Fear not!

Throughout the Christmas story, angels visit people to tell them not to be afraid:  God is about to do something wonderful, or has done something wonderful, or will do something wonderful if you can just believe (if you can’t you might lose your voice for a while, but) fear not! God is with you!

Then comes the feasts of Stephen and the Holy Innocents, two not-so-gentle reminders that life on earth includes all kinds of evil.  This is followed by a resumption of church meetings to tackle the budget deficit, a cranky furnace or leaky roof, staff changes, etc.

Every year provides opportunities for church leaders to join the chorus of angels still proclaiming: Fear not!  One of the joys of my work with congregations is witnessing what happens when faith and good work overcome fear. As they move through the steps of a capital campaign, I see congregations energized by renewed allegiance to their faith community. They remember why they love it as they share stories and work toward a shared vision for what their church can become.

I see congregations come together with a shared understanding of what’s important: to be the best representative of Christ they can be. It isn’t so much about the projects themselves – windows, remodeling, adding space, an organ – it is about which projects make the most sense given their shared vision for their future ministry.

I see congregations achieve what they didn’t think was possible financially. They learn lessons that strengthen their stewardship ministries. Lessons such as: communicate the need, tie it to a vision, set a reasonable goal, explain the different ways to give. Annual and planned giving are explained as well as extraordinary capital giving.

Fear not, church leaders.  As Paul wrote to Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV). May your faithful work for God’s glory be fruitful in this new year.

Linda Buskirk, Core Capital Campaigns provider, January 2024

The Value of Our Stories

This year, the TENS (The Episcopal Network for Stewardship) theme for Annual Giving Campaigns is More Than Enough, based on the miracle story of the feeding the 5,000 as told in Luke 9.

Imagine the varied stories of those in the crowd of 5,000 people who tracked down Jesus in the countryside to hear his message. Some were likely people “brought up in the church,” familiar with scripture, while others might never have stepped inside a temple.  Some might have been searching for inspiration to deepen their spirituality, while others were desperately seeking physical or emotional healing. Even with their different stories, they all left sharing one big miraculous story.

Every congregation has its own set of stories exemplifying that no matter what brought each of us to our church home originally, together with those in our faith community we now share one big miraculous story of love, inclusion, and salvation.

Through our stories, we see God’s abundant love being shared through the ministries of our church, all of which are possible because of generous gifts of wisdom, time, and resources that come from those in the pews – just as people on that countryside likely dug into their own provisions to share with their neighbors.

Stories can be a powerful part of any stewardship ministry. As we emphasize Annual Giving, Planned Giving or a Capital Campaign, stories highlight our ties to each other and strengthen resolve to love and support the church.

Jesus’ time on earth exemplifies one of the most beautiful realities of our faith:  Our Creator knows our stories and craves a close relationship with each of us. In return, we are called to love and trust that what God provides will be more than enough.

-Linda Buskirk


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.

Leadership is Teamwork in a Capital Campaign

Leadership is Teamwork in a Capital Campaign

“The ability of people to do remarkable things hinges on how well they pull together as a team. A team is not a group of people who work together.  A team is a group of people who trust each other.”   Simon Sinek

A capital campaign is major undertaking in trust.  First we must place our trust in God to breathe wisdom, creativity, energy and generosity into our efforts to build God’s kingdom and serve a world overflowing with need.

A capital campaign asks people to trust their leaders as together your community creates a vision and plan for the future.  To execute your capital campaign leaders will ask everyone to contribute their time, talents and hard earned financial resources to make the agreed vision and plans a reality.  The future of our church depends on leaders who inspire trust in people to joyfully participate and make the capital campaign process successful.

Here are FIVE best practices to ensure your church has a trusted team to lead your campaign:

  1. Your priest should be and integral part of the campaign leadership team, but clergy and staff already have a full-time role and should not be expected to run a campaign alone. 
  2. Strong lay leadership from Vestry recruits and supports a trusted campaign leadership team.  This is key if a campaign happens during a clergy transition or your clergy is part-time.  Yes, a successful capital campaign is possible in the absence of permanent clergy!
  3. Church, by its nature is about relationship and community building.  Leadership of a campaign will result in identifying new leaders,  stronger relationships between members, and a clearer sense of community identity and purpose.
  4. Hire a professional fundraising consultant with experience in leading faith-based campaigns. A good fundraiser can help you get started, navigate tough issues, support leadership, and offer best practices throughout to maximize results.
  5. Pray! Cultivate a spiritually grounded campaign from the start, driven by the question “What is God calling our church to be and do through a capital campaign?”

