Churches with missions-minded pastors and staff can break through low giving patterns using unconventional methods.
For instance, at NorthRidge Church, a 9,600-attendee church in Plymouth, Michigan, congregants raised $2.5 million to build a hospital in Zambia with just one December pledge drive. Those funds—along with child sponsorship pledges—didn’t go through church accounting, but went straight to World Vision, says Michael Miller, NorthRidge’s director of stewardship and outreach.
Mark Wilson, senior pastor at the 500-person Hayward Wesleyan Church in Hayward, Wisconsin, says he also approaches missions fundraising through faith promises rather than the church budget. He finds older congregants eager to commit to regular giving, while younger churchgoers are more likely to support one-time events, such as entering a race to buy goats for a family in an African community.
One of Wilson’s creative experiments worked remarkably well: Three years ago, he shifted the church missions-themed Sunday service from one day to a month-long focus, and missions giving increased by 26 percent. He also experimented with a one-time “Passport to the World” event where congregants visited rooms decked out as various countries, an event that briefly spiked missions giving by 21 percent.
Churches generally organize missions donations in one of two ways, says Tim Crouch, vice president of international ministries for the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Either missions giving comes directly from the donor or it is built into the church budget. In the former, individuals may feel more empowered, while the latter method involves leaders who may become invested in the effort more directly.
Crouch says both models can be successful—he measures success as a church that gives at least 8 percent of its total budget to missions. Key to either model’s success, though, is a committed senior pastor.
Dan Crane, missions pastor at First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California, notes that senior pastors have a great deal of power over missions budgets.
“I had another pastor who said, ‘Dan, here’s what you do: set aside the first $10,000 to [do] whatever the senior pastor wants to do,'” he jokes. “You have to be careful where you send your senior pastor, because whatever they get a vision for, that’s where your church goes.”
At Crane’s 4,500-attendee church, about $900,000 of the $12 million church budget goes toward missions projects, with an added $600,000 in special project fundraising throughout the year. Crane believes effective fundraising involves a clear picture of where the money will go.
“We try to be very clear that the money is not going into a fund, or a hole, or a box; it’s going to these orphans in this school in this country,” he says. “As a church we try to limit what we ask people for—to steward their emotions—but make it very clear.”