Garrison Keillor tells the story of Clarence Bunsen in one of his Lake Wobegon monologues. Clarence attends Lake Wobegon Lutheran church and not the Catholic Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility. (What an amazing name for a church. This line never fails to get a laugh.)
As a respected member of the community and co-owner of Bunsen Ford, Clarence is the logical choice to head up the capital campaign at the Lutheran Church. In fact, Keillor notes Clarence has headed up the two previous campaigns.
Pastor Ingquist invites Clarence to chair the committee with these humorous words. “Clarence, shear the sheep.” Clarence eventually gets to the task, but only after skipping church for two months because he knows everyone is avoiding him. Shoot, the parishoners don’t even want to make eye contact with him.
Churches are often fearful of the tactics used in a campaign. They have preconceptions of strong arming people and heavy doses of guilt. Another concern is what I call the “slick” factor. They worry that the campaign will be one long sales job.
An effective campaign casts a vision for the future and offers a challenge of faith. The church tells their story as effectively as possible. People pray for 40 days. They study scripture. They hear testimonies. Over time members get excited and rise to the challenge. As consultants, it is a delight to witness this process over and again.
Strong arming and guilting does not work, and more importantly, it is not God honoring.
Does every church member receive the challenge in the spirit it is given? No. Of course not! When you start talking money, people can get really defensive very quickly. To use an old country cliche, “Sometimes a bit dog barks.”
But this is what we hear with every campaign we conduct. In fact, we heard this just last week with our latest church. The preacher was worried about Brother So and So who was going to be against the campaign. “I hope we can just control him somehow,” was the best the preacher hoped for. Commitment Sunday rolled around three months later and the Brother said, “This campaign is the best thing we have ever done at this church.”
The Carpenter’s Plan leads campaigns that are inspiring, transparent, centered on scripture, bathed in prayer, and God-honoring.
No one wants to be manipulated. If practices like that ever worked, they shouldn’t have.