For church leaders, preparing for a capital campaign “commitment service” is similar to football coaches preparing for the Super Bowl. Here, Paul Gage weighs in on how to maximize this giving experience.
You have said that Commitment Service is the “big day” — the culmination of the campaign’s Preparation and Organization phases. What does this Commitment Service look like?
When a church pursues a major building project, it is often the biggest financial challenge in its history. We spend months preparing and organizing for the Commitment Service. At this point, we are focused and spiritually ready for the “big day.” The people have processed all the information, and prayed for God to lead in their decision to give gladly and generously to expand God’s work in their local church.
For many churches, the Commitment Service is designed to be a worshipful experience and encourages everyone to present their commitments during the planned service. Most churches will receive the commitment cards at the conclusion of a worship service by passing an offering plate or by having the people come forward and place commitment cards at a designated area. For many, this is a very powerful moment in their spiritual lives.
It is important that everyone has a commitment card. Usually, the cards are circulated before the worship service by placing cards in the church bulletins or in the pews / chairs. The key is encouraging everyone to participate and make their commitment known during this Commitment Service.
You have said the First Offering is “the day the giving experience begins.” How might this experience differ from the Commitment Service?
It used to be the commitment and offering were introduced at the same time. With churches growing larger in size, it is now more productive to separate the two services. The larger churches will experience 20- to 30-percent rotation in their congregation any given Sunday. So, instead of having a combined commitment and offering service, we are introducing the next Sunday to begin the initial First Fruits offering.
Many churches will experience offerings up to 10 percent or greater of the total commitments. We encourage the church to give as much of their commitment up front during this First Offering. In every campaign, there will be many that will give to the offering that are not ready to make a long-term financial commitment. This allows everyone the opportunity to participate.
Let’s talk about “commitment expectations.” What should a church expect from Commitment and Offering?
Recently, I was talking with a church that was completing a three-year campaign. This campaign experience had not been favorable, so now they were seeking other alternatives. We talked about how much was pledged — $4 million — and how much has been collected: $1.7 million.
I asked what was received in the First Offering, and they said the previous company never mentioned an Offering; the emphasis was only on the pledges. My next question was the percentage of commitment participation — 38 percent of regular donors made a pledge.
A few quick evaluations:
• A church will often receive commitments from 60 percent of regular donors — not of total members or attendance. Churches that have more than 5,000 in attendance will see 50 percent to 60 percent participation.
• A church will often receive a 5 percent to 10 percent of total pledges in the First Offering. This must be promoted from the very beginning of the campaign presentations.
• A church will often collect 80 percent of commitments with a good follow-up strategy. Churches that have more than 5,000 in attendance will collect up to 70 percent.
As you can see, to achieve these levels of participation in most churches, it is critical that a First Offering and regularly scheduled offerings are implemented to collect the total pledges.
The offerings will allow one-third or more of your congregation to participate in the campaign — individuals who might not otherwise make a long-term commitment on a card.
— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh
Paul Gage is founder and president of The Gage Group thegagegroup.com in Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX.