Once upon a time, a lovely old church sat in the middle of a little town. The church had been there for a long time. So long, in fact that the oldest grandmother in the church remembered it being old when she was a little girl.
Sadly, the church was starting to crumble. The paint on the outside was starting to crack. The floor creaked and squeaked and sometimes popped when you were walking down the aisle. And the bell tower was beginning to lean a ever so slightly to the right… a little bit more every year until mothers wouldn't let their children play in its shadow.
The first pastor - afraid to fundraise.
The first pastor loved his flock, and they loved him back. But he hated to fundraise. Asking for money made him break out into a cold sweat, and just the thought of it would keep him up at night. Eventually, though, the church got so bad and the bell tower so scary that he decided that he had to do something.
So he hired a fundraising consultant. The consultant came in and got right to work. He made a plan and wrote some brochures for a big capital campaign to fix the church. When he told the first pastor to jump in and announce the campaign, some members of the flock were worried.
"Let us get a second opinion!" they pleaded to their pastor, and he agreed because he loved them. They took the plan to a big city fundraiser who brought in millions of dollars for a college.
"This will never work!" he said. "He's got this all wrong. He wants to take the campaign public, but he hasn't raised any money. He needs to ask all the biggest donors in the parish FIRST, to make them feel special. When he's raised half the money, then he can start the campaign."
The first pastor heard this and his heart shook with fear. He didn't WANT to ask anyone for big gifts. He told his fundraising consultant, who laughed and said, "Trust me! I know what I'm doing, do you?"
The first pastor swallowed hard and decided to listen to the consultant with his bright shiny shoes. They started the campaign and the consultant left town. "Good luck!" he shouted as he pocketed his check and drove out of town.
The campaign was a failure. The first pastor didn't ask anyone to give, except during announcements at the end of Mass. And the gifts didn't come. The fundraising thermometer in the narthex was forever on cold. The poor little pastor was sent to another church, one that was brand new, where he wouldn't have to raise money.
The second pastor - focused on the bottom line.
So the bishop sent the second pastor. The second pastor had clear eyes and a hard nose. He sat down with the budget and only saw red. He took out his pen and started cutting until the whole budget lay dead on the floor.
No more candles than necessary, no more church secretary, no more picnics. NO MORE FLUFF. What this parish needed was some financial discipline!
The mood in the church went from sad to red hot. "He's new. How dare he? Miss Jones has been the secretary since I was a boy!"
As the anger rose, donations fell, and the situation went from bad to worse. The second pastor chastised his flock from the pulpit for not giving. He called them out for their hardness of heart. And their hearts got harder. Letters flooded the desk of their bishop. "This second pastor has got to go!"
And go he did.
The third pastor - a champion fundraiser.
The bishop called in the third pastor. He told him serious news. If the little church couldn't get their budget straightened out, they would close it down. He was their very last chance. That is why the Bishop chose him - a champion fundraiser - to take up the fight.
The third pastor looked at what the other two pastors had done. He saw the good that they tried to do, and where they had failed. Then he decided to try something new. He prayed to God for confidence and inspiration, then moved forward with faith.
On his very first day, he told the parish how excited he was to be at this little old church in this little country town. He thought the church was just beautiful, if they could just get it polished up a bit. Everyone was surprised by how optimistic he was, but they were still skeptical if he could get results.
The third pastor called some capital campaign consultants that he had worked with in the past. He told them the situation, and hired them to come do a feasibility study. They talked to dozens of parishioners (who all had deep pockets) and learned that they were ready to do what it took to keep the parish going.
The pastor worked with the campaign consultants to find the 3 big projects that just had to be done. Fix the floors, paint the sides, and most of all, fix the steeple. These three items were going to cost more than half of the entire campaign goal.
He invited the father of the most prominent family in the parish out to dinner. "This steeple is going to cost $250,000 to repair. Would you be able to consider funding this restoration." Silence at the table. The champion waited patiently and took a sip of water. After two minutes, his parishioner looked him in the eye and said, "Count me in."
Five more lunches, and the other two big projects were covered. Four gifts covered more than half of the campaign goal.
The third pastor announced the capital campaign and told his shocked parish that they were already halfway to their goal. His parishioners stood up and cheered. He put his fundraising thermometer up in the Narthex and called his contractors. Work on the steeple would start immediately.
In no time at all, the pledges came in for the rest of the money. Two years later, the church was transformed and the parish was saved.
The moral of the story.
The right attitude and the right plan make all the difference. The third pastor knew something that the first two did not. He know that when Jesus said, "Ask and you will receive," He wasn't just talking about prayer. The number one reason why people don't give big gifts to the church is that they aren't asked for big gifts.
The resources needed to fix the church were there all of the time. But only the third pastor knew how to find them. They were like a treasure buried in a field. He knew where to dig and he brought the right tools.
So if you're trying to do something big in your parish, in your ministry, be like the third pastor. Trust in God. Gather a team of professionals. And move forward with confidence in God's ability to provide.
Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com.
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