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Good Steward Award 2013: Financial Transparency / Fundraising

Christ Community Church (Milpitas, CA)

In the area of Finance, Christ Community Church (CCC) in Milpitas, CA received one of the highest ratings ever recorded on the Transforming Church Index, or TCI, a national survey developed and administered by Fairfax, VA-based TAG Consulting to gauge congregants’ view of how well the church communicates and manages its finances.

Screen-Shot-2014-01-22-at-9.49.58-AM  According to Business Manager Mark Simmons, Bank of the West and the accounting firms of LMGW and Seeba & Associates have also audited and expounded on the outstanding work of
this church.

Additionally, this church has done 11 consecutive capital campaigns, with each driving results between 93 percent and 103 percent of the pledge amounts, regardless of the state of the economy.

Can you tell us more about how CCC got involved with the Transforming Church Index (TCI)?

Mark Simmons: We brought on a new senior pastor in 2012 and wanted to work together on a strategic plan for the church. Our new senior pastor had worked with TAG at a previous church. So, we decided to engage them.

Kevin Ford (Billy Graham’s nephew) — who heads the church consulting division of TAG — was the first one to say we were the healthiest church they’d ever encountered or measured. TCI is a rather comprehensive, detailed measurement system of church’s health.

The short answer is not just our church’s high scores, but its across-the-board high scores compared to other churches.  Most churches — even healthy ones — will score well in one area, but not across the board.

Also, the evaluation process with TAG included a number of focus groups (six, initially) to validate the data gathered using TCI. Last I heard, more than 10,000 churches had completed the TCI survey.

In what ways does CCC go above and beyond to communicate and manage its finances?

Screen-Shot-2014-01-22-at-9.56.24-AMSimmons: It’s all about creating trust and an accountable culture. The Apostle Paul talked about entrusting the Gospel to those who are known to be “faithful.”

The fact is, most people in a congregation have little aptitude in financial accounting; but, some have a great deal. So, how to effectively communicate to such a diverse audience can be a real challenge.

Structurally, we have a staff that has three people who provide oversight to church finances, and we leverage that to provide a depth of knowledge beyond what you’d get with one person. We also designed in a lot of checks and balances.

We have a finance committee made up of those folks in the congregation who have a great deal of aptitude in financial accounting and are known in the congregation for being knowledgeable, faithful and trustworthy. We’re blessed to have CFOs and executives on this committee. We not only publish our financial data in our annual report, but we also publish a copy of the letter our CPAs give us on the result of our annual audit, and we take questions from the congregation — anything they want to ask — at our annual congregational meeting.  Usually, a good number of those questions are in the area of finance.

Finally, we update the congregation on our finances several times a year, and we let people know they’re welcome to ask questions at any time. When people consistently receive open, transparent and thorough communication from those whom they consider trustworthy and faithful, you can create a culture of trust that’s earned.

Can you tell usScreen-Shot-2014-01-22-at-9.56.17-AM more about Bank of the West and the accounting firms of LMGW and Seeba & Associates auditing the church’s work?

Simmons: In 2008 and 2009, I led the effort to find a lender to work with us on the construction of our new Ministry Center.

While I mentioned Bank of the West, we had five lenders that were finalists for our business, and they all described CCCM as their model client.

Common themes they expounded on were our history of faithful follow-through on (then) 10 prior campaigns; our history of retiring debt on an accelerated schedule; our advanced budget, accounting and cash management capabilities; our written processes and procedures; and our thorough recordkeeping and responsiveness to their requests.

We’ve worked with both Seeba & Associates and LMGW for a number of years. Both are non-profit specialists. In 2006 and 2007, we engaged Seeba & Associates to do a complete review of our entire financial processes with an eye on raising everything to best practices levels. We also did a thorough review of church accounting systems and used them to help us implement a new system.

We then used LMGW to do a thorough audit of everything that was implemented, so we got a second opinion on everything we’d done with Seeba. One or the other of these firms has conducted an annual audit every year since then.

We get kudos from them on three fronts: the foresight and commitment we’ve shown to best practices, our follow-through to every recommendation they’ve made (which, of course, is documented in the annual reports), and the multiple instances in which we have discovered potential deficiencies and proactively solved them. In a few cases, these have broken new ground and added to best practices.

Regarding your 11 consecutive capital campaigns, how far apart have they been?

Simmons: Generally, these are three-year campaigns and have rolled from one right into the other. There have been two or three exceptions where we’ve extended a campaign or had a short break in between. But, generally, they run one after the other. It has become part of our culture.

What’s the overarching goal of these 11 capital campaigns?

Simmons: Our church has forever been committed to the Great Commission. And, while variously expressed over the years, it can be summed up in our current Vision Statement and Core Values.
We’ve produced short videos for our current capital campaign, which are available online.

We have more than 100 active ministries on campus. Most are community-focused, so we make ample use of the facilities God has given us each and every day.

Also, most every campaign has a component that includes foreign or local missions.

What do you think makes members give time and time again to these campaigns?

Simmons: God has given us the greatest of opportunities: He has invited us to bring the kingdom of God to the whole world. Wherever we go and whoever we meet, we have the opportunity to bring Good News and make an incredible difference in people’s lives now and forever. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and there’s nothing more significant than this.

Jesus taught us to do this individually, and in community. We’re involved in an incredible adventure led by Christ.

Our church is in one of the most diverse communities in the world. More than 100 nations are represented; there’s no “majority” — culturally, ethnically, or by nation. Fifty-seven percent of our residents were born in other countries. In this regard, it’s an incredible challenge to reach such a diverse community. But, with God’s help, we are — and we feel we’ve just begun. When people see all God is doing, and that they can be a part of it, it’s pretty hard not to give.
We also have a few more fundamentals:

  • Capital campaign giving is in addition to tithes and offerings.
  • We give generously in response to God, who is generous to us beyond measure.
  • We challenge people to ask God what he would have them give, and then do what he asks. (No more, no less.)
  • We unabashedly inspire people to give.
  • We have a rich history to recount (great stories); an impactful present (which is what draws many people to our church); and a bright future — a future as bright as the promises of God.

— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh

 

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