Imagining a New Normal

Stories to help us carry forward what we have learnt during the Covid-19 Pandemic Lockdown

Within each Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand there are Mission Catalysts.  They might go by different names:  Enabler, Advisor or Catalyst.  They might be employed, or they might be a volunteer with a passion for God’s mission.   PressGo has brought together Mission Catalysts within the PCANZ  face-to-face on two occasions. Over the past few months we have been gathering on Zoom.  Each time we have a question or a conundrum to address and tease loose.  The group is becoming a learning community, providing support, encouragement and sharing resources and ideas.  Our purpose has been sharpened by what has been called the “unprecedented times” and we have discovered that there is appetite in our churches for change.  As long-held assumptions about church services have been confronted and challenged, there are opportunities to talk about the possibilities of igniting a missional imagination, asking “what if?” questions and taking some risks.

As Mission Catalysts, we know the power of the story.  Stories can ignite imagination, evoke curiosity and help people to think differently.

We are in a time of change, where many wish for what was.  They want normal.  Like other public commentators, we as Mission Catalysts wonder about a “new normal”.  For many churches the old “normal” wasn’t working.  Over the pandemic lockdown many churches have coped with more change than they ever thought possible.  Some have tried new things and some of the new things have had surprising results.  They have learnt a lot about how agile, adaptive and permission-giving they are.  We expect new leaders have emerged, who have hitherto not put their hands up to volunteer.

Generally, the future unfolds in small steps. Change involves experiments, from which learnings are gleaned. This enables discernment toward the future. 

It would be great for PCANZ to gather stories of small steps and tentative experiments and share them for encouragement, motivation and challenge.  BUT … some of the stories need a little more time and reflection before they can be shared in powerful ways …

SO … we set ourselves the task of telling “what if” stories.  We started from “what is” and then told forward where that might lead.  In my story I shared a passive parish and a small group that grabbed the opportunity to become more than a pastoral support for members.  It is well on its way to become a faith community with a missional heart.  My story is an amalgam of stories I have heard of, observed or participated in.  It shows that with permission (or maybe it was disinterest) from the parish, new forms of church can emerge outside of the traditional models of church and church planting.  I believe this is part of the new normal – a mosaic of faith communities, all co-existing and living faith and mission in different contexts and communities of interest.

These are the changes we have talked about for years, but for most parishes there was no urgency.  We have a window where there is receptivity to dream and think and pray about new things.  From Alpine Presbytery we heard that there was energy for change immediately after the Christchurch earthquakes, but as time went on congregations that hadn’t started a new journey reverted to the “normal” way of doing church and continued previous trends of declining numbers, ageing congregations, decreasing offerings and low spiritual vitality.  This is the normal that I think it our role to challenge, regionally and nationally. Here then are our stories.  They were written mid-May 2020, just as New Zealand was considering leaving Alert Level 3 and looking at the possibility of physical gatherings in Level 2.

What would happen if small group membership fostered deep authentic Christian fellowship?

“We long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions and to tell the truth even when it is uncomfortable.” (Rachel Held Evans)

Everyone remembers where they were when lockdown was announced.  Frances was at home getting ready to meet a friend for afternoon tea in town.  Frances lived on her own since her husband had died three years earlier and now, in her late seventies, she was settled in a new community, closer to her children and the healthcare they insisted she would most likely need.

She had recently started going to church again.  It had been an irregular habit when they lived in a rural area as there were always tasks to do in a large house, knitting and sewing for grandchildren and volunteering at the local school.  After her husband died, she had felt no need to attend church.  The funeral was not “religious” as he had no time for that, and Frances felt vaguely annoyed at God for taking her husband before his time.  So, it was unusual that she had started to look forward to her Sunday afternoon outing.  The service was only 45 minutes, so the minister didn’t drone on and some of the music seemed familiar, in fact she was thinking of joining the choir.  Afternoon tea was lovely, and she had met quite a few new people that way.

Joy was an extrovert, she loved meeting new people and as soon as she met Frances, she “took her under her wing” as she described it.  She made sure Frances met more people and they shared stories of grandchildren and successful children.  One day Joy invited Frances to her home group.  With some hesitation Frances agreed.  She may not know all the answers in the study group, there were lots of reasons to say “no”, but she said “yes”.  So, from then on, she gathered with five other women, mostly widowed on the third Thursday of the month.  They met usually at Joy’s place and Joy led the group through a study guide that took them through a book of the Bible.  They seemed to have been looking at Psalms forever, but that was fine because it was almost like poetry and Joy was an excellent baker.