Arise and Shine, Stewardship Team!

The Annual Giving Campaign is over –

A new budget year has begun.

What’s next in promoting gratitude,

or is “stewardship” over and done?


Dear God, what other ways can we reach

someone sitting in a pew,

To help her see that what she has

Has really come from You?


To help her explore and understand

The riches of your grace

And contemplate your Holy Spirit’s

way of finding us in this place.


“Stewardship” is so much more

than asking as the budget guides

It’s a ministry meant to deepen faith,

inspiring trust in how God provides.


There are many ways to speak to this

And not just for today’s brief living

It’s good to explain that gratitude to God

Can leave a legacy through planned giving.


So arise, shine, faithful stewardship teams –

There is joy, hope and gratitude to be found.

Be intentional about finding ways

To keep your ministry strong year ‘round.


And if you’d like some help or ideas

for stewardship ministry to make new gains

We’ll customize a plan for you – it’s what we do –

at Core Capital Campaigns.

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.

Appreciating Potential

One of our favorite activities with clients is touring their buildings and grounds. As they explain original features and why additions or changes were made, we learn much about a faith community’s history and values.

Sometimes these conversations also reveal regret over changed reality. Many an education wing was built post WWII, when babies were booming and church membership was a societal expectation. Architectural designs with multiple levels accessed by three-steps-up then four-steps-down and no elevator, with the only bathrooms 3 levels back, are an embarrassing frustration today. And all those empty classrooms…

Looking at one’s assets appreciatively can help leaders see potential rather than problems. It helps us see ourselves in the same way God sees us: gifted, strong, a clean slate.

Areas to examine appreciatively include people as well as buildings. What gifts for ministry has God assembled in your congregation? What do people love to do? What needs in the greater community are speaking to the hearts and minds of many in your congregation?

Regarding the greater community, invite some “outsiders” into your building, particularly those doing good works that align with your congregation’s values.  What outside needs could be beautifully met by those empty classrooms?  These potential partners, unaware of your dashed dreams of the past, may jump up and down with excitement about what could be done in the future – and they may even pay rent to do so.

Appreciative work results in a shared vision for a congregation’s future, directing strategic decision-making. It inspires support for changes such as a new partnership with a social service agency to use your space, or launching capital campaign to update buildings in order to make them accessible and comfortable.

Linda Buskirk

Free Consultation

Core Capital Campaigns is giving back in gratitude for God’s generosity. We are offering a free one-hour phone or online consultation about any fundraising, stewardship or strategic planning topic. Please email or call one of us to set up an appointment.

Leadership and Fundraising

How YOU can model leadership in fundraising?

For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiates 3:1

Lead by planning

  • Create a compelling fundraising plan that reaches all members of the congregation 
  • Involve new faces who can bring new ideas and energy to your efforts,
  • Try something new in your fundraising campaign. How about a ‘money minute’ homily?
  • Include online giving options to attract new members and those who joined online services during the pandemic

Lead with a Vision

  • Is your vision for the future Spirit-centered, future-focused and inclusive?
  • Be articulate about WHY you personally support the vision 
  • Find ways to share the vision with everyone. Do you teach children the value of giving?
  • Does your plan include ways of talking about money with those unfamiliar with stewardship?

Lead by Giving

  • Always make your own gift first after prayerful reflection
  • Try to increase the amount you give from the previous year
  • Be clear that giving includes time, talent and treasure
  • Invite everyone who is part of your community to give, no matter the size of their gift 
  • How easy for people of all generations to give in ways that speak to them? 

Lead with Prayer and Thanksgiving

  • Center your stewardship work in prayer, expressed in both corporate and personal prayer
  • Do you value the giver?  Thank every giver in various ways for all their gifts
  • Ask God’s blessing on the gifts and pledges received on a specific day of celebration
  • Make it FUN for everyone, through a shared meal, acknowledgement or special event
  • Have you challenged people to find joy in giving their resources to do God’s work?