Pastors (generally) aren't thrilled to preach on money. While discipleship in the area of money is an incredibly important aspect to the life of the Christian (Matthew 6:19-24), it's not the easiest subject to teach on. It becomes stressful to teach on when donor fatigue - when the congregation is tired of hearing about supporting the church financially - is present. So what do you do when donor fatigue is present, but your church still needs money? When donor fatigue is detected during the course of a campaign, two shifts in communication become necessary.
1) A shift from asking to thanking.
Campaign fatigue is not a new threat to vision being funded in a church. Back-to-back campaigns, or simply a long-term journey of constant wanting and asking of the people, can slowly wear a church out. While, "Ask and it shall be given to you," (Matthew 7:7) is in the Bible, so is, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise," (Psalm 100:4). Your church must hold asking of people, and thanking people, in constant balance.
This is why it is important for churches to take time to breathe - to take a "Campaign Sabbath". This allows your church to look back at all God has done through the sacrifice of His people, and praise Him.
However, when a church is involved in a campaign where urgency is in the equation, pausing between campaigns is not always an option. Builder costs, construction loans, and expanding ministries all work together to mount pressure on church leaders, and subsequently, donors, to not only continue to give, but even, increase their giving if possible.
In these cases, it's vitally important that we intentionally shift into a season of thankfulness during the campaign. The end result is a healthier population of donors.
Remember, a campaign is not about what you want FROM people, but what you want FOR them.
2) A shift from "sticks and bricks" to future ministry.
As a church nears completion of a campaign, the feeling of crossing the finish line can set in. This is one of the most common enemies to church growth. For this reason, a second communication shift is needed: from "sticks and bricks" to future ministry.
The assumption here is the project your church is currently tackling (construction, debt retirement, buying land, hiring staff, etc.) is being addressed because there are ministry opportunities that are not being met due to it.
The environment you want to cultivate is an environment of expectation: the completion of this project allows us to do what God is really calling us to do.
In this season we begin to shift the vision and the approach. This is the time to begin executing communication forums that cultivate the hearts of the people. The goal is to help shift their focus from the beauty of a state of the art facility to God's call for life change in the community as a result.
Another note of emphasis: If you actually move into a building before the pledges are completed, it is imperative you dictate clearly what it will take to make this new ministry model function. There should also be a cost associated with each element of the ministry vision moving forward. Your congregation needs to know that walking into a new building provides greater opportunities to expand the Kingdom, yet this new and improved action plan requires real dollars.
Remember, regardless of the season you are in, people always need to be informed of two things:
- What are you doing with my money?
- How is it making a difference?
This understanding will validate the need to continue any outstanding commitments, and help the people see the value in stepping up, rather than stepping down, in their generosity.
Here is the key: People need to see ministry plans as clearly as they saw the building plans.
To retain contributions to the campaign, cast vision for the ministry needs more than the building needs.
This vision has three characteristics:
- It's Clear: The congregation must clearly see the work that is ahead. This is a shift from "sticks and bricks" to ministry.
- It's Crisp: The vision must have a crisp call to it, not an ambiguous message. Make the vision distinct and to the point, so they know exactly what will be done moving forward, and can repeat it.
- It's Compelling: The vision must connect with their hearts. How will their dollars translate into transformed lives?
What is important to understand is when you lean into what ministry will look like on the other side of a project's completion, it will serve to place emphasis on the necessity of the project being completed more quickly.
As your church begins to shift communication from asking to thanking, and from sticks and bricks to ministry, you will begin to see your congregation's heart shift from fatigue to excitement for what God will do in and through their church.