When lockdown was announced the church emailed everyone and said they would communicate by sending a weekly order of service, with prayers, suggested hymns and the sermon.  Small groups were encouraged to meet more frequently and provide pastoral support for each other and use the time to study the sermon.  Joy was straight on the phone to check everyone had internet access.  Four women did and two didn’t.  Joy knew all about Zoom as she used it to call children overseas, others in the group had used Skype for much the same thing.  With the ability to phone in to a Zoom gathering, everyone could be part of it.  Joy provided details on how it would all work and they tested it out the day before the meeting and then, after emergency calls to grandchildren to sort problems, they were set to go.

Joy tried to lead the group on Zoom, but it was difficult keeping up with making sure people unmuted and those phoning in didn’t talk over the top of the others.  While she was tending to the technology a new leader emerged.  Marion never had much to say before, but there was no question about it, she was good at listening and asking the questions that invited others to participate in a way they had not done before.  In fact, they were starting to get into some quite deep and difficult questions.

During the week they kept to their respective bubbles. Some had food delivered and some went to the supermarket.  Two members of the group discovered they lived in the same street and had done so for many years.  They looked out for each other on their walks and shouted across socially distant pathways. They discussed the Bear Hunt and the bears in their neighbourhood.  Every house but one in Frances’ street had bears in the window.  “Maybe they don’t have any”, someone in the group suggested.  It was agreed that everyone should have the opportunity to have a bear and Frances got the task of knitting a bear from the many scraps she had accumulated over the years.  Ted was quickly completed, sprayed with sanitiser and trapped in a plastic bag.  Frances decided to include a note: “with love from your neighbours” and dropped Ted into the relevant letterbox.  The very next day Ted was in the window, accompanied by a china doll and a notice that could be read from the street, saying “thank you to our neighbours.”

Easter followed and the group wondered how it could be celebrated.  Some members planned to watch special services on TV and others had found favourites on the internet.  The Moderator’s devotion was popular, but there wasn’t an obvious way the group could watch and interact together.  A plan formed.  They would watch the Moderator’s Easter message on YouTube (except for the two who didn’t have internet who would view a service on TV) and then they’d Zoom and have communion together.  Communion was what you did at Easter, so that is what they would do.  When it came to it there was a bit of a problem about bread and wine.  Some said that they needed a minister for that, but they felt a bit rebellious by then.  In the end communion was a cup of tea and a biscuit together.  They still said the special words and thought that “whenever you do eat and drink, remember me” was just as applicable because it was the thought that counted.  Since tea and a biscuit was a common activity, they were prompted to turn their thoughts to God often during the day.  Frances, Joy and Marion shared their growing sense of excitement in (re) seeing God in the everyday, not just on Sundays at 2pm.

Anzac Day followed in fast succession and poppies adorned windows.  Joy’s son, a high-flyer by all accounts, lost his job.  Joy shared her worries with the group and as they prayed for her, she felt a sense of relief that the group no longer relied on her energy to lead but were listening and responding to what each person needed.  A prayer, a word of comfort, even a difference of opinion.  They felt like they mattered to each other and that they mattered to God.  That wasn’t the way they experienced church before.  They had stopped going to church and were being the church.

Lockdown ground to a halt and with the new freedom there was a desire by some to “get back to church”, but for Frances and Joy at least something had shifted.  The group agreed to meet on-line and in person on alternate weeks and see how it went.

Six months later Zena shared her despair at her husband’s increasingly bizarre behaviour as dementia sunk its teeth into him.  A couple in the group researched carer support and helped Zena get the help she needed.  When she sank into depression, they helped her recognise the signs and get help for herself.  Zena didn’t feel judged.  One day she asked if two people she had met at the Carer Support Group could join the little group.  Room was made and the group took on a different dynamic.  Not better or worse, just different.

When Neighbours’ Day 2021 came around, each member of the group committed to invite her neighbours to an afternoon tea party.  The day was a success in all respects.  More people asked to join the group which, although it had lost one member, was growing and no longer a small group.  The question that now faced them was do we keep this sense of community and fellowship to ourselves or do we foster it elsewhere?  In the end it was as simple as making Ted; follow your heart and welcome all.  The original group still meet, but there are now 4 house “churches” or new faith communities that have been birthed.  They meet for a cup of tea and a biscuit and remember to remember the one who said, “when you eat and drink, remember me”.

There’s lots more to the story – personal spiritual growth, a dawning sense of God’s presence and call into community and into the community, but for these women who make up the majority of the PCANZ’s congregations there is a place for profound vulnerability and love within and alongside Sunday worship.

Lisa Wells,

PressGo Catalyst

Timothy Rose (Northern Presbytery Enabler) reflects on imaging this story as an example of the new normal:

  • The Gospel is acted out in day-to-day activities outside of Sunday services. Should worship services be adjusted to celebrate these activities?
  • Relationships are more valued than before when about spiritual matters. How can cognitive-based groups embrace this value?
  • New leaders are needed and encouraged for technological mission. How can current leaders empower new leadership?
  • Communion is appreciated outside of traditional settings. What else can be freed from traditional limitations? What does this tell us about people’s hunger for faith?
  • Home groups function as communities of faith, offering pastoral care. What other groups can be included in a network connecting through congregations?

