Getting Over the FEAR of Water Hazards

I was fortunate enough to attend the US Open last week at Pinehurst, just a couple of hours from my home. I enjoy seeing the best in the world play golf, and in fact this is the third major championship I’ve attended with only the PGA Championship left on my list. 

I’ve also always been a pretty good golfer, and at my best I could play in the mid 70’s pretty consistently. I’m far from being as good as the professionals, but as good as they are on the PGA Tour, there are hundreds if not thousands of golfers who have the physical talent to be successful, but haven’t mastered the mental game. 

I noticed when I was at Pinehurst that the pro’s have a different approach to the game. While they understand the obstacles on a given hole…the water, sand, trees, rough, etc…instead the focus for each player is on exactly where the ball should go. If the ball does go into a hazard, they don’t let it affect their approach to the next shot. That’s a huge difference from an amateur who is hoping the ball doesn’t find a hazard and somehow ends up in a good spot. If the ball does find a hazard for us amateurs, we’re often scared to hit the next shot in fear that it will happen again. 

While out walking the course by myself I was able to think about how some of my church partners focus on what’s next in their ministry. Some church leaders see the obstacles ahead and are aware of them, but they are focused on what God is calling them to do, and the impact their church can make if they take bold steps. However many churches I speak with are worried about landing in a hazard, and are not willing to take the chances that will move their ministry to the next level. 

So where are you? Worried about who might get upset, what might go wrong, or waiting for God to just do it so you don’t have to make the effort? Or are you taking everything into consideration, while still following through on what you’ve been called to accomplish? 

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Through my conversations with pastors, I can usually tell early on if a pastor gets it or not when it comes to generosity. If so, we can dive in quickly and plan a strategy that will grow the generous spirit of his church. If not, it will be a struggle, and in some cases we don’t even get far enough to talk about partnering. So in that light, here are a five reasons why a generosity focus will not work for your church. 

 
1. If you’re afraid to talk about finances the way the Bible does, a generosity focus is not for you. 
 
2. If you’re worried about someone getting upset about the generosity conversation, a generosity focus is not for you. 
 
3. If you don’t think discipling your members in the area of finances is important, a generosity focus is not for you. 
 
4. If you don’t have a vision for what you would do with the money if giving did increase, a generosity focus is not for you. 
 
5. If you as a pastor or staff member don’t give generously, a generosity focus is not for you. 
 
However, if you are willing to show what God’s word says about giving…if you are willing to defend your reasons for talking about money…if you are passionate about discipling your members in their finances..if you have a vision for what the increased money would fund…and if you get IT, and give generously….then and only then could a generosity focus be just what your church needs to take the next step forward. And if all those things are the case, you motivate me to do what I do, thank you! 

The Olympics are always an exciting time, and Americans apparently love watching if the ratings are any indication. I don’t understand all of the events, but no matter what sport it is obvious that intense training has been done to get the athlete ready for what could be a few seconds of an event that have at least been four years in the making, more for most. 

 
A few of my clients are also coming down to an extremely important day in the next few months, one for which they have waited decades. Call it what you will….committment day, pledge day, faith promise day, etc. Like an Olympic athlete, can your church just show up on that day and expect a great outcome without some preparation?
 
We know what an Olympic athlete goes through leading up to the games. The coach would probably start with the basics of the skills needed, the fundamentals. Because without a good base there’s no need for the more complex details. There also will likely be some intense training times followed by times of rest. There might be some pain included and even an injury that needs to be healed. All of that will help shape the athlete to be ready for competition. 
 
So what does that preparation look like in a church? It would also likely start with the basics, maybe as long as four years out! What does the Bible say about giving? How do those who have more experience with generosity give? How can I find room in my family’s budget to give? We have to lay the foundation for people before moving on to more complex subjects. 
 
And yes this might be painful for some. Whenever people are challenged to grow in any fashion, there will be some hurt feelings. But this can’t be an excuse not to engage at this level. 
 
So if you’re a pastor or church leader who has vision and can see what might be coming years ahead, how are you preparing your people? It may be time for a vision strategy session to help others understand what the goal will be down the road. It could be time for a generosity audit to see what the strengths and weaknesses of the church are in order to build a good foundation. But rest assured that if you are intentional about it now, your people will be prepared once the big day arrives.  

1. Stop saying this is only for members

I often do Generosity Audits as do many of my Generis teammates, and one of the first questions I’ll ask pastors is do they think that the offering time is a time of worship. They all say yes. But yet we tell visitors that they shouldn’t feel compelled to give. Do you tell them that they shouldn’t sing during the service? Or to feel free to tune out the pastor during the message? Of course not! I’m not saying you should tell them that they should give, but you should let them decide. It could be a time that a person makes a critical decision to invest in the Kingdom.
 

