Leading the work of a Moravian ministry is a divine gift, but it requires financial gifts as well. That’s why the leaders of faith in our churches and agencies are often called upon to be leaders in raising money. Many people, however, shy away from the words “capital campaign,” and don’t want to take on the challenge of leading one.
So the Moravian Ministries Foundation (MMFA) decided to interview a few individuals who recently led campaigns to find out what it takes to be successful in hopes of inspiring more Moravians to do the same. Thankfully we had plenty of people to choose from and I was able to catch up with:
- Gail Theard, member of Grace Moravian (N.C.) and former Laurel Ridge Board of Directors member who chaired Laurel Ridge’s Feed My Sheep campaign
- Rev. Kurt Liebenow, pastor of Christian Faith Moravian (Wis.) who helped his congregation’s capital campaign
- John and Susan Mickey, members of Home Moravian (N.C.) who led Home’s recent “It’s Our Home. It’s Our Time.” campaign.
Despite the major differences between the three campaigns (see end of article for a brief summary of each), there were several common themes throughout our conversations.
All three campaigns talked to members and supporters prior to beginning. The Mickeys shared how important it was for them to listen to people’s ideas about what projects were most critical for the life of Home Church as they knew they’d have to prioritize. Both Laurel Ridge and Christian Faith utilized the MMFA’s Morning Star Campaign Services to speak to people about the feasibility of their campaigns, to begin to get the word out and to discern leadership.
Kurt said no one in his church felt comfortable with having a conversation about fundraising; however, Chi-Chi Messick, MMFA vice president, had assisted with the church’s roof project so people were familiar with her. After interviewing a few other firms, the church picked MMFA as they liked how the work would be tailored to their needs. “Working with the Moravian Ministries Foundation felt like us,” said Kurt.
Gail spoke about the intentional process the Laurel Ridge board and campaign volunteers went through for making sure Feed My Sheep was well known in the Southern Province. They wanted the campaign to appeal to all ages so they crafted a logo with a cute sheep drawing; it served as a visual reminder to motivate and inspire people. Gail wrote thank-you notes and was sure to include a personal note on every thank-you letter.
The Laurel Ridge staff frequently shared photos of the construction so people could see their money at work. They put the campaign in front of people through the Provincial Ties newsletter, mailings, Facebook, emails, Laurel Ridge’s website and as many personal visits to congregations, Sunday School classes, Women’s and Men’s Fellowships, youth groups and Wednesday Night Fellowships as possible.
Most importantly, perhaps, is that the leadership did all of these things again and again to keep the momentum going. Gail was surprised that many people gave more than once and credits that to the good communication used throughout the campaign.
Both the Mickeys and Pastor Liebenow expressed how important it was to constantly update the church boards and to be as transparent as possible. At Christian Faith the campaign leadership was certain to have church council meetings throughout the campaign to make sure the whole congregation was ok with what was going on.
Focus on abundance
There will always be reasons to think the time to begin a campaign is wrong: the economy is bad, we’re always asking for money, the cost of all we’d like to do is too great, people are too busy to help. But the capacity is there. And what you think may be bad timing can work for you; Pastor Liebenow shared that the downturn of the economy meant his church was able to get lower bids from contractors looking for work.
After the economy took a downturn in 2008 and there was a lot of concern about embarking on a campaign at Home Church. John told the congregation, “We share the faith; let’s share the courage.” Rather than letting scarcity guide their decisions, the Mickeys looked at what resources were available to them and the church and got a lot of people involved.They commented on the positive aspect of bringing members together who wouldn’t normally work together.
Celebrate and give thanks
You can’t underestimate the power of celebrating and giving thanks! For the Home Church campaign, giving thanks meant inviting the workmen who helped renovate the church sanctuary back to see the finished space and having a special event for them.
For Laurel Ridge, celebration meant having a service of dedication for the Summer Camp Kitchen and combining that with a day of thanksgiving for Laurel Ridge, sending special invitations to lifelong supporters and volunteers.
For Christian Faith it meant taking one of the old handrails and having it cut into medallions with a picture of the church on them (similar to a wooden nickel) as theirs was an accessibility project; Kurt shared it was fun to use the old hand rails as a gift to all the members on the day they cut the ribbon and consecrated the new space.
Advice for a campaign
The last question asked was, “What advice would you give someone who is going to chair a campaign or to pastors whose churches are considering a campaign?”
“Let passionate people use their gifts for the campaign,” said Gail. “Even if theirs isn’t your style, let them help. Remember God is asking for the money, not the people; the money is for God’s work. Don’t lose sight of that by getting caught up on the process and human element.”
“Have a capital campaign because it will facilitate ministry,” Kurt advises pastors. “Look at what your ministry needs are and show folks what the church would be like if it could change and improve.”
“Have an exercise routine, a sense of humor, and an open heart and mind,” say the Mickeys. “A campaign is fluid; you’re trying to find the current as you go down the river…it’s a guided drift. Let God and the congregation take it where it goes. Have a part in it but remember it isn’t yours.”
To read more from the conversations with Gail, the Mickeys, and Rev. Liebenow, please visit the MMFA’s website at www.mmfa.info and scroll down to the “Resources for Congregations” section. ■
Laura Watson is coordinator of philanthropic services for the MMFA.
- Christian Faith Moravian Church, DeForest, Wis.: Raised money for accessibility, something the congregation had been wanting since 1980. $400,000 project: narthex addition oriented towards parking lot, additional classrooms, three accessible bathrooms (one on each level), elevator.
- Home Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, N.C.: (photo at right) Projects completed included Sanctuary renovations (new air handling system, flooring, pews, paint, sound system, lighting, and cameras for web broadcasts; enhanced choir loft and 180 degree rotation of organ, protection for stained glass windows), Parlor improvements (new furnishings, window treatments, and kitchen), and Fellowship Hall work (painted, new sound system, and deep cleaning of flooring). They also completed a final push to renovate the church’s chapel; it has been renamed the Saal.
- Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference and Retreat Center: Campaign raised money to reconstruct Summer Camp Kitchen and pay down debt owed as a result of Higgins Lodge expansion.
From the July/August 2014 Moravian Magazine