What does a church without walls look like?

Imagine a congregation of more than 200 people who connect daily.

Currently, a non-denominational congregation worshipping within West Auckland has found a way to stay in relationship with God and fellow members while engaging with the Community.

Early in the new year, leadership goes into retreat and considers feedback from congregation for a theme that guides church through that year.

Having decided the theme, a special worship service is organised at rented venue to accommodate full membership. A celebration of song precedes the theme’s announcement, given through a sermon. More singing is followed by food & fellowship.

Worship is enjoyed collectively on weekly basis, usually at a dedicated venue. The congregation are happy to meet at 5 pm. This gives full weekend for family and worship is completed before Sunday evening meal.

A community meal is then hosted at 7 pm each night.

Utilising technology, there are morning prayer groups that receive a verse-of-the-day and related devotional before leaving for school or work. Pastoral needs are identified during these short interactive meetings. The needs are communicated to the pastoral team who minister as needed. Multiple applications are used for follow-up. WhatsApp is used to communicate announcements.

One evening each week during school terms, home groups meet for coordinated studies that enrich both personally and collectively. The studies are delivered in homes and led by group leaders.

Holiday programmes are sponsored between during school breaks.

They sponsor a community Fun Day every Summer to connect with wider community.

A special end-of-year celebration reviews the year and inspires ideas for the next. The process repeats.

This is a mobile church that moves to different venues for its special services. It keeps itself engaged in a general area but does not limit itself to the neighbourhood of their hired venue. It is also very effective in helping new immigrants assimilate into the community. Although ethnic-based, surely there are some lessons on community engagement to be learned?

Tim Rose

Northern Presbytery Mission Enabler

Stuart Simpson (Presbytery Central Catalyst) reflects on imaging this story as an example of the new normal:

  • Possibility of gathering prior to the service or instead of a service, once a month, to carry out particular missional actives within the community they gather, primarily through relationships the congregation has with the wider community.  These actives could be carried out in pairs or groups.  The idea of the groups would be to a witness in the community, grow intergenerational relationships within the faith community and an opportunity for faith to be lived out practically.  In level two having smaller groups will work well. 
  • Theological reflection/what worked and what didn’t work could happen over the meal or be part of the devotion time during the week.  Studies on mission and being called by Jesus to follow him, to make disciples.  Learn to listen and discern what God is doing, or desiring to do, in the wider community. 
  • If working with immigrants become proactive in building a relationship with organizations who look after immigrants.  Invite them to share what they do and ask how the church could be involved, build relationship, support the work carried out. 

A local church who simplified in staying online

During the first 7 weeks of lockdown, the local church had offered church services online each week. At first it was new and raw and a panic. Over time, it settled into a more regular pattern. The tone became more conversational. The service became slightly shorter, about 40 minutes. There was increased use of items from the household. One week people were invited to bring their bears for an online children’s’ talk. Another week people were invited to make their own bread for the Emmaus Road story.

During the 7 weeks, there were visitors online. Some were “known” – old friends, family members or congregational members who had travelled overseas. It was great to interact. Some were “local” neighbours, specifically invited after years of quiet relationship building.  This made sense – it is so much easier to click a link than to drive and step through a door to meet people. Some were “unknown” with no sense of who they were or where they were coming from, but the increase in online statistics suggested they were present.

As level 2 began, the church wrestled with what to do? People wanted to return but people also didn’t want to lose contact with what was happening online.

The local church decided to try for 6 months to do both. First, to return to church as physically gathered on Sunday. Second, to keep a simplified online gathering going.

They carefully chose to focus on the online church into 4 parts.

  1. A “bring an object from your house” praise activity – in which people were invited to participate in online church by bringing something.
  2. A sermon. Since the church had already invested in a better video camera and microphone this made good economic sense. Since a sermon was being prepared already by the minister, this was only a small amount of extra work, a dress rehearsal on the Saturday, videoed at the kitchen table (In the end, the minister realised that that Sunday sermon actually got better with a dress rehearsal)
  3. Interactive prayers – a confidential online drop box was opened up and people invited to leave prayer requests. This shaped prayers for the world
  4. Coffee and (online) chat – an open time – using a chat forum, that ran for 8 hours on the Sunday – to catch up with those who attended.

A number of church members went on a roster, to send out the “bring on object” messages, to help with the uploading of the sermon, to collect the prayers and offer a prayer for others. 

Help to run coffee and (online) chat: was asked of the “known.” They were delighted to take a turn and lead the online chat, monitoring the church Facebook page to ask questions, share stories and maintain social contact with their much-loved community.

