In this series installment, Paul Gage spotlights the public phase of the process: the Campaign itself. It’s a critical time — and it requires plenty of prep work to get right.
What are the overarching aims and characteristics of the Campaign phase?
The bottom line is that the Campaign phase is when we bring people to the point of decision. It’s the public phase.
The Campaign is a spiritual journey — a three- or four-week process involving preaching, prayer, preaching and information-sharing. It’s a culmination; by this time, we will have spent weeks (if not months) preparing and organizing for this phase, when we bring people to that point of decision.
It’s like Billy Graham coming to a big stadium in your town. There’s an agreement for him to come which was put into motion about two years in advance. All the planning, preparation and promotion make it possible for him to be in town for three or four nights, preaching the Gospel. Everything is in place for him to bring people to a point of decision during that time.
In the past 15 to 20 years, how has the Campaign phase — i.e., the public phase — changed in terms of its typical duration?
Over a period of years, the feedback we’ve received from church leaders is that the Campaign lasted a long time, which has the potential to generate negative responses among their people. The pastor is always preaching about money! It’s been going on for five, six, seven weeks — enough is enough. It’s hard to invite friends, family or lost people to church because we know the pastor is trying to raise money for a building program.
Aside from the sermons, Sunday school classes and small groups were geared toward finances. Many churches just prefer not to do that.
Today, the public phase of the campaign is shorter — maybe 3 or 4 weeks of preaching — involving more vision casting and conveying information to people. Now, during the previous phase of the campaign — Organization — we’re meeting with people in different environments, including major donors and small groups. This will take place for three or four weeks before the Campaign begins.
With regard to the pastor sermons component of the Campaign, you mentioned that pastors were previously compelled to preach about stewardship and sacrificial giving five to six Sundays in a row. Is that still the case?
I would say that Campaign preaching series for two or four Sundays is more common, but the focus today is different. The message isn’t just about money matters, generosity, sacrifice or contentment; it’s really more about vision, serving people, and changed lives — things that are more missional and inspirational.
You have said that Bible study groups aren’t always receptive to entire sessions spent on money matters during the Campaign phase. What are some alternatives?
We want the lead pastor to maintain as much visibility and leadership as possible, and we don’t want to disrupt the curriculum already in place. So, instead of having four to six weeks of Bible studies or small groups devoted to finances, we’ll show a three- to four-minute video of the pastor speaking to the group, or a testimonial by people in the church speaking about ministry impact or a personal story about life change. With this approach, we can actually show the areas and ministries we’re going to be influencing and impacting through the generosity of our people. We’re seeing a lot more of that today than, “OK, everybody bring your Bibles and we’re going to talk about generosity tonight.”
What has changed about the consultant’s role in the public phase of the capital campaign compared to 15 to 20 years ago?
The role of the consultant in today’s modern church is less visible than it has been in days past. We might not have any presence to the congregation. We might not be up on the stage. Sometimes, we’re not even in meetings or presentations where the information is getting conveyed to the people to get them excited about the campaign; usually, that’s headed up by the pastor, campaign chairman or building committee representative.
One reason people give to capital programs is because of the trust and confidence in their pastor and church leaders. Our role as consultant is to put the pastor and the church in the best position to succeed.
— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh
Paul Gage is founder and president of The Gage Group in Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX.