Getting Visitors

Getting visitors does not guarantee that your church will grow. However, I guarantee that your church won’t grow without getting visitors. I agree with those who argue that the “Attractional” model of church growth is no longer the best model in our largely post-Christiandom culture, and that we must take on a more “Missional” model where we go out into our surrounding communities to connect with non-believers. Once you connect with them, you still, eventually, have to invite them to something. You still must bring them into the church where, in community, they will be transformed to be like Christ. So inviting people to church remains an essential component to church growth.

Yet, even with all the preaching, teaching, poking, prodding, and even sometimes guilting that church people receive about inviting others to church, most of the time they don’t. In my opinion, many Christian’s reasons for not inviting people to church can be summed up as immaturity in Christ or selfishness. I’ve seen this often in my work in church revitalization. However, even mature selfless believers who care deeply about the salvation of those near and far, still don’t invite much. My contention is that it is often due to fear. One way to help people overcome their fear of inviting is by creating fun events for them to invite people to. Here’s an example from my own experience as a rector.

After years of being in rented spaces, we bought and moved into our own facility. Although for years we had done a Halloween alternative event like so many churches do, we discovered that a church just down the street had been doing one for 20 years and it was huge. We quickly decided not to bother competing and let them have that one! No one around was doing any kind of fun event around Christmas so we decided to try something then. We created a Christmas Carnival with a Chili Cook-off. We held the first one on a Saturday and frankly it was not successful from a purely human standpoint. No one invited anyone and the attendance was poor. We only had one unchurched mother with her two children come because she read the sign in front of the church.

It turned out that this mother was an active drug addict who had bad experiences with church in the past however she really loved chili. She decided she could put up with church people long enough to get some free chili and then get out. While there, she saw the brochures for Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered, 12 step ministry that our church offered. While eating her second bowl of chili she commented that she needed recovery and maybe it wasn’t an accident she came. Maybe indeed! Well she was invited to come to church and of course Celebrate Recovery. She ended up first coming to a Wednesday night Bible Study and brought her husband. I was teaching on Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” After a small group discussion on this verse she admitted that being poor in spirit described her and we prayed with her to repent and believe in Jesus to become a Christian – to enter the kingdom of heaven. She and the family all came to worship the next Sunday and the husband became a believer that day! The whole family came to believe and were all baptized together. Their lives where radically transformed. She started inviting all sorts of people to church, to come and see what Jesus can do! Their changed lives were leading to more changed lives!

Well that whole story was just to tell you this: this same woman came to me and suggested that since she came because of chili, maybe we should do a Sundae Sunday where we give away free ice cream sundaes! Great idea! We discovered that the third Sunday of every July is National Ice Cream Day thanks to President Ronald Reagan. So, on that day we planned to give everyone a free sundae after the church service and included a 15’ banana split for the kids. And of course, we asked church members to invite unchurched people to come. And guess what? They did! We had our third largest attendance in Sunday worship that year in the middle of July! The only bigger days were Easter and Mother’s Day. We had many new young families visit – for ice cream – but heard the Gospel proclaimed and had a good experience with church people. We added members as a result. More lives were transformed. Now, not all who came joined, but some did! As I started this article saying, getting visitors won’t guarantee your church will grow but I guarantee it won’t grow without getting visitors.

So, one fun event that seemed like a complete failure led to another fun event that was a huge success in getting people to invite. Since National Ice Cream Day is July 15th this year, it’s probably too late to do a Sundae Sunday on that day. But you could do it later in the summer! It will still be hot and people will still like ice cream. Or you could try it next summer. Or don’t do that at all and come up with your own creative idea that will work in your area. What could that be? What fun event could you do that would help bring down the fear for people to invite? Don’t be afraid to try different things. Some will work, some won’t, but nothing will if you don’t try.

eldridgeThe Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching at the American Anglican Council.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus considering placement of Evans/Davis on list of vendors

unnamedThe Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, is considering placing Evans/Davis on a list of vendors for professional planning and development for the churches in the Diocese. The firm, during a period from 2001 to 2003, acted as development staff providing direction to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal for two years as well as providing planning studies and capital campaign management for a number of parishes.

