Meet the Pastor Turned CEO Who's Helped Thousands of Churches Raise Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
A personal introduction to the CEO and co-founder of the world's leading church technology company.
December 16, 2019
August 6, 2019
Every pastor wants to grow their church.
The benefits of church growth are obvious.
Better reputation in the community.
Better reputation among pastor friends.
But the optics—the “trimmings”—of church growth can often get in the way of the real business of growing a church.
Churches that grow steadily—and are able to retain those who visit and join their churches—do not grow as a fluke.
There’s no such thing as a large, growing, successful church that is large, growing, and successful by accident.
In this article, we’re going to explore the key principles which make impressive church growth possible.
So buckle up, and get ready to start implementing these basic but oft-ignored realities which prompt and make probably the kind of church growth that, from the outside, appears magical.
Most people think that committees are a good way to slow things down, not speed up growth.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Only unseasoned church professionals believe that real, sustainable church growth comes from a magic mixing of winging it, passion for Jesus, and all-nighters.
Real church growth most often comes from the church leaders sitting down, casting a vision, and delegating tasks to the right people.
If you want to grow your church, you should have a core group of leaders committed to seeing this through who can keep the church on track, grounded in its goals, realistic in its aim, and resourced in its methods.
One tip to make sure that these meetings do not consume resources, and stagnate growth, is to put the right people on the team. Don’t invite team members who like the idea of being on the team because it justifies their job.
Ask mature believers in your congregation who have accomplished similar feats to church growth—executives, leaders, salesmen, etc.—to contribute to the vision and strategy of church growth so that you have all of the latest professional tools to grow your community excellently.
The #1 reason why churches fail to grow is that they set unspecific or unrealistic goals for their church growth.
Your church’s growth committee must set:
From these determinations, you will have:
It’s important not to lose the fact that, in deciding what kind of people you want to acquire as new members at your church, you are determining what markers call a “User Persona,” which is basically an abstraction of the kind of person you’d like to meet.
Have you ever played the board game Guess Who? It’s the game with all those little plastic cards that you can flip up and down, full of faces. Your and your opponent each pick a card with one of the faces—and your goal is to narrow down which personality card your opponent picked by narrowing down the facial features.
You essentially need to do the same thing with the audience you’d like to reach in order to grow. Ask core questions relevant to reaching them, understanding them, and inviting them into your community:
Then, “Ann” becomes shorthand for a certain kind of person. It’s a “User Persona” toward which you direct marketing materials.
Ideally, you’ll have several of these personas driving your communications strategy for church growth so that your church can experience not only growth but the right kind of growth.
Your target audience is your collection of user personas, which represent the kinds of people in your local area that you’d like to meet.
You should formulate a communications strategy to reach and retain this target audience.
One of the best ways to do this is to put every single User Persona on a white board and ask the following questions:
As we mentioned earlier, church growth in the abstract isn’t always a good thing.
What if your church of 100 acquired 100 difficult people who complained every Sunday and never tithed?
Ideally, your church would be set up to host and disciple these people to have a more positive and godly attitude toward the church.
Yet, you have be realistic as a church.
Who are your ideal prospective members?
And how can you identify people on the track to becoming ideal members?
For example, if your church is lacking young families, it would be wise to invest in young singles who will grow into young families at your church.
But here’s the truth:
Knowing who your ideal prospective members are (i.e., your User Personas) allows you to answer the question:
“What kind of church do we want this growth to make us?”
Your church will change as new people attend and become members, because those people are your church.
This is why it is critical to be crystal clear: What kind of church do we want to become through this growth plan?
In order to reach your target audience, you will need to piece together teams that fulfill the committee’s strategy to reach the kinds of people it wants to reach.
You will need at least these three teams to be involved:
These four teams represent, loosely, the four phases of a person’s journey of discovering and becoming involved in your church.
The communications team sends emails, web updates, creates printables to put in coffee shops, and creates event invitations for members to hand out to their friends.
The outreach team goes and meets your target audience where they are.
Your welcome team greets them at the front door, knows who they are, and hosts them on their first few visits—taking responsibility for collecting their information and connecting them with at least one other person of a similar demographic in the church before they leave.
It’s extremely important that the welcome team know how to transition a visitor into a prospective member. Most people can walk in and out of a church without ever talking to anyone or being asked how they can get better connected. This is the welcome team’s job, and is, in several ways, the lynchpin of growth. If you want to invest in church growth, all teams are important, but the welcome team is paramount. Invest in their training, resources, and team vision.
The discipleship team is responsible for getting them plugged in to the church community and signing them up for a membership class.
It’s important to find people in your church who are well positioned to organically reach out to people in your target audience.
Your committee should make a list of individuals, couples, and families who have the social clout to invite someone to church.
Then, reach out to those people and tell them that you’d like them to be an integral part of the church’s growth.
Most people in church are looking for opportunities to be involved—they will most likely be honored you asked.
Part of attracting new people to your church is doing attractive things.
If you only cast your church growth net to those interested in going to church and singing hymns on Sunday morning, your church will remain relatively the same size.
But if you cast your church growth net to people who like movies in the park, Sunday cookouts, weekly dinners with friends, and Sunday night football, your potential for growth gets a whole lot bigger. By hosting well-marketed events, you increase your growth exponent significantly. Without them, you put a ceiling on your growth not much higher than what you currently have.
Many people don’t invite friends to church because they’re embarrassed of their church—it might seem too preachy, too conservative, too uncomfortable, or too boring.
But if there is a hook that feels well-produced, engaging, and fun, then it’s easy for them to invite friends.
It’s not inappropriate to challenge your congregation from the pulpit to invite at least 2 friends that week to the church BBQ the following Sunday.
Your church members want to be challenged.
Your church members care about evangelism.
There is a natural fit here.
It’s simply on your and your committee to make the event fun, impressive, and welcoming enough to make visitors feel attracted and welcomed to your community.
The best thing you can do for your church—especially if it is stagnating—is start a committee for church growth right away.
Follow these key steps, identify your target audience in the form of user personas, set a specific number and deadline, implement a communications and events plan, and get your congregation involved.
It really is that simple.
In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.
Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.
Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:
A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.
With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.
To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.
The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.
Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving. So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.
Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.
Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.
Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.
Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:
There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.
Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.
How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.