About hurting people and hurting congregations

This post is going to be more personal than others.  That means it will be more difficult to write.  I guess you could say I was inspired to write it when I saw a Facebook meme that said: “if you fuel your journey on the opinions of others, you are going to run out of gas”.  It resonated well with me as I seem to have been dealing with a few negative, unhappy people over the past few months.  That’s personal and work as well.

 I have come to the conclusion that hurting people end up hurting other people.  They look at where they are in life and can’t accept that where they are is the result of their own choices.  They feel powerless to change, they see themselves as innocent victims in a big bad world and they tell themselves that they deserve more.  In attempting to assert themselves they push away those who care.  They become more insular and in focussing on false gods like self-love they forget how to love.

st ambrose

 So, I said it would be personal.  What has this to do with churches?

 I see many of these behaviours in churches too.  It’s not surprising since the church is the people, so the sum of their emotional intelligence becomes the prevailing culture of the congregation.  They are afraid to be anything other than they are, even though they say they want to change.  The “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” are legion.  Somehow to do things differently would imply that those who have gone before were wrong.

They look at change all around them and they feel powerless.  They see themselves as victims.  Bring back Christendom.  We looked like our community, we just got on with serving and we didn’t make a fuss.  And faith – that was something private.  Something impolite to discuss.  So they look to false gods of continuity, stability and comfort.

 “What about looking outward?” I suggest.  “What needs are there in your community?”  They are not indifferent, but they don’t know who their neighbours are.  Aren’t we called to love the stranger?  Have we forgotten the Good News?

 They repel newcomers with their cloistered hospitality and fellowship.  They tell me “I don’t know why visitors don’t stay, we’re all so friendly”.  I add “to each other”.  But that’s not really a such bad thing.  Except when they wound each other as well.

 I don’t know why hurting people and hurting congregations hurt other people.

 I could give you a list of why churches find it so hard to change, or what the indicators are of a healthy church, but I wonder whether we talk enough about faith, hope and love?

 St Ambrose of Milan said “No one heals himself by wounding another”.  There are lots of people who need healing and there are lots of congregations that need healing.  Jesus did a fair bit of healing and reconciliation and I’m pretty sure he encouraged his disciples (us) to do it too!

 Am I saying all congregations are like this?  No, certainly not! There are many joyful, faith-filled congregations who know that their best days in mission are ahead of them.  Let’s start there.  Can we stop hurting each other? Can we help each other? 


Why some great churches never impact their community

This excellent article is not mine but was published on Christianity Today and is written by Karl Vaters who has published a multitude of articles on small churches.  This presents much to ponder.  Seeing yourself as others see you is the first step.  The small changes that are mentioned are very powerful in terms of “opening” your church (people and building) up to the outside!
“Your church has the world’s greatest treasure. Don’t hide it behind layers of misdirection and insider lingo, daring people to find it.

Several years ago I had the privilege of being in a great church service on a trip away from home.

The worship was dynamic, the people were friendly, the message was biblical and engaging, the sense of the presence of God was genuine.

As I drove away, I thought, “What a great church! I feel filled-up and ready to take on the week! It’s a shame they won’t have any impact on their community – not if they keep doing things the way they’re currently doing them.”

Why would I think that if the church was as great as I described?

Everything the church did was inward-looking not outward-reaching.

Because everything the church did was inward-looking not outward-reaching.

Do The Great Commandment And The Great Commission

They had half the recipe right. The half that will keep insiders happy, even growing in their faith. They were doing the Great Commandment.

But they were missing the other half. The Great Commission. The half that reaches out to a community that could use a large dose of what they were offering.

In fact, not only did they show no evidence of reaching out, they were making it very hard for anyone who wasn’t an insider to get connected.

Welcome, If You Can Find Us

For starters, I drove past the church twice without seeing it. It was tucked in behind a grove of trees, with only one old, small sign on the street. And it was being consumed by the forest. When I asked about it, I was told, “everyone knows where we are.”

