you see the future clearly as a team, it produces such freedom when it comes to budget planning and expenses. The future frames the present.

5. We talked about what could be, not what would never be. I have watched God provide far beyond the calculators of men. I have watched gifts come in and doors opened when leaders lead with bold faith and a clear calling. This church had these experiences. Past success spurred future faith.

6. We talked about their city, their people, and the Bible, not a spreadsheet. Every city, life, and family possesses a money story. Once you know the story you can learn your role in growing a generous disciple that enjoys fruit far beyond their means. People want to live big lives and money is a significant story line.

7. We talked about vision, not a capital campaign. Campaigns are necessary when you need a large infusion of resources in a short period of time. However, you can lead your church to live in the land of surplus each and every day. More and more churches are prioritizing a generous culture long before they have a critical need.

8. We talked about discipleship, not debt reduction. Debt reduction programs are only sometimes good ideas. If your church feels as if it is struggling with debt, you are probably struggling more with cash flow. Cash flow can be increased many different ways. Don’t settle for old ideas.

9. We talked about fun and freedom, not bondage and limitation. Most church money conversations are some version of getting more money from people and not getting more blessings for people. When our motive is money and not the freedom that comes from obedient discipleship, we are way off as leaders.

10. We talked together, not being told how it would be. This is big! Try kicking off your annual budgeting process with vision and celebration. Let every ministry leader share their dreams based off the direction provided. Spending and investment choices now become a unifying experience toward a greater goal.

These are only a few of the things that I learned from our conversation. I hope they inspire you to raise the bar on the money conversation at your church.

August 4, 2015

4 Tips to Lead a Church to Financial Break-Thru

Leading a Generous Church coverI’ve had the privilege of founding two non-profit organizations, one for-profit company, and spent time as an employee of several multi-million dollar organizations. I also run the finances for my family. As I ebbed and flowed through these different financial environments I began to recognize patterns about how money grows and is invested, or on the flip side, how it quickly becomes wasted via expenses. While each of these environments may have shared the common goal of year-end profitability, the mindset, perspective, and specific objectives varied greatly.

Here are four key gleanings about financial health that apply specifically to the local church and Senior Pastors in particular.

1. Senior Pastors need the PRIORITY that is often modeled by the President of a Non-Profit Organization

The NPO leader has two very clear objectives every day, keep the vision clear and develop resources. No one can develop large amounts of resources for an NPO like the senior leader. The truth is that most employees would never have it cross their minds to help with this effort. They are too busy executing their department tasks. Whenever I find a Senior Pastor that is both the lead giver and the lead developer of gifts I find a church that is experiencing financial break thru.

2. Senior Pastors Need the FOCUS of a For-Profit Company Founder

The founder and owner of a for-profit company wakes up each week with two objectives in mind, keep the vision laser focused and produce more revenue than expenses. As the owner of a company you measure success by happy clients and positive cash flow. Every single expense is seen as either an investment that the owner is willing to take, perhaps even in exchange for a temporary pay reduction, or it is seen as wasted money. I know the success of the church is not measured by dollars, but discipleship. However, I also know it is sin to mismanage God’s resources. Being a wise steward, which is the call of God, involves both discipling generosity and being tenaciously obedient with the resources. Senior leaders do you know the eternal value of each dollar your organization raises and expends? Whenever I see a church with this kind of laser focused perspective, I find a church that is experiencing financial break thru.

3. Senior Pastors need the PASSION that comes from being the provider in the home

This is where the message can get serious. Most men wake up driven to succeed financially, provide well for their families, and enjoy the fruit of their labors. Great men care greatly for the provision and protection of their families. As a matter of fact it is intuitively engrained in the DNA of men. Unfortunately, it is common for me to find Senior Pastors who feel this way about their church, but do not connect the dots with the personal involvement in the financial management and leadership of the church. Many pastors have a general knowledge of financial matters, but not a passion for the financial success of the organization they lead. We would never allow our families to live in financial weakness without working towards a concrete solution. Example, most families would not raise their annual family budget 5-10% and ask their family to have vision and pray for growth. Yet, the average church practices this kind of principle every year.

