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Counting on Kids

Stephanie Martin

Kids not only make priceless contributions to church capital campaigns-they also take away invaluable lessons about love and stewardship.

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "capital campaign"? Most people envision lofty financial goals, urgent appeals, and teams of adults working on long-term projects. But for a growing number of churches, capital campaigns are no longer adult-only undertakings.

Kids are joining church capital campaigns in creative, meaningful, and fun ways. And while kids pitch in, they're learning about stewardship along with their families-and seeing tangible benefits for their children's programs.

Children's Ministry Magazine spoke with a variety of churches around the country to discover innovative ways they're getting kids involved in capital campaigns. The campaigns vary in purpose, scope, and strategy, but everyone agrees that no matter the size of the project, kids are eager-and important-contributors when it comes to growing the body of Christ.

Where the Money Goes

"Many capital campaigns regularly include a children's ministry component, even if the fund-raising isn't solely related to children's ministry," says Kelly Kannwischer, communications director with the fund-raising company Viscern. While many churches undertake capital campaigns to add new children's education buildings, she says, a growing trend is to raise money for mission projects that help other children. Capital campaigns fall into one of two basic types of projects-on-campus and outreach.

• On-Campus Projects-Church capital campaigns that focus on children's ministry can raise money for everything from new buildings and equipment to special, high-cost projects.

At Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, last spring's campaign raised money for a kids camp and for a satellite campus. A recent capital campaign at Zoe Christian Fellowship in Whittier, California, earmarked money for a brand-new playground for kids and a new parking lot.

• Outreach Projects-When Bayside Covenant Church in Granite Bay, California, conducted a capital campaign, half of the money went toward missions. The church built an AIDS clinic in Nigeria and a homeless shelter in their county for women with children.

At Christ's Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona, finance director Bob Wild says the church wanted "to cast a bigger vision" than just constructing new children's and youth ministry buildings. So the church tithed from the money raised, allocating funds toward church planting and missions.

No matter how the money is earmarked, children's ministers agree that the goal of capital campaigns is to ultimately build up a ministry.

"Campaigns should always take your ministry to the next level," says Sharlene Crutchfield, former children's ministry director at Zoe Christian Fellowship.

All Kids On Board

Capital campaigns are a perfect opportunity for everyone in your congregation to learn about stewardship, study God's Word, and become prayer partners for your church and its ministries. Don't leave the kids out.

"Any time we do a capital campaign, we always involve the children," says Annette Spangler, Bayside's interim children's pastor. "It's a great chance to educate children that not everyone has what they have and to have compassion for the less fortunate."

Steve Hutchins, children's pastor at Central Christian Church in Mesa, Arizona, says the challenge during each campaign is to "make this something the kids can understand and connect with."

Foundations for a successful, meaningful campaign with children include classroom and family learning, as well as a solid grounding in prayer. Use the following concepts to build kids' interest and commitment to the project.

• Teaching Time-Many churches design campaign-themed Sunday school curriculum that coincides with an adult sermon series. That way, kids and their parents can learn stewardship principles at the same time.

Mitch Corn, elementary pastor at Fellowship Church, did a four-week children's sermon series called Above and Beyond to teach kids about sacrificial giving. He focused on our many God-given blessings and discussed tithing in kid-friendly terms.

Some companies that churches hire to help with their capital campaigns produce specialized children's curriculum. RSI, a division of Viscern (www.viscern.com), produces a three-week series of Bible lessons called Cruise on the Steward Ship. It's filled with age-appropriate activities, stories, Scriptures, and prayers that help kids learn about caring for God's resources. Most churches modify these lessons to meet the particular needs of their children's ministries, Kannwischer says.

• At-Home Discussions-It's crucial to partner with parents when teaching kids about sacrificial giving, says Corn. Parents, after all, are the ones who give children allowance and help set the tone for their financial education and habits.

Families can discuss what they'll give as a whole for the campaign, suggests Hutchins. "When campaigns are family-centered," he says, "it magnifies the potential for learning, giving, and growth."

Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California, sponsored family nights during its campaign so children and parents could learn about stewardship together.

During a campaign at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, families received special placemats that served as stewardship discussion starters during meals.

At one church that RSI assisted, 30 families each wrote a devotion with a Scripture, a message, a prayer, and an explanation of the campaign. Then a volunteer compiled the devotions into a booklet families could use at mealtimes, Kannwischer says.

• Prayer Emphasis-When Shadow Mountain raised money for new children's buildings, the entire campaign was bathed in prayer. Katie Williams, designer of children's outreach, says classes put "prayer stakes" in the ground during groundbreaking. They also went on prayer walks around the buildings during construction.

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