After driving in, I pulled into what I hoped was a parking spot, then wandered around a peeling-paint building until I tugged on what I thought was the front door, only to find it locked. Again, “everyone” was supposed to know where the front door was.

Once I got inside, pushing my way past friends chatting in the doorway, the people were warm and welcoming.

During the service, they did several things that were unique to their worship style, without any explanation about why they were doing it. Even though I was familiar enough with this type of church to know what was going on, without an explanation even I was taken aback a couple times.

They used insider language – language I understood, but most newcomers would not.

And that’s a shame. Because the meat of the service – the worship, preaching and fellowship – was done really well. But almost no one else in their community will ever know about it.

Get Your Light Out From Under That Basket!

That church didn’t need to change a thing about how they worshipped, taught or greeted me as a newcomer – once I made it into the building, that is.

But they needed to add something.


Some call it marketing, advertising or branding.

I’m not a fan of those terms. They’re the language of business, not ministry.

They needed to do a better job at making a first impression.

But whatever you want to call it, they needed to do a better job at making a first impression.

To use the language Jesus used, they were keeping their light under a basket – their salt in the shaker.

Make The Onramp Easier

When most church writers and speakers tell churches they need to “change or die”, this is what we mean.

We’re not asking churches to change what they believe, or even how they practice what they believe.

Just upgrade the onramp.

Trim the trees, paint the building, add some signage, and greet your guests at the door – if not before they reach the door.

Explain the parts of the service that others may find odd or confusing.

Go out into the neighborhood. Engage the community. Let them know you care enough to be in their world instead of wondering why they haven’t entered your world – when you haven’t even put out a welcome mat.

“If we preach the gospel, people will come” is naïve.

It’s also bad stewardship.

Your church has the world’s greatest treasure. Don’t hide it behind layers of misdirection and insider lingo, daring people to find it.

Jesus went where the people were. He called them to follow. He explained hard-to-understand concepts in easy-to-understand words.

He made the onramp easy – even though discipleship was hard.

And he told us to do the same.”

Other fundraising articles of interest

Some times you need to let things go and I am in the process of closing my fundraising consultancy, so I have been going through my website fundz.co.nz and saving many of the articles I have written for publication over the years. It seemed a good idea to post them on here, essentially as a public archive, so that it was easy for me to refer people to that content.  Feel free to have a browse and if you repost or use my material, please remember to credit me with the authorship.  If you’d like to start a conversation about fundraising, or have comments or questions, please make a comment below this post.

Articles from fundz.co.nz










Asking for Money – Five Top Tips!

Seeking funding for our mission is sometimes the hardest things we have to do; whether we are in a church, not for profit organisation, or community building grass-roots group.  This article I have written will be published in the March 2107 issue of Fundraising New Zealand.  It is applicable right across the voluntary and community sector and much of what I mention can be applied in a church or para-church setting too.



This could be about asking for anything –volunteers, skills, time, goods and services … but it’s about the one that makes people squirm the most – asking for money.  And that’s a sign of how important we have let money become in our society.  Messages are everywhere in our consumerist society … “we deserve it” … “success is the person with the most toys”, I’m sure you know the underlying narrative.  But have you ever asked a multi-millionaire what is the most important thing to them?  I have.  It’s not money.  It’s not even really what money can buy. It’s relationship.  If we are “cultivating” prospects just to get them to make a gift, then we are missing what philanthropy is all about.  When we ask for money we are doing more than selling a product, we are asking a prospective donor to be part of something significant, something that they care about, something greater than themselves.  Asking is a privilege and as such the act of asking should be treated with due respect.  Donors who discover the joy of giving will have an impact on the world that is far greater than the donation they make to your organisation.  So, you play the long game and develop generosity by building connection and interest in your cause, listening to the prospective donor and understanding what motivates them to give.  And you do all of this before you ask for money.