4. Senior Pastors need the generosity CONFIDENCE that comes from Scripture

God’s Word is very practical, specific, inspiring, and replete with financial wisdom. I find that break thru financial churches are led by a senior pastor that has a high view and breadth of knowledge regarding the Bible’s principles of stewardship and generosity. Even if they lack the highest level of accounting and financial business practices, knowing and trusting Scripture allows them to experience overflow. This is why I put together a simple guide to help pastors gain confidence, a practical tool to lead their staff, and pathway to develop the spiritual discipline of generosity in the disciples you lead. Leading a generous church is totally possible and it has nothing to do with church size, location, income earning, or style. It has everything to do with priority, focus, passion, and confidence.

For additional reading, here are a couple of real life case studies:

Harvest Church, Billings, Montana
Main Street Church, Toledo,Ohio

For more practical tips and inspiration, check out my book, Leading a Generous Church.


June 29, 2015

Rescue Me from My Church Budget

Balancing The Account By HandThe church budgeting process ranks fairly low on the list of the most motivating and inspiring experiences in a minister’s life. Pastors will line up to deliver a message, shepherd the hurting, pray for the wayward, and lead the body forward. However, if a pastor lies awake at night thinking of the church budget, it’s usually for the wrong reasons.

Let’s look at a popular budgeting process. It begins with ministry leaders submitting their annual requests for funds. Some inflate their numbers because they don’t expect to receive their request. Others underestimate their budget needs.

Once the numbers are in, the vetting process begins. Unfortunately, this process is often shaped more by fixed expenses and relational loyalties than most would like to admit. Tough decisions are always present, which result either in hurt feelings or a stressful extension of reasonable financial limits.

By the time the budget is complete the process has gone on too long, and fear or disappointment has set in among the ministry team. Finally, the budget is sent to a financial business meeting for approval, where it’s secretly hoped few show up to participate.

Does a positive, rewarding, and visionary budgeting process exist? If so, what does it look like?

Let me suggest a different approach—one that can increase vision, disciple your people, and set you free from the bondage that sometimes accompanies money.

1. Begin with a season of prayer and fasting. Scripture teaches the tithe is holy to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30). This applies both to the one giving and the one spending. God grants you resources to use for His glory and to impact lives.
Your leadership needs to feel deep gratitude and responsibility before the process begins. Releasing ownership will change the language of the conversation from the beginning.

2. Recount how God has been at work over the past year. Where do you see the fruit of His hand or the anointing of His Spirit? Seeing the hand of God can provide a good indication of what He desires to do in the future.

Ultimately, you need to align your resources to support God’s work. Acknowledging God’s work will prevent personal agendas, subjective opinions, and ministry silos from occurring. Released resources and the Spirit’s leading create wonderful meetings.

3. Stand on the foundation of vision clarity and a well-defined discipleship strategy. No church is great at everything. Do you know what your church does better than 10,000 others? God places unique people in unique communities for a specific period of time.

Your church has its own unique calling and it’s not supposed to compete with the congregation across town or mirror the church across the country. You are free to be you. This level of focus will cause your ministry to expand. It helps you say a powerful “yes” as well as a confident “no.”

4. Learn your ROI. Do you know the impact of a dollar spent? Are you investing the proper amount to gain the desired result to accomplish your dream? The longer a church exists, the more its budget grows. It’s rare that a congregation evaluates an expense based on the return.

We tend to continually fund ministries long after they have lost effectiveness. Every ministry line is not mission critical and not all ministries are created to exist forever. The vision to glorify God and make disciples never changes, but strategy does.

5. Allow strength and strategy to lead. This may be a radical concept for most, but give consideration to each budget year starting with a blank slate by not encouraging each department to make its own financial requests. Instead, allow the activity of God, the vision strategy, and a few select financially gifted people to create a solid business plan.