In time, a new form of church began to emerge. Two of the “locals” – previously unchurched remained online; while another two “locals” joined face to face. Several of the “knowns” asked for bank account details and began to contribute financially, a welcome gift following COVID. Quietly, over several months, the “unknowns” began to participate in the coffee and (online) chat. This began with a request to post photos of their bears, which generated lively chat and resulted in an “unknown” becoming “local.” Another “unknown” family made contact to say thanks for the pastoral prayer that had been prayed in response to their need.

It was slow and took pastoral skills. But six months on, there was energy to keep going. It felt like the one church, sharing the same minister and the same sermon, yet larger as people connected in two weekly gatherings, one online, one face-to face.

Steve Taylor

Principal Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership

Lisa Wells (PressGo Catalyst) reflects on imaging this story as an example of the new normal:

  • This story highlights the importance of developing and maintaining relationships in all spheres of our lives.  Here the original groups expand as others join.  Some are known, others are not, but this form of interactive church attracted people who had not responded to a physical gathering.  In the rush to get back to “normal” gatherings it is easy to forget these people.  For them the on-line casual interactive service has become their tentative normal.  In agreeing to “try” both, there is an acknowledgement that doing new things come with a cost, usually in time and energy.
  • Simplification is important.  Sharing the load is too.  It means sharing leadership and with that the power over content.  New leaders emerge.  The group ownership grows.
  • Deliberate links are maintained with the parent (physical gathering) church in terms of the minister and the weekly sermon.  What are the things that help it feel like one church?  How do we foster this without imposing one style on the whole group?  This is a pertinent question for any church with multiple congregations, for example one with European and Korean worship services.
  • The pastoral skills needed to nourish a new congregation can not be underestimated and will need to come from a deep sense of discipleship and related giftings in the parent church.  What can you do to foster a deep faith, that ignites faith in others?

It started with a blessing

On the 25th May 2016 a blessing service was conducted for the residents of a Housing New Zealand complex on Dixon St, Wellington.  This was in response to the death of a long-term tenant who had died in his flat a couple of weeks earlier.  After the blessing service an afternoon tea was held and conversations were had about the possibility of having a weekly free cafe for the tenants, to help create community and deal with the issue of social isolation.   Since then volunteers from St John’s, along with volunteers from the flats and HNZ have worked together to run this café, which has now been going for four years. 

Going forward, there are such great possibilities for St John’s to continue to get more involved in what God is doing through the relationships built in the café.  Level 2 and 1 means that there will be limited community connection for a while, so the relationships that have been built over four years are even more crucial.  Some of these possibilities might be:

  1. A bible study has organically grown out of the café relationships, but this has so much more potential in the climate we find ourselves in.  It is smaller in nature to the café so allows space for social distancing but also a space for relationships to grow, develop and for the gospel to speak into people’s fears.
  2. St John’s relationship with Housing New Zealand could grow even stronger through this time.  We have worked through a lot of issues and created some good relationships within the HNZ organisations, and they have come to realise the importance of working with communities like the church.   
  3. The faith development of the St John’s volunteers as they help lead the bible study and run the cafe, learn to listen to what God is already doing and where God is leading.  This could lead to a small church plant that has support from St John’s. 
  4. Some of the tenants become Christian, or grow in their faith to the point that they witness Christ to the wider HNZ complex, which brings radical change to an environment where many people are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or mental health issues. 

Steve Taylor (Principal Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership) reflects on imaging this story as an example of the new normal:

  • Starting with a felt need “across the street” i.e. on the turf of someone else, not on church turf
  • Mission creates opportunities for new gifts to emerge and so draws in those perhaps not currently involved in church life
  • The project unfolded, and the shape it is now is nothing like what they envisaged. So be flexible, be willing to experiment

We develop rituals and traditions in churches to give a shape to what we regard as normal.   Sometimes we forget why the tradition developed in the first place and we continue to do something just because “that’s the way it has always been done.”  The imagining we have done in the stories above helps us to think new thoughts and when things that we previously though immutable, like gathering on a Sunday, have changed we start consider what else might change.  What is life-giving?  What can we take with us?  Where might that lead?  Without being flippant I offer the colloquialism: “God knows”.

The next stories are yours.  We want to hear from parishes, faith communities and small groups about the things that God has been stirring up.  About the things you have tried that worked and the ones that didn’t.  Stories that start with the seed of an idea, ask “what if” and then, with a playful demeanour, give it a go. 

As you think about the stories ask some questions like:  

  1. What other helpful insights for mission do you see?
  2. If you were writing an “new normal” imagining for your context, what would you imagine?
  3. What first next step could you take this week?
  4. Who could provide energy and wisdom for you as you took that step?

Every blessing as you discern your next steps in mission.

When to run a Capital Fundraising Campaign (and when NOT to!)

The following article I wrote was published in Fundraising NZ magazine in December 2018.  It covers the “when”, and “what” of Capital Fundraising Campaigns, not the “how” which is a subject I have covered before.

building a church

Is a Capital Campaign for You?