In this article, I am focussing on asking at the higher end of the scale.  Major gifts or Capital Campaigns all require face-to-face asking and are often regarded as extreme fundraising – where the stakes are high and the risk of rejection is high.  But this need not be so.

  1.  Remember the “Five Rights” of fundraising?

This is what should guide each step of your preparation and the asking process.  Lining up “the right person asking the right donor for the right amount for the right project at the right time” is crucial to success.  If you’ve done all of that then it would be unusual for the answer to be a “no”.  This is an area in which good enough is not good enough.  It must be right.  Each time you satisfice you diminish the chances of getting the donation you need.

Let me give you an example of “right person”.  I had completed a Feasibility Study for a major redevelopment programme for a high school.  The Study made clear who was the leader of choice for the Appeal.  The Board Chair had the task of asking that person to lead the programme.  He came back to me smiling later in that afternoon.  “I asked (the preferred leader) but he was too busy, so I talked to some others and asked (a local business leader who had attended the school) and he said yes!”

I wasn’t smiling.  This person had not been interviewed, had not been part of the early process of education about the Appeal and was interested only in so far as it assisted his chances in the local body elections.  But you can’t un-ask a leader and the Appeal proceeded.  Instead of a top gift of $100,000, the leader put in $35,000 and sure enough the Appeal failed to achieve target.  In fact, the prediction that Appeals seldom achieve more than ten times the top gift came true and we got stuck at $350,000.  Only with a lot of hard work and support of trusts, rather than alumni, did we get near the target.  As I look back on this, maybe neither the asker nor the donor were the “right” people on this occasion.  I learnt the hard way to make sure that the “Five Rights” weren’t compromised ever again on Appeals I directed.

2.  Preparation and knowing your donor.

When you first identify a prospective donor, or they identify themselves by making the first move, you need to start finding out more about them. If we say fundraising’s all about building relationships, then this stage is like the courtship.  You can do all the public domain research you like, but you will never really know the donor until you are talking face to face.  If you believe the donor has the ability and interest to potentially make a large gift to your cause then you will find multiple ways to invite their involvement, educate them about the needs you address, meet key leaders, ask their advice and more before you ask for a large gift.  You can’t hurry this stage or be artificial or manipulative about it, or their interest will move onto something else.  Take every opportunity to talk to them – in person, on the phone and in written form.  In doing so you will find out what they are passionate about, what they care about, what motivates them to give and what doesn’t, what other charities or causes they support … you will have access to information that helps you deal with four of the “rights” I mentioned previously – who would they most likely say “yes” to, for what project, for which amount and in what time-frame.  And that’s what your donor profile should record – only what is pertinent to the ask.  Any more and it starts looking like stalking!

Once you get a sense of the answers to those questions you can start planning to ask the donor.  While many people focus on the analytical left brain questions, it is often the right brain emotion that triggers the gift.  You will need to prepare for a balance of the two types of questions for each solicitation.



ANALYTICAL (left brain) EMOTIVE (right brain)
How will my money be used (specifically)? What are our stories?  How compelling are they?
How do you quantify the long-term impact of what you do?  Does it work? How do they illustrate what we do and show success?
What’s the ROI?  Are you a viable organisation? What sets you apart from your competitors?
Does the organisation have the capacity to do what it says it will do? Who do I know on the Board or management team?  Do I trust them?

One thing we often do is to give too much information.  Even a donor who is asking for more data wants something more.  You must listen between the words to find this out. Plying them with more data is counter-productive.  Some research even suggests that many donors base their giving on how they will feel after making the gift.

We can spend too long in this stage and start procrastinating.  Hank Rosso always did remind us that in the ask “all the principles of Fund Raising must come to a critical focus sharpened by the reality of the case, not dulled by the corrosive forces of procrastination”.