Evans/Davis will again provide professional development services to those churches wishing to use the firm. Those selecting us will have the advantage of using a firm that has sufficient staff to direct and manage a development program, has experience in the Diocese, as well as being local to the area.

We ask that you contact us if you wish to talk further.

St. Timothy’s Exceeds Goal

Growing with GodWe are excited to announce that St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Massillon, Ohio, has reached over $306,000 in cash and pledges in its Growing With God capital campaign! This total exceeds the campaign objective of $300,000.

Evans/Davis began last fall, working with the church leadership, to assist them with development of a new mission statement and discernment of Gods call for their future. A feasibility/assessment study suggested that $300,000 could be raised if the church leadership decided to conduct a capital campaign. The campaign was launched and was a huge success! There is now an optimistic spirit for growth and development of St. Timothy’s.

The Good News from St. Timothy’s

St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Massillon, OH, just completed (as shared above) a very successful Capital Campaign, thanks to Evans/Davis Fundraising Counsel. We set a fairly ambitious goal for our small parish, to do necessary repairs and upgrades, and with Michael’s help, we exceeded that goal.  With their guidance from start to finish, we felt supported and encouraged, rather than intimidated and afraid.  We have nothing but good things to say about Evans/Davis, and would recommend their firm to others looking for help with fundraising.

The Rev. George Baum

St. Timothy’s rewrites mission statement – now conducting Feasibility Study

SttimothyswindowAfter a prayerful and thoughtful process, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Massillon, Ohio, completed a discernment exercise. The process allowed them to rewrite the church’s mission statement and draft a compelling preliminary case for support document for a capital campaign.

Evans/Davis will be on site for about a week in February to interview members to determine if a campaign is feasible. A final decision on a conducting one would be made in late February.

It is our prayer that St. Timothy’s, with guidance from the Holy Spirit, will continue Growing with God.

Charitable deductions and the new tax Laws

unnamedWhereas not for-profit organizations have had a plus, over the years, with donors able to deduct charitable giving on their income tax, the real reason for giving is the belief that your organization has a valid mission and a vision for future growth and development of programs and services.

Churches, especially, receive dollars from loyal members who see their ministries, mission and values as advancing God’s work on this earth. This is why that a review and possible redrafting of a mission statement and development of a long-range vision plan is crucial for spreading the gospel. Evans/Davis is working with churches in long-range planning with many needing to rewrite their mission statement.

Tax laws can change but those not for profit organizations, that has a sound plan for its future, will continue to grow and receive sufficient funds from its constituents.

Moving Forward

Do you have a vision you want to see come into reality this year? Has God put a new strategy or program or change on your heart that you want to enact this year? Desiring to have a healthy, Great Commission fulfilling church, you no doubt do! 

However, I’ve learned that having a God-given vision and bringing that vision into reality are often two different things. There are often obstacles that get in the way of taking action.  I’ve known many church leaders over the years who had great visions for greater ministry but couldn’t make those visions a reality. The challenge of starting something new when it means there will be change can be overwhelming. Change can mean loss, loss means pain, and if the potential pain is too scary, the vision never gets a chance.

 My wife travels a lot for her job. In her travels, she must deal with challenges like delayed or cancelled flights. She learned from her boss in those times to just keep moving forward. Whatever obstacle comes up to prevent her reaching her destination she just keeps moving forward. Like, go to the gate anyway and talk (nicely) to the agent, or make the call to the airline, or get a seat on the next flight – any flight – that will work, or whatever the next step is, take it! Eventually, even though it’s a struggle, the destination is reached. Stopping forward movement seldom gets you where you’re going.

 The same idea holds true when putting a vision into reality. Obstacles and opposition will come up. I can’t count the number of vestry meetings where a new vision was shared that someone didn’t immediately bring up “insurance liability” as a reason not to do it! Or bring up the cost, or say “it’s not the way we’ve always done it,” or “Mr. or Mrs. So and So won’t like it,” or any number of reasons why not to do it. Some of the reasons were legitimate problems. However, letting problems stop the forward movement of a God-given vision is not honoring to God and won’t lead to health and growth in the church.

