Needs vs. Nice-to-Haves

Inevitably when preparing for a capital campaign, surveying members to determine project priorities, the distinction between Needs and Nice-to-haves comes up. I have looked at projects through this lens myself, for years, but this month I began to reconsider the nice-to-haves.
 After presenting a feasibility study report to the congregation, the rector and I discussed how people were saying there were many nice-to-haves on the project list, and they should only focus on the needs. Having just returned from an inspiring conference about leading the church into the future, she began to see the absolute NEED for the nice-to-haves. All churches are grappling with what the church of the future looks like, but we are showcasing what the church looked like in the past.
  • We want to attract new, young, unchurched people, BUT they must be inspired by our obsolete spaces and outdated look.
  •  “Oh, that stage. We used to have fun family events and talent shows. It was fun. We don’t do that anymore.”
  • We have lots of unused space people could use, BUT it’s dark and musty.
  • We are open and welcoming to all! Unless you cannot navigate stairs. It would be nice to have an elevator or universal accessibility… But we didn’t need it in the ‘50s.

We live in spaces with updated kitchens and bathrooms, and colors that change over time, especially when we want someone to buy it! That sensibility disappears in church.

In times of great change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists. – Eric Hoffer

What forces most congregations to conduct a capital campaign is failure or approaching failure- A failing roof, boiler, carpeting, stained glass – A failing foundation, mortar between bricks and stones and bell towers – Rotting wood and crumbling plaster. The standard communal response? – “Let’s fix these things to avoid catastrophe, and buy ourselves another 20 years.”

Many churches, clergy and lay leaders are learning that a successful capital campaign is more than tackling deferred maintenance and debt. It is an opportunity to think big and ask, “what assets do we have to offer our community inside and outside of our doors?” Responding to the now and the future takes faith, imagination, research, community engagement, risk and a spirit of adventure.

If there is one thing we have learned from the Covid pandemic, it’s that we can change if we have no other choice.

If we have truly learned, then maybe we are ready to choose change because we need and are called to do so.

Thanksgiving, Remembrance and Giving

Each calendar year offers the church help and context for giving, with All Saints’ Day and Thanksgiving. It also coincides with the time most of us are asking people to make a financial pledge to support the annual function and mission of their church. There is an overall, spiritual message of stewardship when you look at both special days together.

  • All Saints’ Day we remember those who we love and are no longer physically with us. Our family, friends, and fellow parishioners. It is also a perfect time to remember those who gave during their lifetime to support a church we have inherited and love. Maybe we didn’t know them personally, but they have impacted our lives. Some even made a planned gift upon their death to continue to support their church. We should remember and give thanks.
  • Thanksgiving Day is dedicated to giving thanks! What a perfect holiday. As Christians we are called to give back to God, with thanksgiving, for all we have received in our lives. We are not called to figure out how much of a budget we should be responsible for in comparison to others. We are asked to give in comparison to our own life’s values- what is important to us- what we are grateful for!

This Thanksgiving think about what you are grateful for, who you are grateful for and who you see no longer but give thanks for the lives they lived. Remember all and give thanks.

And of course, church leadership must remember to thank those who give so that we may continue to live, worship, and serve together- in community.