The professional fundraiser can select from many different fundraising vehicles: annual giving, direct mail, major gifts, deferred gifts and capital campaigns when they plan their fundraising activities.  Each one of these vehicles has a time and a place in the fundraising cycle and the strategic cycle of an organisation, but none is more misunderstood in my opinion than the capital campaign.

In annual giving you are looking for repeatable gifts, which may be modest to begin with, but you hope that over time a proportion of the givers will increase their annual gift.  Such gifts are most useful if untagged, or if not, directed to broad areas of the organisation’s work and mission.  Direct mail utilises a similar process, but usually has a more specific emotive focus.  These two vehicles (supplemented often by grant writing and events) both have the functions of interesting prospective donors in the mission of the organisation, seeking first gifts, developing a stewardship relationship and seeking renewal and hopefully increased gifts in later years.  A mature fundraising programme will deliver many qualified prospects for a capital campaign, although it is always possible to run a capital campaign for a new cause and start from scratch.

A Capital Fundraising Campaign is, or should be, a rare event in the life of an organisation.  Significant gifts are required to achieve the campaign target. Deciding to use this fundraising vehicle is a decision that cannot be made lightly and cannot be made by fundraising staff but must be an informed strategic decision of the governance body.

A Capital Campaign has the power to bring an organisation together, with a razor-sharp focus on a much-needed project, in ways that few other fundraising vehicles offer.  Done well, it is a whirlwind of activity.  It is exhausting for all involved and involves a singular type of leadership at multiple levels – humble leaders who continually point people to the need and the project.  Leading a Capital Campaign is not something that should be done for personal or political exposure.  To quote Lao Tzu: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” This is the art of leadership at its best: the art that conceals art.

lao tzu quote

It is important to understand what a Capital Fundraising Campaign is and isn’t.  Traditionally defined as a process to raise significant funds for the important asset building needs of an organisation; it is typically short, intensive, focused and volunteer-driven.  Projects, which make the best Capital Campaigns, are urgent (it must happen now), relevant (to the organisational mission) and important (distinguished from other operational and minor capital needs).  This means that Campaigns run for endowment needs, debt repayment and augmentation of annual fund are, by definition, extremely difficult to incorporate in a Capital Campaign.

As in any fundraising endeavour the starting point is the need, which then defines the project and creates the funding target.  Problems can occur when there is no clarity in each of these three areas. Let’s unwrap this a bit further.

The project which is the subject of a capital campaign should always be based on a realistic appraisal of the actual needs.  Asking “What must be done and done as soon as possible?” begins this process.  By this I do not mean what is the project, but the presenting need. We know that all organisations have a Vision – a picture of their preferred future.  Other organisations, individuals and stakeholders may also share that vision.  The mission of the organisation is the unique response made to bring the vision to life.  This is basic case development, but many organisations struggle with it particularly when there are marketing departments and governance committees involved.

An example of a Vision could be “A World where no child goes hungry.”  The mission adopted by the organisation could be as specific as “providing school lunches for all children in xyz”. The goals of the organisation may include physically making lunches for children, or they may include wider wrap-around services and programmes.

Let’s say this organisation needed to create a central point from which lunches were produced and dispatched and other relevant services could be located.   Such a project would be a good contender for a capital campaign.  The needs would be known:   x meals provided per week, with an annual increase of y per annum, indicating that the current need is likely to continue in the future.  The current space utilised to carry out this work is no longer suitable or available, also indicating that it is urgent to develop a project or other strategy to meet this need that is directly relevant to the mission of the organisation. Furthermore, the likely investment required will be far greater than what could be reasonably expected to be available from the organisation’s resources, irrespective of historical prudence.  This is what makes it important. For the organisation to continue to achieve its mission in the community it serves, the next step is a purpose-built production, distribution and support centre.

Therefore, the starting point for a capital campaign is not “how much money can we raise?”, but “what compelling, urgent needs confront the organisation and what buildings, or other capital developments are necessary to meet these needs?”

big dreams

Only when the governing body has established such a strategic direction and the idea has become a concept plan, with a rough order of costs, is it time to start to estimate the fundraising requirements.  At this point I have two pieces of advice: “Plan big because people don’t give to puny dreams” and “if the cost were of no significance, what would you really do?”  Both questions move the considerations and conversations from a natural desire to minimalise dreams and costs for the organisation.  My experience, and that of many other fine professionals I have met over the last 30 years, is that people give more readily and generously to a project that captures their imagination and then stands up to scrutiny on the realism front as well.  Projects which are presented tentatively, with costs scraped to the bone and only barely satisfying the need are not as likely to be supported. The cost estimates should cover the minimum necessary to achieve the project objectives and extend to the full and proper expression of the project (not needlessly extravagant, but appropriate for the needs and purposes to which it will be used).  It is useful to have this range as when preliminary planning is done with the prospective donors the groundwork will have been done in terms of what should be done versus what could be done.

