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The Pastor and Fundraising: A Pastor’s Perspective
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By Volodymer Grinchenko
 
Fundraising in the church setting could be either one of the most exciting and unifying activities, or one of the most stressful and divisive events in the life of the church. The truth is that it could be a blessing or a curse for a pastor as well, especially if you are a pastor like me who has had no experience in fundraising and capital campaigns in a church building project. Of course, we want it to be a blessing for the church as well as the pastor. What can one do to make it a positive experience and at the same time to reach the goal of fundraising? There are few things that I have learned and want to share with you. 

First, as a leader you cannot ask anyone to contribute to the project that you don’t support wholeheartedly and financially. Before asking anyone to support and contribute to our building project, I wanted to make sure that God had placed a burden on my heart first. And God did. I noticed that after much prayer about the project, naturally all my conversations (even outside the church) were about the need of a new church facility. Even when I was at home, my family conversation, prayers, and devotions were about building a new church for God. It was clear to me that God had made this a top priority for me. I was on fire (and still am because we aren’t done yet!).

Second, because I was personally consumed with the desire and passion to do this project that the local church dreamed about and had committee meetings for about 20 years, it was easy for others to know what exactly their pastor wanted to accomplish. It spread like wild fire! After months of talking and praying about it, the church moved into the process of interviewing potential builders, hiring architects and project managers, applying for the permits, etc. Not only did things start happening toward the realization of the project, but the church also started to grow because of the enthusiasm for the project. There are people who joined the church because they wanted to help the dream become true.

Third, as the Spirit of God spread enthusiasm and passion for this project in our church, it became easier to ask for their financial support. Now this is the fun part. If you ask for money too soon, the church is not ready because their hearts are not in it. The key is the right heart. In order to encourage the congregation to support the project we as local leaders (myself, elders, and the local church board) needed to be the first. We became the catalyst group. We pioneered the fundraising effort and our pledges broke the ice (yes, we did a 3-year pledge drive). I guess I could write a whole book on how we did it (there were pluses and minuses and of course it could be done better), but my role as a local pastor was crucial because God asked me to do something that I wasn’t comfortable with (and maybe every pastor should consider doing it because it makes us vulnerable before the congregation).

I will share with you something even more personal, something I have never done in my life until now. Obviously, I was spending much time praying and reading the Bible when searching for God’s guidance. I was reviewing numerous Bible passages trying to identify divine principles for capital fundraising (the book of Nehemiah became my favorite). The passage that God used to challenge me was 1 Chronicles 29:1-9. When preparing everything for building God’s temple, David and other leaders publicly made a significant contribution (with all amounts publicly announced). After reading this passage God made it clear to me that I needed to make the biggest donation in my life (God did tell me the amount too) and announce it to the church. In addition, God laid on my heart exactly how to present it to the church. I publicly admitted that I was not comfortable presenting it and had never done this before, but I felt a responsibility as a leader to lead by example based on 1 Chronicles 29. So, I opened up my financial life to the whole congregation and explained the percentages and amounts in our family contributions to the church. Now I report quarterly to the church what my family contributes to the church budget and to the church building fund.

How do you think the church reacted? While I cannot give a guarantee that all churches will react in a same way, it depends on the church and their relationship with their pastor, my church’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Many people were worried about our family because I decided to give away such a big percentage of our family income. Most of the people expressed to me that they were challenged by God to increase their donations because they want to give sacrificially vs tipping.

In the fall of 2014 we will finish the 3 year pledge campaign we started. More than 70% of people who pledged are still faithful to their pledges. Most of them don’t miss a monthly contribution. Many of us have testified about how God blessed our families during this time. We are excited to finish the building project by the end of this year and celebrate Christmas in the new sanctuary.

Volodymyr Grinchenko, originally from Ukraine, is pastoring at the Waldorf Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland