We’ve always done it that way before are the seven deadly words towards churches failing. We keep doing what we have always done and wonder why we are not getting what we always got. That might be poor grammar but it is a reality that we must face.
Nowhere can you see this more evident than when it comes to capital campaigns. Sadly churches are still using the same methods that their fathers used in 1980. When you ask them why they are doing a certain thing a certain way you get a blank look. If they are honest they will tell you they don’t know. The truth is they are simply repeating what they have always done. Or the church is following the lead of their stewardship consultant. After all stewardship firms are the experts. Shouldn’t they know what is working and what is not? Not necessarily!
Few stewardship firms have bothered to consider whether their program driven campaigns are effective or relevant. Most simply continue to do what they learned in the 1980’s with little thought to whether the statements they make or suggestions they offer are even true anymore if they ever were!
There is a lack of empirical data to support nearly every claim of stewardship firms. In my sixteen plus years in the stewardship industry I have heard so many “facts” thrown out that are patently false. Yet they sound good so sales people keep saying them. The few “studies” that have been done are paid for by a firm and as a result not credible. If I paid a marketing firm thousands of dollars to investigate which stewardship firm is the best would they not come back with findings in my favor? I kid you not a few years ago one of my competitors did just that and then advertised that studies showed they were the best rated firm in the land! Sometimes I want to know who believes this stuff?
“Our pledge to budget ratio is better than any other company!” Ever hear that one? Did you stop and ask them how they knew that? Did the firm actually poll the over 300,000 Protestant churches in America to discover that? Did they hire George Barna or someone else to verify that? How would they know what another companies pledge to budget ratio was? They are counting on the church NOT asking tough questions that would make them prove their claims. I happen to know that few companies know factually what their pledge to budget data really is!
Recently one of my clients wanted to know how their yearend giving data compared nationally. I had to tell them that I had limited ability to give them a comparison. For one thing their budget is larger than some city budgets! For another I honestly told them we only work with a handful of churches a year by design. Sadly stewardship firms don’t share their data with one another. This is a competitive industry and our “secrets” are closely guarded. We wouldn’t want to give away anything that might cause us to lose a contract. So the loser in all this is the Church.
So, we keep doing what we have always done and hope it works. Everything in our world has changed. Why hasn’t the methods by which we hold capital campaigns? Why are we not asking questions of the “facts” that are presented to us? Why are you, the church client, not asking probing questions?
When it comes to something as crucial as your next project being a success can you really risk doing it the way it has always been done? If you are tired of the same old same old give us a call. You can even ask us some tough questions!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach
Founder and President
The Charis Group and Charis Giving Solutions