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Giving to the church is empowering, fundraiser says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The love of money may be the root of all evil, but money is necessary for life — a fact that doesn’t exclude churches.

However, Carl Hoffman’s focus on the greenback is less on its buying power and more on how it empowers believers to answer God’s call and fulfill their mission in the world.

“What I’m trying to do is not only raise the money, but empower the people so that through the course of this campaign, they are stronger Christian stewards,” said Hoffman, capital fund raising consultant in the Church Architecture Department of LifeWay Christian Resources. “If a church builds without having a good financial structure, they will have to spend more money out of interest and principal, meaning missions and ministry suffer.”

Hoffman, who has worked with churches across the United States through the Together We Build program since 1980, recently completed 137 campaigns at individual churches. Those campaigns have collectively raised more than $100 million, a mark no other consultant working exclusively for Southern Baptist Convention entities has surpassed.

“People need to realize that when capital fund raising is done by LifeWay, it’s not high pressure,” Hoffman said. “It is a pleasant experience and hopefully they are stronger and better stewards and Christians after it’s conducted.”

Hoffman’s goal in working with churches that want to pursue a building program or reduce debt is to guide them to become knowledgeable, careful stewards and urge them to a life of service.

He does so by guiding the churches through a series of phases that include a time of organization and planning, prayer and leadership training, intensive communication and commitment of church members to the program.

According to Hoffman, a capital fund-raising campaign generally lasts about three to four months. During that time, consultants like Hoffman visit the church numerous times. Hoffman himself tries to make eight or more visits.

During those visits, Hoffman works with two purposes: guiding and working with the leadership team and communicating effectively with the church’s membership.

“That is the time we communicate with the congregation by way of mail or another medium, discerning what the church is doing and why they’re doing it,” Hoffman said of this phase of his work. “One of the things I try to do is empower the people. The way that I do that is through stewardship devotions that I give out.”

Each church is unique, so each strategy tends to vary somewhat. Hoffman generally works to include at least one-third to half of the active adult membership of the church in various activities and leadership roles of the campaign, using members to tell others about the challenge.

The church then enters into a commitment phase, asking members to contribute to the fund-raising program. Hoffman said several approaches are used to contact members about their commitment, such as confidential cards, mailings or pledges. The approach must fit the individual congregation, and Hoffman usually works with the leadership to discern the best method.

The most common giving period is usually a three-year period, he said. After churches enter this commitment and giving period, Hoffman generally stays in contact and assists in follow-up activities as needed.

Working with so many different churches and campaigns keeps Hoffman busy. He estimates that he travels 50 percent of the year and spends most weeks away from his home. His work has taken him to churches across the continental United States, Hawaii and as far as Singapore.

In the end, Hoffman said, it is the congregations seeking to serve God through their campaigns, not the amount of money raised, which is important.

“What I would like to have is the person in the pew who gives to get the most bang for the buck,” he said.

Churches interested in more information about Together We Build or capital fund raising should call 1-800-251-4220. Consultants will then forward informational material, call or make arrangements to present a free no-obligation presentation about the program.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CARL HOFFMAN.

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  • Mandy Crow