Practice asking.  Write a script even if you don’t need one.  Just kidding, you do need to put it all down on paper and read it out to yourself to make sure you’re not preparing to talk all the time or sound weird!

3.  Be specific.

What project or aspect of the case will you ask the prospective donor to support?  If you don’t know before the visit then it’s too soon to ask.  Even if you have framed this in your mind and presentation, you need to spend time listening during the visit to make sure the project is one that resonates with them.

How much will you ask for?  You know your campaign goals, the donor doesn’t (yet).  Where do they fit on the gift chart?  You did prepare a gift chart didn’t you?  They are one of the most under-rated and compelling tools we have as fundraisers!  Where does this donor sit in relationship to other donors who are being asked to give to this project?  Asking the donor to consider a gift at a particular level on the gift chart is non-confrontational and shows what they are being asked to do in context with what others are being asked to do.  The donor will say very quickly if what you are suggesting is a bit high, or may even suggest they could be on a higher giving step.

4.  The conversation of an ask.

That’s really all it is.  A conversation between two people with a common interest and a common desire to achieve something.  There’s a structure that works and it looks like this:

  • Preliminaries
  • Opening / introduction
  • Presentation
  • Negotiation
  • Closing

Phone to ask for an appointment to discuss the project with the donor, but do not start to ask on the phone.  Make your own gift to the project, because you can’t ask if you’re not a giver (at a level which is significant to your own personal circumstances).  If you are a staff member it might be a volunteer donor you are coaching to do this ask.  The asker will always be the one the donor is most likely to say “yes” to.  For the rest of this article I will assume you are the “right person” and the asker.

Take with you any information or prompts you feel you need, but remember that this is more for your reassurance than a crucial part of the donor’s decision-making.  Arrive on time and “push yourself to one side and let your cause walk in the door!” as they say.  It’s not about you.  It’s about the donor experiencing the joy of giving.

The preliminaries shouldn’t take long, you are building rapport with someone you already know.  Be friendly, not gossipy, and practice your listening skills early in the visit.  Now it’s time to create a bridge.  Plan what that bridge might be.  One example might be: “Judy, you’ve been supporting our organisation for a long time now and you’ll know ….. (your case) … so I’ve come here today to ask for your help …”  In this example, you are acknowledging the relationship and your intention to ask for something.  It would be good to prepare more than one sentence you can use as a transition, or bridge, when you are practicing your script so you can move to it in the most natural way possible.

Present the needs and the ability of the project you have in mind to address these needs.  The broad vision leads and the more specific mission follows.  Listen to the donor’s thoughts and opinions, understand her objections, give her space to ask questions.  If you don’t know an answer, then say so and undertake to find out.  Stop if it’s getting boring or you are doing all the talking!  When the donor has all the information they need, ask them for the gift using my favourite word “consider”.  “Would you consider making a gift of $x (or in this $ range) to this Appeal / for this project?”  And the next bit is very important.  Don’t say anything until the donor answers the question.  Be comfortable with silence.  If you speak first you will undermine the entire ask.  Fundraisers I know who have broken the silence have told me that the time seemed to go on endlessly so, in their own nervousness, they started to discount the ask.  Phrases like “Oh I know it’s a lot of money”, and “we’re grateful for anything you can do” are not respectful to the donor, who has a lot of conversations going on in her head at that time, and they are not respectful of the process.  Wait.

If the answer is “yes”, you can talk about how the gift would be made – one-off, in instalments, or at a particular time (e.g. when investments fall due).  The donor may need time to talk to a financial advisor about that.  This is the negotiation stage.

If the answer is “no”, you need to clarify whether it is a “not yet” or a final decision.  Whatever the conclusion, say thank you for their time and consideration of your request.  Follow up immediately you leave the meeting with the paperwork and a written acknowledgement of their commitment.  If you are getting more information, do so promptly and then visit again to conclude the conversation.