A capital campaign should be a rare event in the life of an organisation, so it is too important and valuable an opportunity to enter into unnecessarily or without proper planning.

Once the project is crystallised in this way, all sources of income can be investigated.  It may well be that the organisation can sell other assets or realise investments to invest in the project.  They may feel that some loan funding is realistic.  All gift markets can be considered.  Government or local body funding may be available.  All of these reduce the amount that is to be sought in philanthropic funding.  As I have said, a capital campaign should be a rare event in the life of an organisation, so it is too important and valuable an opportunity to enter into unnecessarily or without proper planning.

In common with any fundraising vehicle a clearly articulated and compelling Case for Funding Support is vital.  People do not just give, however “worthy” the cause is.  Notions of “if everyone in our city gave $100 our target would be achieved” must be heartily put aside.  The reality of raising major capital funds is that the majority of the gifts will come from a few individuals with the interest, ability and linkage to the organisation or at least the cause it serves.

This article is not intended to be a “How to run a capital campaign”, my brief was “what is a capital campaign, and when should you do one?”  So, I apologise if my concluding paragraphs cross that line from “what” to “how”, but I can’t describe adequately “what it is” if I do not at least mention some of the essential characteristics, a few of which are unique to this fundraising vehicle.

One of the first hallmarks of a successful capital campaign is a competent and thorough Fundraising Feasibility and Planning Study.  Best results in the Study are obtained by fundraising professionals who are not “part of” the organization.  If an organisation is considering engaging outside consultancy; this is the time to do it.  The reason for this is that, the Study comprises face-to-face, confidential interviews with key people in the organisation’s constituency.  These people must feel able to respond in a frank manner so that an accurate impression of the acceptance of the project, and support in terms of time, energy, skills, and money can be gained.

The strategic decisions and assumptions of the Board are some of those matters tested in the Study:

  • Is there sufficient need and urgency to justify asking for gifts?
  • What is the best timing for the Campaign?
  • Is the inner group, especially the Board, united behind the project?  Does this group accept its responsibilities and is it willing to support the effort with gifts, influence and participation?
  • What constituency preparation is needed?
  • What will be the most effective method of solicitation?
  • Who are the better prospects?
  • How should leadership be selected?
  • How should volunteers be selected?
  • How should they present the case for funds?
  • Can the support (as sponsors or donors) of corporates and Trusts be obtained?
  • How should bequests and gifts of securities and property be handled?
  • Is the goal attainable in the light of economic conditions? Is the amount to be raised realistic when measured against the scope of the programme?
  • Will competing campaigns of any size cut seriously into the volunteer force or limit gifts to your project?

A Study will give an assessment of the above and recommendations will make clear whether the organisation is “ready” for a capital campaign for the project as expressed.  Furthermore, it will indicate a campaign strategy for successful achievement of your goals.  If institutional readiness is not proven, the reasons “why not” will be explained, with instructions on how to address this, where appropriate.

These questions highlight some of the key principles of the campaign – the leadership support of the Board, shown by gifts of money and time, the use of volunteer donors as the key askers, the need to identify and qualify prospective donors and the ability to achieve key gifts necessary for the achievement of the campaign target.

A gift range chart is a vital tool in the Study as well as the campaign.  Experience has shown that 50% of the target will come from ten donors, of which one will give 10-15% of the total.  Applied to a $10m target, this means that the top gift will be in the range of $1-1.5m and the top ten gifts will realise at least $5m between them.  The importance of such a structure can’t be over-estimated.  If the top gift is too low, the target is unlikely to be achieved.  This is why projects and campaigns must be tested in a feasibility and planning Study.

I will conclude and hopefully leave the reader wanting more!  “How to” is a volume on its own!

Lisa Wells, BA, FFINZ, CFRE

img_0537 (3)

Lisa has been a professional fundraiser for more than 30 years and now works for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand as a mission Catalyst, helping churches ignite their missional imaginations, dream big dreams and make them happen!

Engaging with charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity today – Kevin Ward

Very interesting article, I am very engaged with the conclusion that over-focus on Christology in Mission (what did Jesus do) can limit our ability to continually discern what the Spirit is saying/doing in the present and future. Lots to discuss here …


group of people raising hands silhouette photographyIn this article by Kevin Ward, senior lecturer at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Kevin discusses his realisation that re-engaging with the charismatic movement is critical for our future as a Church. Find out why.

We are all only too aware of the explosive growth of charismatic and Pentecostal churches in New Zealand and elsewhere since the 1960s, and the decline of most other forms of church since the 1960s. The 60s have been called the “expressive revolution” which lead to the significant culture changes that came to be labelled post-modernity in the 1990s. This can be seen as “the recovery of the experiential to complement the cerebral”.