 My parents started feeding me John Maxwell books when I was in college so I picked up a lot of leadership principles from him in my early ministry. A quote I read from one of his books was, “Problems are just obstacles to be overcome.” As a new rector in the early stages of bringing revitalization to a congregation, I printed that quote and taped it to the wall by my desk.  When the fear that the problems produced in me would start to overwhelm, I’d read the quote and remember this is just another obstacle to overcome and keep moving forward.

I remember well when I knew the Lord was directing me to add a new service on Sunday morning. It meant having to change an existing service to an earlier time. I was going to make the change in the new year. As the new year began and it was getting closer to enacting the vision, the Junior Warden came to me and said, “Some people are talking… and if you make this change half the congregation might leave because the service has always been at this time!” I was too new to know to ask him, “What people exactly?” I remained calm on the outside, but inside I was scared to death! I was called to help grow the church, not run half the people off. Yet I was convinced it was what God wanted to be done in this new year. So, I took the step forward on faith that even if half the people left, God would build it back up. We changed the service time, added the new service and I can’t think of even one person who left. And we grew! It would have been so easy to let fear prevent the vision from becoming a reality. 

I read another article recently about this idea that referenced Ecclesiastes 11:4 which says, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.” (NLT) It’s so true. You’ll never have the perfect, problem free, environment to enact a new vision. The important thing is with faith, to take the next step, and then the next and so on. Keep moving forward and the vision, even if a struggle, will come to reality.

To keep moving forward takes courage. As you know, courage is not the absence of fear. It’s moving forward, in Christ, despite the fear.

So, what vision has God put on your heart for this new year? By faith, don’t let the obstacles and opposition prevent you from taking action. Take the next step, keep moving forward, and see that vision become a reality this year!

Mark Eldridge

 

 

 

The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching at the American Anglican Council.

Value of Personal Visitations

solicitationPersonal Visitations of individual church members/couples to other church members help to strengthen your church’s ministry. The reality is that most individuals/couple enjoy personal visitations among each other. Often, it is the only time when families can visit other families outside of Sunday worship. Gathering with fellow members is the best vehicle to share the “vision” for ministries and the mission of the church.

Personal visitation, especially through a capital campaign, also develops new leaders and strengthens the church’s volunteer base. The story of the church and its long range plan can be told so that a sufficient amount of dollars can be raised to make the vision a reality.

We advise churches that if structured properly, personal visitations are a very powerful ministry and can be continue long after a capital campaign is over.

Ashland Child Development Center Begins Capital Campaign Preparation

ACDC SnipAshland Childhood Development Center (ACDC), Ashland, KY, has begun the preparation for launching a capital campaign this fall. ACDC, with assistance from Evans/Davis, has drafted a campaign brochure, formed a campaign committee and begun the process of soliciting possible major gift donors.

The plan is to complete major gifts solicitations, as much as possible, over the summer. In that way, a campaign kick-off can be held early in the fall this year. The initial objective is $350,000.

Are You Ready for a Campaign?

This article contributed by Al Boren.

RUReadyAre you among the many smaller community and faith based organizations with heartfelt needs that can be met with capital funding projects IF you can only raise the money?  Well established cornerstones of successful capital/project campaign development such as a sound strategic plan, board leadership, stakeholder involvement, business sustainability, and compatible donor prospects are not always in place, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful!

In my experience, the best investment an organization can make for a major funding campaign readiness in today’s challenging environment is to develop a thorough vision plan as a well as executing a fund raising feasibility/assessment study. It may not produce what you want to hear, but what you need to know.    

The first step is for the organization to work with reputable fund-raising counsel to assist in discerning the vision plan, assess the findings, and undertake the necessary steps for ensuring campaign readiness. Essentials of a quality assessment/study will highlight strengths and weaknesses in the case, timing for philanthropic participation, perception of the organization, commitment of key leaders, plan for sustainability and the reception of top donor prospects.

Passion is a major driver of nearly all visions.  And, when supported by time-proven prerequisites for successful campaigns, your organization will achieve its vision at some level.

 

Al Boren is a development professional that has conducted numerous capital campaigns and feasibility studies with a successful career in the management of not for profit organizations.

St. Mark’s Begins Construction

 

imageSt. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Erie, PA, has begun construction of an enhanced and expanded parish hall. Evans/Davis conducted a successful capital campaign for the church in 2014. Additional work will be coming in the near future.