5.  Finally, a word of emphasis about strategic silence.

It is a compelling part of the solicitation because it lets the case stand.  The donor’s attention is then directed to the case for funding support.  If it is robust, it stands scrutiny. If it is weak, those weaknesses will be revealed. Our case is the organisation’s story and we are inviting the donor to be part of the story too.

That’s it.  Five things I have learnt in the last thirty years asking people for money, asking them to be part of a vision, a movement or a tangible asset.

(c) Lisa Wells, BA, CFRE, FFINZ



Ecclesiastical Memes II – Darryl Tempero

Great blog from Darryl. Our language reveals how we really see church, even when we know it isn’t the building or even the Sunday gathering. We struggle to define the essence of church in ways that are not full of jargon and “insider” language. So even as we try to work out what church is we unknowingly construct barriers and boxes. This is a very interesting discussion and I am looking forward to Darryl’s next installment.


Darryl is the Mission Coach for Alpine Presbytery and Minister of Kiwi Church, a new-ish congregation in Christchurch

It’s time to change our language folks.

First off, let me ask you something – Where do you go to family?

When I ask people that, they name a place where their family live and they go visit them there.  I push back and suggest that’s where they go to a family gathering, but it’s not the only place their family gathers.  Eventually we settle on the fact that this question doesn’t make sense.  We don’t go to family, we are family.

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Why Churches should partner with secular community groups

Not sure how to repost this article from Christianity Today so I’m hoping I’m not breeching copyright.  The url is at the bottom of the article.

When I worked with Presbyterian Suppport (a social service agency and only related to the church in so far as we shared a name) we got involved in community-led development which achieved amazing things in communities – connectedness, respect for others, sharing and much more.  It took a long time to get churches on board as a key asset in their communities, sometimes the concern that their building would be damaged by “the others” was stronger than a desire to love or even talk to the people who “weren’t like them”.

It’s happening more now, but it’s a connection which is win-win-win (organisation, church and community) so it’s hard to see why it isn’t embraced more willingly or enthusiastically.  The following article has a great set of reasons “why” the church should be open to working with others, even those who don’t share the same beliefs (maybe interfaith is also another partnership possibility here?) to love their neighbours.

8 Reasons Churches Should Partner with Secular Community Groups

How can we reach our communities if they have no idea we love them? And how will they know we love them if we don’t work alongside them?

Our church used to partner exclusively with other Christian ministries. For everything from missions to community service.

Before that, we would only partner with ministries in our denomination.

Today, while we still only partner with Christian groups for missions (can’t call it missions otherwise) up to half the groups we partner with for local community service are not Christian-based.

No, we haven’t gone soft on our faithfulness to the gospel. And we have standards for those we will and will not partner with.

But in the last few years we’ve decided to step outside our previously normal routine and work with people and groups who don’t identify as faith-based.

Most, maybe all of them, have Christians in key leadership positions. But that’s not why we work with them.

Here are 8 reasons why it’s important for us to work with secular community groups.

1. It Increases Our Sphere of Influence

There is more good work being done by churches than by any other group of people in the world. But many folks outside the church don’t know that. Because we often insulate ourselves from others as we do it.

How can we be light in the darkness when we only hang out with other candles?

How can we be light in the darkness when we only hang out with other candles? But that’s what happens when churches only work with other churches or Christian ministries.

Here’s an example of what happens when we reach out.

I don’t live in the Bible Belt. Most cities in California would never think of partnering with local churches, citing non-existent restrictions regarding separation of church and state.

That’s the way it was in our town, too. Not any more.

Because our church has intentionally developed a reputation for partnering with people of goodwill and showing Jesus’ love without agenda, our City Hall feels comfortable calling our church when neighbors need help. Yes, the city calls us!

Because of this, we can impact people in our community today that we had no chance to influence just a few years ago.

Every time we partner with them to do things we all care about – helping neighbors and cleaning up the local park for instance – our influence grows. And there are greater opportunities for Jesus to touch more lives.