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Giving and Receiving – Lisa Wells

Just published in PCANZ’s Candour blog


christmas xmas gifts presents

The annual season of gift-giving and receiving is nearly upon us. The malls have been decorated since October and the advent calendars (with Ninja Turtles, super heroes, Barbies and other commercially appropriate images) are prepped with daily chocolates for the beginning of December when the unavoidable countdown begins. What does this teach us about giving? Is it that the anticipation is sometimes better than the reality?

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Liturgy: The Greater Loss – Malcolm Gordon

A thoughtful piece about the importance of liturgy to give signposts on the journey of a worship service. My experience gives rise to similar questions and conclusions …


Malcolm is the Worship, Music and Arts Enabler at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership

Criticising contemporary worship songs has become pretty old hat. It’s such an easy target, with favourite gripes including (but not limited to): the lack of good theology, the ever-increasing prominence of ‘me, myself and I’,

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A Health Check on “Healthy Congregations” – Tom Mepham

More “reality check” questions … having diagnosed a problem, who in our system is accountable for taking action? The congregation? The Presbytery? Council of Assembly? What is the result of ignoring a “health” issue? Yes! Let’s ask PCANZ to go for a check-up!


Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

Since 1995’s General Assembly we have used a model for assessing the well-being of our Church called “Healthy Congregations” (see Appendix 1 in Strategic Directions). This provides us with a way to measure the health of each parish in the PCANZ. Putting this model to work would be the equivalent of sending a congregation to the doctor’s office for a full-scale health check up; and by extension, measuring the overall health of the whole PCANZ.

I wonder how healthy we are!

This model uses a qualitative assessment process (as is appropriate for measuring the most important things in church life) and focuses on four relationships: a congregation’s relationship with God; with the wider environment; with the wider church, and within it’s own life. (These are similar to the

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Strategic Planning or Herding Cats

Strategic Planning is one thing churches get hung up on and try to cover all their activities rather than narrow it down to the strategically important ones to focus on. This article is a good beginning and there are other resources if you follow the embedded links.

Clergy Coaching Network Blog

cat-334383_960_720The Reverend Dr. Teresa Angle-Young, Church Coaching Solutions

If strategic planning with your church feels like “herding cats” then listen up!

Clergy from around the country share with me that strategic planning can be one of their most frustrating processes, for the following reasons:

  • Getting leadership and/or staff to agree on strategy can feel like herding cats. As one pastor shared, “If we have 12 people in the room, that means there are 24 opinions on every issue.”
  • The strategic planning process results in too many ideas and priorities, so that the church tries to do too much and spreads itself thin.
  • After the leadership ratifies the strategy, the church doesn’t have the bandwidth to execute it, and so the strategy sits on shelf.

Strategy doesn’t have to be stressful. You can get your leadership aligned and in agreement about your church’s strategy. You can set up accountability structures so that…

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Understanding donations, grants and GST

I had a question on the GST treatment of donation and grants and found that the answer was not straightforward, so I have compiled what you need to know from the IRD and Charities Register.  If you want to discuss this or need more information, don’t hesitate to contact me.

GST treatment of grants and donations

I was asked this week if churches have to pay GST on a grant from PressGo (either from the Mission Enterprise Fund or from the Presbyterian Foundation).  The short answer is “no”, but the area around grants, donations, koha is a bit confusing so here is a guide with references back to the IRD website for additional information if you require it.

Churches are defined as charitable organisations and a charitable organisation needs to be registered by Charities Services to receive tax exemptions. Most charities don’t pay income tax, but many pay GST on taxable income and claim GST on expenses.

Donations made to a church by individual taxpayers are eligible for a rebate of one third the amount donated (up to the level of the donor’s taxable income).  In registering with Charities Services most churches will have Donee Organisation status and can offer this benefit to donors.  If you are registering a separate Trust with Charities Services (one your church set up to fund youth or community work for example) you need to make sure that you apply for Donee Organisation status at that time.

This is what IRD says about Donee Organisations:

An organisation must meet certain conditions before we can approve it as a donee organisation. You will find the qualifying criteria in our booklet Charitable organisations (IR255).

If your organisation is registering as a charity with the Charities Services, and indicates that donations are a source of income on the application form, this information will be passed on to us and we will automatically consider donee organisation status. If your organisation is not registered as a charity with the Charities Services you must apply in writing directly to us to be considered for benevolent, philanthropic or cultural donee status.

 Note: Donations to organisations that apply most of their funds overseas will not qualify for donee organisation status, unless the organisation:

  •  has been approved as a donee organisation by the New Zealand Parliament, or
  • sets up a separate fund maintained exclusively for providing money for charitable, benevolent, philanthropic, or cultural purposes within New Zealand.