This doesn’t mean collaboration and dialogue are removed. It simply means those with the giftedness should lead under the clear direction of the bigger picture vision.

6. Spend strategically, not simply less. This might be the most shocking piece of advice. Create a spending plan that spends only 90 percent of your previous year’s undesignated giving receipts. (This may take a few years to accomplish.) Most churches increase their budget 3-15 percent annually.

Why do we do this? “It’s faith based and visionary,” the pastor says. However, it tends to create a lot of stress and reduced spending throughout the year. In reality, it’s far from visionary. It can be careless, unfocused, and demotivating. It creates a crisis money culture instead of a generous culture.

7. Plan to be surprised. Every year God will call you to become engaged in something you can’t currently see. And, of course, there’s always the possibility that something will break or wear out. And then there’s the next growth step that will need to be funded, too.

Prepare for what you can’t currently see. Nothing is more financially freeing than cash reserves. It’s a sure way to tell God “yes” before He ever asks you to go. Now, don’t step over the line and hoard cash reserves. God gives you money to invest in His causes.

8. Inspire others with the vision investment plan. This is the opposite of simply getting church budget approval. A well-designed spending plan and presentation should bring glory to God, affirm those who have invested, validate what the leaders have said in the past, and inspire toward the future. It should raise generosity. Loyalty and confidence in the leadership should increase. A faith-filled expectation for the future inspires all.

Everything is a choice. As leaders, we choose the financial culture we create. Every conversation can be both a vision and discipleship conversation. It all depends on how you lead it.

May 26, 2015

Generosity Lessons from My Mom

Graphic for Todd's Mother's Day blogI recently published my first book, Leading A Generous Church, which I dedicated to my mother and father. A year and a half ago I lost my father to Alzheimer’s and Congestive Heart Failure. During this time of loss I screened countless calls on behalf of my mom and was blessed to hear so many touching stories of how my mom and dad lived a life of significant impact. I especially remember one caller whom my mom and dad took into their home along with her family during a very difficult personal struggle. The caller shared through tears that my parents are “the most generous people she had ever met.” I want to share a few generosity principles my mom has modeled for my family.

  1. Start each day ready to be generous. My mother is constantly meeting people and learning how she can be helpful to them. It can range from inviting them to a group she attends or a place she volunteers. Or it could be to connect them with my wife, the realtor, or to help someone earn a little more money by selling their crafts without charge. Any day, any person becomes an opportunity to be generous. It’s that Proverbs 31 thing.
  2. Share a meal. I would be hard pressed to tell you what my mother’s favorite foods are. We have a family with a wide variety of unique dietary needs. My mom knows exactly what you like or what you are allergic to. She will hunt for substitute ingredients or recipes and create a meal just for you. (Or an experiment as she calls them.) Then she will sit and eat with you as if it is her favorite meal.
  3. Don’t let principles get in the way of serving. My mother is a very principled woman. She definitely believes you reap what you sow. This principle can be used by some to provide a reason not to serve others. However, my mom is faithful to disciple the hurting while serving them. I have seen her time and time again reach out offering generous grace, after being intentionally wounded by others.
  4. Don’t let church get in the way of the generous life. I know this sounds strange, but church activities can sometimes guilt you into a false perception of participation equaling the “good Christian life.” One of my favorite stories to hear my mom tell is the time she and my father had to resign their church positions because they were keeping them from serving their community.
  5. Don’t stop giving financially even when it’s scary. Some would say that through the journey of watching my dad leave this earth in a hospital bed in his home and the expenses it created, then to embark on the path of a widow, she could take a pass on financial generosity. Many months while she was home bound I was blessed to carry her offering to church then watch her continue to think of ways she could physically bless others while her life was so hard.

Generosity isn’t for the rich or special occasions. It is the path of freedom, impact, and happiness every day. (Photo is an image of a wool rug hooked by my mom of my house.)

April 28, 2015

You Gotta Want It

Man climbing mountainPastors continually share with me their desire for a generous culture, but very few know what it really is and are willing to do the work to experience it. They tend to default toward doing nothing (except complaining) or executing yet another quick fix, short-term remedy. I want you to know that true generosity is absolutely possible if you pursue these three ingredients at the same time and do not quit.

