By Lance Taylor
Long Hollow Baptist Church has been in a continual season of capital campaign giving for the last 10 years. Twenty percent of total contributions each year could be directly attributed to campaign giving. So when we decided to “campaign the budget” under a unified approach for 2011 and not do a separate capital campaign, you can understand why our leaders were somewhat perplexed as to our decision.
This certainly wasn’t a decision we made lightly. The first three, three-year campaigns were pledge driven and specifically for much needed infrastructure and building projects. Every time we pushed for pledges for a new campaign, it seemed awkward and was always in the midst of fulfilling pledges for a previous campaign.
We didn’t plan for the overlap to occur, but we were growing so fast we were simply trying to keep pace. It seemed like an undue burden on our people who really responded in stride and gave consistently and sacrificially.
Worse were our attempts to keep the vision alive and the people energized after year one of each campaign. There were so many things going on, it was easy to lose sight of the vision and passion with which we began the three-year cycle.
Bottom line, our building campaigns were necessary but the campaigns themselves drained us. We sensed it was time to do something different. Only, we weren’t quite ready to commit to a unified budget.
We chose a different approach altogether with our Crazy Love Campaign, a multi-dimensional missional effort that included on-campus building improvements as well as mission work locally and around the world. We structured this campaign around five cash offerings over 18 months to raise $3.5 million which included a new youth building, four orphan villages in Haiti and Uganda, along with a variety of other ministry projects.
Sense of purpose
The excitement around this new approach was something we had never experienced. We never lost our focus, our sense of purpose, or our commitment to reach the finish line. The Crazy Love Campaign was a success.
As we studied the giving habits of our membership, we saw evidence that our faithful givers gave more, each offering day involved gifts from hundreds of new giving units, and we grew in giving in our younger demographics. Because of its success, the temptation was to continue this model in 2011.
Staff sanity involved
Our senior pastor, David Landrith, was convinced that for the long-term health of our church and the sanity of our staff that we needed to go to a unified budget that contained all the elements of what God was leading us to do. He believed that we shouldn’t separate our budget from the work that had created such a sacrificial lifestyle for so many of our people through the Crazy Love Campaign.
No one on staff, with the exception of David, was inspired to go this direction at first. The decision to go to a unified budget carried a tremendous amount of risk. In fact, until we meet or exceed budget in 2011, we will live with a sense of wonder if we made the right decision.
The 20 percent beyond the budget that had become part of our revenue stream was not guaranteed. While we have stressed that a combined budget means combined giving, whether or not our people will give at the same level is another question.
Our resolve to make this move didn’t become clear until we began measuring the impact of including into the budget an accelerated debt reduction plan to pay down the debt incurred by the previous capital campaigns along with carefully outlining how our monetary investments matched the core values of our church.
Sermon series kick-off
We had a powerful sermon series in the fall of 2010 called “Compelled,” so we decided to call the unified budget our “Compelled Ministry Plan for 2011.” We wanted everything about this effort to feel different and provide an opportunity for us to connect every dollar to life change.
Our church leadership and larger body were very supportive. The Compelled Ministry Plan for 2011 passed with only two or three objections.
Internally, we will increase the intentionality of our tracking of giving trends to better understand how our people give, provide better, more detailed information to connect the dollar given with its Kingdom impact, and expand the ways people can give on and off campus.
Because of our effort to put together the prospectus piece and treat it as a contract with the giver, we’ve also decided to use it as the basis of our messaging strategy, particularly our efforts to demonstrate a measurable impact to the person in the pew.
While we know a unified budget approach is risky, we believe the timing is right and will allow us to teach ministry as a holistic endeavor, whether it’s making payroll for ministry staff or gathering resources for our orphans in care.
Lance Taylor serves as the executive pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church, Hendersonville, TN, and is responsible for staff coordination, church strategy development, and campus development. www.longhollow.com
Ten advantages of a one fund budget
1. Streamlined communication to church.
2. Easier to concentrate on one theme.
3. Demonstrates the value of the entire budget.
4. Sets comprehensive ministry expectations for the congregation.
5. Able to build in things like accelerated debt reduction.
6 Reinforces giving to the church rather than specific projects.
7. Broader level of buy-in that results in a greater sense of ownership.
8. Provides a total picture of ministry investments and impact.
9. Less confusion for new members and visitors.
10. More accurate tracking of corporate giving health and metrics.