 Donation receipts:

The donation receipt needs to show:

  • the name of the donor(s)
  • the amount and date of the donation
  • a clear statement that it is a donation
  • clearly at the top if the donation is a payroll giving donation
  • the signature of an authorised person, and
  • an official stamp with the name of the approved donee organisation.


Most gifts and donations are unconditional gifts.  This is a donation or payment made voluntarily to any non-profit body, where there is no identifiable direct benefit to the donor or the donor’s family.

Some unconditional gifts can be:

  • donations or koha
  • money from door-to-door appeals and street collections
  • bequests
  • voluntary school fees (but not school activity fees).

Subscriptions, payments from trading activities and payments made by the Crown or a public authority are not unconditional gifts for GST purposes. This includes grants from Lottery, COGs and your Local Body.

 Some grants are unconditional gifts (even if you are required to use the money for the purpose applied for and then complete accountability reports).  This includes grants from community and charitable trusts, statutory trusts like gaming and utility company trusts, grants via PressGo and some others.  Usually the application guidelines will tell you whether you need to pay GST on your grant.

If you are uncertain you could check with the Trust you are applying to, but the PressGo Catalyst can provide advice on this.

How to find out what income is liable for GST (and/or income tax):

Your organisation may receive many different types of income, including:

  • subscriptions
  • grants
  • subsidies
  • donations or koha
  • fees
  • raffle money
  • trading profits, and
  • proceeds from selling assets.

Some grants made to non-profit organisations can be an unconditional gift or donation, especially if given by charitable trusts.  This table makes clear how you should treat each from of income.

Liable for income tax Not liable for income tax Liable for GST Not liable for GST Exempt from GST
Subscriptions  y y
Donations & Charitable Grants y  y
Koha y*  y
Bequests  y y
Grants (from the Crown)  y y
Unconditional gifts  y  y
Subsidies y**  y
Suspensory loans  y y
Trading activities  y y
Raffles or housie proceeds y**  y
Admission fees  y y
Affiliation fees  y y
Sale of donated goods or services  y y
Sale of purchased goods  y y
Sale of assets or equipment  y y
Insurance receipts  y y**
Hall or equipment hire  y  y
Rent received (residential)  y  y
Rent received (commercial)  y y
Penalty payments (fines)  y  y
Advertising or sponsorship  y  y
Interest or dividends  y  y
Gaming machines (as an owner of machines)  y  y

*  The tax treatment of koha depends on what it is. See our booklet Payments and gifts in the Mäori community (IR278). ** Liable in certain situations.

If your income is exempt from GST

If your income is “exempt from GST”, it’s different from income that’s “not liable for GST”. This is important when you’re working out your claim for GST input tax credits on goods and services for your organisation.

Claiming input tax credits on expenses

If you’re a GST-registered non-profit organisation you may claim input tax credits on expenses.

These tax credits can be claimed on expenses gained from income that’s either:

  • liable for, or
  • not liable for GST.

Tax credits can’t be claimed on expenses gained from income that’s exempt from GST.


If you’re a GST registered non-profit organisation that receives income from… then you’re…
a government grant liable for GST
trading activities liable for GST
Donations and some grants not liable for GST
renting a residential property exempt from GST

As a non-profit organisation you may claim a GST input tax credit for all expenses, except those from receiving the rent, which is exempt from GST.

If you have any questions in this area, please contact the PressGo Catalyst for advice.


Lisa Wells, 22 May 2018

(Material abstracted from, correct at that date)


Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous

I’m not planning to reblog all the offerings on the Candour blog, but if Tom keeps writing like this I just might have to! This is a way of looking at continuous change that needs the widest possible audience! All of his points are valid in my experience, but can I draw your attention to “Ambiguity”. We struggle with not having the answer and knowing that a course of action will work out and then we get stuck in analysis / paralysis and fear results. What if our response was faith? Why is this a question I have to ask in a church setting!


Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

The world as we know it can be understood using the acronym VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

What do each of these words demand of us?

Volatility requires extra margins so that energy, time and resource don’t run out during unexpected crises. Keeping good boundaries should include the (five in this case) cornerstones of the whare: taha wairua (spiritual health), taha whānau (relational health), taha tinana (physical health), taha hinengaro (intellectual health) and taha pütea (financial health) – and probably other areas too.

Uncertainty requires resting deeply in identity. We might not know what the heck is going on, but we can take comfort in the fact that we’re called, empowered and sustained for such a time as this. Also, sometimes offence is the best form…

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The adaptable PCANZ: paradox or promise? – Tom Mepham

Awesome reflection from one of our interns! He’s talking a powershift. Have a look at non-recommendation 1 and 2 – exactly our struggle. We keep doing what we’ve alsways done and act surprised when we get what we’ve always got!


Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

The PCANZ is a good tribe to be a part of. The thought life is strong and capable. Rich history. Great people. And so on.

However, the question on my mind is: will the PCANZ sink, or soar?

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