1. Possess such a powerfully clear vision that you know what not to do as confidently as you know what to do. Vision is not a generic mantra on your wall, but a clear path plainly seen by all. It should naturally propel you forward, hold you accountable, and engage the masses.

2. Align your strategy to be very simple, yet radically focused on this vision. This means your resources will be invested more than they are expended. Doing a few things very well in a repeatable process has seriously positive ramifications.

3. Chase discipleship and not money. Generosity is the fruit of a growing Christ-follower. Money can come fast enough with a well-articulated appeal or when a powerful fear is exposed. However, it stops when the circumstance changes. Generosity never stops.

I promise generosity is possible for your church, but you have to want it. I mean really want it – enough to invest your entire staff. Enough to be willing to reframe your vision, realign your strategy, and to develop a solid discipleship path beyond just getting more people in groups. There is so much freedom and possibility on the other side of generosity.

April 14, 2015

Raising Your Generosity IQ

booksstackxxI am usually reading one or two books on the topic of generosity. I am thrilled that so many resources exist today that stretch church leaders both practically and theologically. If you feel a little behind the curve on the topic and want to catch up, here are four good reads. You may not agree with them all, but you can learn from them all.

If you need to sharpen yourself practically, read How To Be Rich by Andy Stanley. It will turn generosity inside out and give you a very simple, yet powerful program to follow.

If you need to inspire yourself to live boldly, read The Blessed Life by Robert Morris. He will challenge you to live it yourself first. You will not be asked to dabble in generosity, but to give boldly and watch God work.

If you need to strengthen your biblical perspective, read Christians in an Age of Wealth by Craig Blomberg. It will thoroughly deepen your understanding of the biblical teachings on the poor, generosity, and wealth from the Old to the New Testament.

If you need to learn more about growing generous disciples, read Revolution in Generosity edited by Wesley Willmer. This compilation of 21 noted leaders exposes how modern secular fund raising techniques will rob church leaders from developing the spiritual trait of generosity.

If you are looking for a practical tool for you and your staff, please be on the lookout for my book, Leading a Generous Church, which will release the end of this month.

So you know, the number one trait of a generous church is that it is led by a generous pastor. I find this to be true everywhere I go. Step up and lead the way.

March 26, 2015

Born to be Generous

giving1You can’t stop generosity. It is natural, normal, and wired into the existence of every human being. So why are we so nervous about it at church? Give these thoughts some significant time to brew and see if they do not inspire, affirm, and empower a new direction.

1. God is a generous God. He is generous with everything from the act of creation to the sacrificial gift of His son. He is generous with His love, grace, life, time, heart, and heaven. The list could go on and on.

2. We are created in His image. This means that generosity is hard-wired into us. Not just limited generosity, but unlimited generosity that overflows. The kind that is unconditional. The kind that looks just like Jesus lived.

3. God made generosity fun. Just take an inventory of how it personally feels to be generous. Think of the personal gratitude and self-confidence that is gained when you go beyond yourself. Just remember the joy you felt the last time you watched someone open a gift you gave to them. How about the experience of freedom and release that comes when you are financially generous?

4. Problem: We are all fallen and struggle with the power of sin. It seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. It is trying to rob you right now of the blessings of God found in generosity.

5. Promise: We have the opportunity to be recreated in Christ’s image. This is the call of salvation and spiritual growth. Generosity is a discipleship issue, not a fund raising issue. The woes of your church budget could be a spending, vision, or discipleship issue and not a fund raising issue. It is a clarity calling that leaders need to see. The preferred life that every human being is chasing is found in the generous heart of God and His image being freed inside of us.

If we are born to be generous and your people are striving for a better life tomorrow, then how are you helping them connect the dots? Is your staff passionately generous? Are you living the generous life? You were born to be generous.

