As the Executive Director, I am responsible for overseeing a multi-million dollar capital campaign at our church. We are building an education wing at our Crossfire Contemporary Worship site and adding an elevator to our Downtown Traditional Worship site. Throughout this process, I have learned five key lessons about capital campaigns that I want to share with you today.
1. From day one, prayer teams are essential.
God’s guiding hand showed up in many places through our discernment process, and I believe that this was a result of the faithful prayers of so many in our congregation. I truly feel that God has lead us thus far. When we intentionally seek God’s guidance, we can’t argue the results. Prayer helped us understand we didn’t have to accomplish this project ourselves. Instead, we needed to rely on God as we took each step. If we hadn’t stepped out in faith we would still be sitting around the tables talking about a good time to launch. Seeking God allowed us to know when and how to move forward. As Mark 19:26 says, “With man this is impossible, with God all things are possible.” We prayed, talked, strategized, and prayed some more. We were listening for God’s voice.
2. Make sure you have a genuine need for your project, a true vision, and congregational buy-in.
Trust is an essential component of the process. Church leadership must steward funds from the congregation with great care, give regular reports, and maintain momentum. The Senior Pastor of your congregation has to be able to communicate the need of the project to the congregation effectively. Have you considered other options? Why is this the best path forward? How do you see this project theologically? The vision must be bigger than a building. The building is just a tool to accomplish something else. What is that and why do you need to do it now? If the project is a want (not a need) God may not bless the desire. We examined and re-examined our project, narrowing it down from what we WANTED to what we NEEDED. We WANTED a new worship facility for our contemporary service. We NEEDED classroom space for our contemporary service site. We NEEDED an elevator at our downtown location for accessibility.
3. Find the right people.
Surround yourself with experienced and knowledgeable people. I intentionally seek out individuals who can complement my gifts and weaknesses. Who in your congregation has experience with finances, architecture, and construction? A capital campaign requires experts in the field. I was thankful to have people to call on! Outside of our leadership team, we employed more than 200 volunteers in the project. This group fostered buy-in from our congregation and led us towards success.
4. Hire the right companies.
The right consulting group, architectural firm, and general contractor is essential. Take the time to find the team that understands “church work” and will walk through each step with patience. Interview numerous firms. Find someone you can trust to complete the task from start to finish. Choose these companies not only for their individual excellence but also find organizations that will work well together. When teams collaborate, synergy results.
Although one consulting company stood beside us for a long period of discernment, our leadership felt it important to interview multiple firms. We interviewed these firms just as we would hire a new employee. We found three companies that might be a good match, brought together a team of laity, and interviewed each company to determine the best fit for our organization. This process took longer, but it paid off. Each company had its own strengths, but we were clear about what we wanted in a company– a Christ centered organization and a Christ centered program.
5. Focus on the details.
Strategically plan each step of the project from A – Z. There is no substitute for careful planning. What are the steps we will follow? Evaluate each step along the way. What is coming next? How could we have done that better? Do we need to make adjustments going forward?