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4 Characteristics of Successful Church Capital Campaigns

capital campaigns

At pivotal moments in the life of a local church, the pastor may be called upon to raise funds for a specific initiative that will allow the congregation to move into an exciting new chapter filled with hope, faith, and a renewed emphasis on reaching the community for Jesus. In such times, churches may facilitate these special efforts with a capital campaign. 

A capital campaign is a resource initiative in which pastors and church leaders seek to raise a significant sum of money over a designated period of time, over and above regular tithes and offerings, to accomplish a specific goal. That goal may vary depending on the church, but generally includes things like purchasing land, constructing a new building, renovating an existing facility, retiring debt, or launching a new church planting or missional initiative. 

The success of a capital campaign can be measured in a couple of different ways. At the end of the day, how much money your church is able to raise for its goal is a clear demarcation of success. Nevertheless, truly successful church capital campaigns also serve to unite the congregation, generate shared excitement for what God could do through your church, and stretch and grow the faith of people who may be giving significant sums of money to a mission-centered cause for the first time in their lives. 

As someone who has been on a church staff for several separate resource initiatives, here are four general characteristics I’ve observed when they go really well.

1. Successful Church Capital Campaigns Start With Big Vision.

Building a new building or renovating an old facility is a worthy goal—practical, even necessary, for a growing church looking to make more room for new guests. But pastors understand this truth well: the building is never simply about the building. 

Successful church capital campaigns are the ones in which pastors cast a big vision for how the church is involved in the mission of Jesus. You aren’t just building a new facility, buying a new property, or paying down debt purely for your own benefit or comfort. You are creating a space where people can come and encounter God, many of them for the first time. You are freeing up funds that can be invested into the community, into church planting, into missions. You are seeking to raise these funds so that you can make a greater Kingdom impact. 

During a capital campaign, it is the job of pastors and church leaders to inspire their people to give to something bigger than themselves—something bigger than their congregation as it currently exists. When people capture such a vision, they will not only be more generous; they will be more bought into the mission.

2. Successful Church Capital Campaigns Take Place in Churches That Are Healthy. 

While capital campaigns can certainly foster a greater sense of unity in your church, they cannot create it out of thin air. Launching a resource initiative while your church is struggling to get healthy can be disastrous, both for the financial results of the campaign, as well as the internal conflicts such an endeavor will itself produce. 

Capital campaigns yield the best results (both financial and spiritual) when trust in leadership is high. And that’s because getting your people to be ambitious about their generosity requires a significant number of “leadership chips.” If your church’s leadership has recently needed to cash in some of those leadership chips to attend to other matters and has not had enough time to replenish the deficit of trust and confidence, a capital campaign may only exacerbate any underlying issues that may be present. 

Unfortunately, waiting for your church to get healthy before launching a resource initiative may not always be possible, particularly if your church is in financial dire straits. One church in my local area was in such a situation some years ago. The newly appointed pastor came into the church knowing it was experiencing some financial hardship. But when he actually sat down to look at the numbers, he quickly realized that the church was on the brink of bankruptcy and foreclosure. So he moved quickly to launch a giving initiative to get the church back on track. It was a defining moment of his leadership, and the church is healthy and thriving today.