March 10, 2015

The Anti-Campaign: 4 Threads to Ramp Up Generous Giving

GeneriousGivingLoop(The following is a guest post by Clint Grider, Chief Integration Officer & Lead Navigator, Auxano)

Some churches view generosity as one of a number of important topics to cover over time. Though well intentioned, this approach actually hinders the ability of a church to create a meaningful culture of generosity, where a lifestyle of extravagant giving becomes the norm.

Instead, what if generosity were viewed not as a short-term teaching topic or campaign, but instead as a core ongoing part of discipleship? What if you found a way to create momentum around God’s unbelievable generosity toward us, translating into a lifestyle of consistently giving oneself to Him?

One tool we use at Auxano to help churches build this is called the Generous Giving Loop. The Loop provides scaffolding that allows a church to create its own model by integrating biblical principles of giving into the fabric of its ongoing discipleship process. When embraced, churches find the principle of the Loop to be transformational in the life of the church.

The Loop depicts both a rhythm and four ongoing threads that create this culture. The rhythm is shown by different sizes of the smaller loops in the overall thread. This conveys that more attention is given to cultivating different areas of generosity based on the needs, spiritual development, and overall calendar of the church. What is important to note, however, is the four threads never stop. They are not targeted emphases, but instead are intentionally woven into the fabric of the church’s approach to discipleship at every level.

The four essential threads represent different contextual initiatives and practices to cultivate generosity:

  1. Inspire: Serves as the catalyst for culture shaping to inspire and motivate. While this can happen in many different creative environments, most occur in corporate worship settings.
  1. Teach: Provides stewardship teaching based on spiritual development stages. Curriculum is chosen and/or developed based on measures of where your people are, and integrated into small groups, mid-sized
    groups, and other connection formats.
  1. Advance: Gives focus to key donors and leaders to disciple those with higher capacity or the spiritual gift of giving. This helps move people to deeper levels of maturity and discipleship.
  1. Manage: Equips churches with accountability and back-office systems to achieve and maintain the culture of generosity. This helps ensure the rhythm of the church’s Loop is tracked and implemented consistently.
March 10, 2015

A Lasting Harvest of Generosity

Harvest Church in Billings, Montana had a mountain to climb, or more accurately, a hole to dig out of. In 2010 the leadership discussion was about a $300,000 budget short fall and the looming potential of staff layoffs. This thriving church was on the cusp of a dire financial need and some strategic decisions that would dramatically impact their future culture. If they had to cut key staff what would that do to their growth, momentum, and morale? They exist in Billings, Montana among a non-Bible belt, self-reliant, church-critical crowd. How could they even begin to talk about this financial issue and not destroy the safe culture that they had worked so hard to create?

They engaged the Auxano team to tackle this growth challenge with vision clarity. The resulting plan plan was to build a lasting culture of generosity that was rooted in the vision of the church. Many times churches need a short infusion of dollars for a special project like a mission partnership, year-end offering, or launching a capital project. However, other times churches need lasting change in the area of growing generous disciples.

The plan was not to design a class or a campaign, rather to develop a powerful, alive culture that continually produced fruit. Toward that end, language, systems, discipleship, strategy, accountability, training, and management all needed to be developed and integrated into the plan.

The results were both immediate and long term. Immediately the church went from a $300,000 shortfall to a $300,000 surplus – a $600,000 swing! But here is the real story two years later…

Increased Giving – Their budget grew from $2.7 million to $4 million (33% increase).

Clear Language – They now have language that directs, describes, and guides generosity conversations, which empowers the staff and leadership.

Empowering Systems – They have systems that identify the different types of givers and giving patterns with defined steps to keep growth moving forward.

Generosity Stories – Stories are being captured and strategically shared

Innovation – They have digital integration both online and through social media

Measures – There is a practical strategy and measures for discipleship.

Missional Engagement – They have expanded campuses across the state and have high stakes involvement in Ethiopia.

I think that their Executive Pastor, Crull Chambless, summed it up best, “Generosity is now shaping our culture, both as leaders and a church.”