2. Stop doing announcements

 
Back to the worship part…Yes it’s a time of worship but we’d like to take this time to remind you that the deacons will be meeting tonight and that the Wednesday night dinner will be spaghetti this week. Really? Leave some room for people hearts to be moved. Maybe not complete silence, but there should be something going on that reminds people what the offering time is all about. A giving testimony, a story of something amazing happening because of generosity, or sometimes simple music. Which leads to the next point…

 
3. Stop doing the same thing
 

I’ve done a blog post on this before, but it’s a simple guideline. Change it up! If you do the same thing every week, you will engage the same people. You don’t sing the same songs each week (at least I hope not), the pastor doesn’t give the same message each week(see parentheses above), so charge your worship leader to spend a few minutes each week planning this time just like he or she would the rest of the service.

 

So Pastor, what will you do this week to make your offering time better?

 

It’s that time of the year for churches. Those who are looking to move, renovate, build, or fund ministries are getting into full swing in capital campaigns…or generosity initiatives…or vision campaigns…or whatever you want to call it. No matter the name I seem to get similar questions each time I walk through this process with a client. So I decided to document five common campaign questions I’m hearing once again. 
 
1. Why does the process take so long?
 
A typical campaign that I’m seeing right now will take at least six months from the time that we have the first meeting until commitment day. Some churches can fast track it and some churches might take a year, but six months seems to be about average. The most important aspect of the timeline is that we really do need that much time to inform everyone of what’s happening. There might be new renovation/relocation plans, new ministry plans, an expanded vision for the church or many other factors that go into the process. With that much to communicate plus the fact that a regular attender to your church now attends on average twice a month,  it makes it imperative that a church takes the time to explain and cast vision. I recently visited with a church that was thinking of doing a campaign to raise a million dollars. They decided that their church had heard enough about the renovation plans so they gave their members a two week notice on pledging to give towards the renovation. You can probably guess what my advice was, but they went forward on their own. The result? A commitment of 80k. Now they are stuck and can’t move forward. They were too impatient with their communication and paid the price. A campaign is a critical time in a church’s life, it’s too important to rush through. 

 
2. Why do we have to sign pledge cards
 
I’m hearing this one more and more often. “If this giving is between us and God, why do we have to tell the church what we’re giving.” For two reasons. One, if the church will be financing the project, a bank will require signed pledges to base the financing amount. Second, the church will need to have a good idea of what they can afford, and what the cash flow will look like through the giving phase. Those two things can’t happen with anonymous pledges. You aren’t signing a loan note so no one will be garnishing your wages to fulfill your pledge. My question would be, if you’re willing to make a pledge to God, can’t you write it down?
 
3. How much will we raise?
 
That’s why you hire an expert like me to tell you…I don’t know. Ok that’s not the entire truth. I can usually give a church a range that we feel comfortable can be achieved based on prior giving data, but past that I don’t know the hearts of your people. But I can help lead your church through prayer activities and lay out some specific financial goals to reach to give your church the best possible outcome. Also throughout the campaign we will often get a better idea once some of the higher capacity donors tell us what they will be giving. Now I recognize that one sacrificial gift is not more important to God than another, God sees the heart. But realistically we know that the gifts from our major givers are going to get us closer to the goal quicker. That is why we have specific strategies for every portion of the church, no matter of the capacity to give. 
 
4. What is the difference between a 2 and 3 year campaign
 
Easy, one year! Of course it’s not as simple as that. There are good reasons for 1,2, and 3 year campaigns. The shorter campaigns can be just as successful financially as 3 year campaigns if there are members of the church with high capacity to give. If they have the capacity and willingness, then a shorter campaign may be best. Most of my work this season is in more traditional and rural churches. There are fewer high capacity givers, a higher percentage of members on fixed incomes, and more members who give out of income, not assets. For these churches I would recommend a 3 year giving phase. 
 
5. How can I give to the campaign?
 
A critical question that seems easy to answer, but can be complicated. Many think that they will give out of regular income, and maybe give up some things in their life that they would normally spend money on. And that’s great! But we also need to keep in mind that there are other ways to give that may be better for both the giver and the church. Do you have stocks that have gained value recently? If the stock is given to the church before being sold, the church will receive more money, and the giver will not have to pay taxes on the gains. The same can be said for land, cars, retirement accounts, etc. A question I’m also asking now(thanks to a colleagues suggestion) is to think of the top three possessions you own. Not a mortgage, not a car with a payment, something you own. What would it look like to sell that item for a higher purpose? I recently had a pastor sell a motorcycle that was very special to him, in order to give to his church. I can’t wait for him to share that story of sacrifice with his people! The important point is that there is more than one way to give to your church. 
 
To those who are in a campaign season what questions are you hearing that you are continually answering? For those who are thinking about the process, what would be your big questions?