Faith Raising, Not Fund Raising
Does a building campaign change the way a church teaches stewardship? For our congregation, the answer is dramatic, but not in the way you might expect.
You see, for 15 years, our church did not own a building. Saddleback Community Church grew from a few people meeting in an apartment, to renting facilities in various schools, to meeting in a tent. Then in 1995, with over 10,000 regular weekly attenders, we built our first building. And now we're in the process of raising $14 million for additional facilities for our Children's Ministry Center.
Recently a journalist asked me, "For years your church found much of its identity in being a people without property. You had a pioneer mentality, not a settler mentality. Now you've got a multi-million-dollar campus, and you're adding on. How has that changed you, especially the way you teach stewardship?" My answer surprised him.
"It hasn't." And it's true.
Our pastor, Rick Warren, is an entrepreneurial evangelist, whose personal anthem is "reach one more for Jesus." He's committed to seeing the church grow. In fact, he believes we're never going to stop growing, not because we simply want to get bigger, but because there are people around us who need Jesus. He doesn't want us to become settled in or satisfied with the status quo. He told us, "If any building gets in the way of reaching this community, we'll blow it up. If it starts making us feel too comfortable, we're moving."
This commitment to growth, spiritually and in community impact, has influenced every aspect of our church, including how we create a climate for growing generous givers.
Rather than viewing stewardship development as a "fund raising" program or annual giving campaign, we integrate it throughout our church culture.
We're not "stupid"
It all starts with how we approach the subject. No question, Rick Warren has a uniquely effective communication style, one that respectfully begins with where people are, irrespective of where that may be, and leads them toward what they were created for.
Recently, a guest speaker came and preached about stewardship. Though his message was right on the money, biblically speaking, he used phrases and logic noticeably foreign to our church's culture.
For instance, when talking about laying up treasure in heaven versus spending money on earthly things, he said, "God is telling us that spending money on stuff that isn't built to last is really pretty stupid. Now I don't know if you want to be stupid, but I don't."
True as that statement may be, being called "stupid," or even inferring it, is not something our people are used to hearing. Many in the crowd sensed a disconnect, wondering where that came from? That's just not how we teach at Saddleback.
By contrast, Rick would have preached the same biblical content by starting with how the world thinks about, worries about, obsesses about, and dreams about money. He'd summarize the philosophy and the results of managing money the world's way.
Then he'd compare that to ...