June 13, 2013

Yes We Can!

Yes we can!

“This community is important to me and has done a lot for my family in these hard times. I talked to my wife and we can give 10% of our unemployment checks.”

The economy or the perception of the state of economy can often impact a parish’s ability to live into their mission. Andi Tillman, ECF capital campaign consultant, shares the following story:

In November of 2007, I had 17 clients under active contract. By February of 2008, I had only three. Many congregations paused in their plans as the economy froze, although strangely their roof did not stop leaking because the economy crashed.

Of the remaining three clients, one was a parish in an automotive town outside of Detroit, Mich. They were crippled by a debt incurred in the 1980’s, but had a thriving community. They were very active in ministry and exhibited deep support for one another as so many were in serious crisis.

I had been scheduled to interview a number of their leaders for a feasibility study. (Feasibility studies help a parish answer with a high degree of certainty what are the resources available in their community for a capital campaign.)

The morning I was to go to the church to do the interviews, I looked down to see the newspaper headline on the front page read “Chrysler Declares Bankruptcy.” My heart sank, as I knew this entire town existed to make parts for those vehicles.

I went to do the interviews: Four of the 16 interviews had three generations of family members all living in their grandparents’ homes. Another 25% of those interviewed were already unemployed. 25% more knew they would now be laid off soon.

Yet, they did not tell me these things as an excuse not to give, which would have been completely justifiable.

Instead, I heard:

  • “Well I have no job and do not know when I will work again, so…(expecting them to say they couldn`t give)…I can only give this much (generous gift from personal savings).” 
  • Our kids and grandkids are living with us because they lost their house, and the grandkids will need us if they are to go to school, so we can only give this much….” 
  • “This community is important to me and has done a lot for my family in these hard times. I talked to my wife and we can give 10% of our unemployment checks.”

Eighty two people volunteered their time for the campaign. So many people gave of their time that they ADDED ministries to help the local community (not themselves) with the savings.

In the end, they exceeded their goal by $68,000.

After experiencing the generosity of this congregation, no one can say, in response to the economy, “NO we can’t” to me.