2. It Can Impact Their Perception of Christians – And Jesus

Several years ago, thanks to my wife’s involvement, our church raised funds to support music programs that had been severely cut in our public schools – programs that many of the kids in our church were involved in.

Several public school teachers were so stunned by the church’s support that they were near tears. When I asked why this touched them so deeply, one of them told me, “We thought you didn’t like us. This is the only time in my two decades of teaching that I’ve heard anything from a local church other than complaints.”


How can we reach our communities if they have no idea we love them? And how will they know we love them if we don’t work alongside them?

3. It Bursts Our Church-World Bubble

Church people tend to see one set of problems, challenges and sins. Unchurched people often see an entirely different set.

Church people tend to see one set of problems, challenges and sins. Unchurched people often see an entirely different set.

When we break out of our bubble of preconceptions and work alongside unchurched people, we have a better chance of meeting the needs and healing the hurts they’re actually feeling, not just the ones we think they have, or should be feeling.

Besides, not only did Jesus live outside the bubble, his greatest criticism was against those who refused to leave it.

4. It Shakes Up Our Comfort Zone

I like my comfort zone. It’s comfortable.

But it’s also enticingly dangerous.

Hanging around fellow believers is easy. Too easy.

Being comfortable and easy makes me lazy.

When we work alongside our secular counterparts, we have to be more conscious of what we say, how we act and how we represent Christ to them.

We might have to engage in conversations with people who express ideas we won’t hear in church. And we might have to listen more than we talk. For a pastor, that might be the most uncomfortable thing of all.

But it’s a discomfort that can drive us to be better, more Christlike examples. It’s certainly better than yelling at people we disagree with on Facebook.

5. They’ll Help Us Reach People We Can’t Reach

One of the groups our church works with is a shelter for abused women and children. Some of them have been abused by men claiming to be Christians. Those women will not seek out a church for help.

But when we show up at their non-faith-based shelter to help clean, repair, paint and otherwise improve their modest living conditions, we get to show Jesus’ love to people who would never look for it in a church.

6. It’s Less Self-Serving

When we only partner with fellow Christians – especially when we limit it to our denomination – we usually get some kind of missions credit for it.

But when members of our congregation go to the state-run center for the mentally handicapped near us, we gain nothing but the joy of serving. Being a state-sponsored center, we’re not even allowed to invite them to church.

They get to experience Jesus’ love through us. Love without agenda.

But they get to experience Jesus’ love through us. Love without agenda.

7. It Stretches Our Faith

When we work with unchurched people, we often hear unchurchy language and see less-than-holy behavior. (We see that in church, too. But it’s the kind we’re used to.)

They can ask us some pretty blunt questions about our faith. And we have to be ready to answer, listen and love them. No matter what.

8. It’s Humbling

Christians aren’t better people than non-Christians.

We all need Jesus. But we don’t always express that very well.

Sometimes, in our enthusiasm to share our faith, Christians come come across as … okay I’ll say it … we can be arrogant, rude, prideful know-it-alls. Arrogance is not a Christian virtue.

Yes, we have the answer. His name is Jesus.

But we don’t have all the answers.

Working alongside people toward a common goal is a great way to break us of that arrogance, without compromising our values.

There’s nothing any of us can do to make Jesus look better than he already is. But humility looks good on us. And it helps others see Jesus a little clearer.


St Paul’s Opunake: the light shines again

This is one of the projects that the Presbyterian Foundation has supported in past years – investments in the right people do pay off


A walk-through Christmas display is one of the many new ways St Paul's is serving its community A walk-through Christmas display is one of the many new ways St Paul’s is serving its community

Four years ago, St Paul’s was a church with a congregation of 25 in the rural town of Opunake in Taranaki (population 1360). They had no employed minister and no children or families attending their Sunday worship or connected with their church.

The leaders decided that if they were to survive they would need to focus on mission. But where should they start?

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