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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
1. 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.
2. 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. They 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.
3. 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.
Creative Campaigning for Kids
Most churches have a mini-campaign for kids that’s concentrated into a few weeks. During this time, innovative ideas such as these bring the campaign to life in visible, kid-friendly ways.
1. Fun Ways to Give
Children enjoy collecting their change in unique banks. Many churches distribute banks in the shape of a brick or a building block. This helps kids realize they’re building the church. At the close of the campaign, children can come to the front of the church and stack their banks.
Fellowship Church found a company that makes banks in the shape of a camp cabin. Kids got to place their banks on maps of the proposed kids camp to get a good visual about how their money would be used.
Banks were so popular during Shadow Mountain’s campaign, Williams says, that a couple kids regularly brought in their filled banks throughout the whole three-year campaign, long after the children’s portion had ended.
Crutchfield designed offering envelopes specifically for children’s church at Zoe Christian Fellowship. Volunteers counted money and made spreadsheets, then Crutchfield sent a letter to all the children, thanking them for their gifts.
2. Multiplying the Money
Some churches entrust children with “seed money,” based on Jesus’ parable of the talents. Then they ask them to find ways to make it grow. At Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, children participate in capital campaigns by receiving their own muslin “seed bags” with $5 inside. Attached is a list of ideas for growing the money. Ideas include raking leaves, helping around the house, walking dogs, and so on.
Sondra Saunders, Prestonwood’s children’s preschool minister, says kids invest their seed money in creative ways. One girl held a music recital at her house for relatives who gave donations. A group of boys earned $385 by making and selling potpies.
3. Visual Reminders
When Central Christian in Mesa launched a capital campaign to build a satellite campus 11 miles away, children created a “penny bridge” between the existing church and the new location. That translated into almost 1 million pennies, or $10,000. Every time children reached a milestone in the goal, leaders marked it off visually on a giant aerial-view poster of the campuses.
Hutchins also added a visual component to the campaign at Central Christian. Using the theme And One, the church emphasized that in addition to building one more campus, they also were building the church through outreach. Kids each wrote on a sticky note the name of a friend who needed Jesus, then put all those notes on a board. “We wanted kids to see that the campaign was for individual people,” Hutchins says.
Another fun challenge that churches issue to kids, according to Kannwischer, is to collect their height in pennies. (When pennies are stacked like pancakes, it takes 18 to equal one inch!)
4. Multimedia Messages
The possibilities are limitless for getting word out about a campaign. Older kids can make videos documenting the ministry needs that the campaign is addressing. The children’s ministry can have its own special campaign newsletter, as well as a celebration for reaching goals.
Saddleback’s music minister wrote a special campaign song called “Building Children.” At Shadow Mountain, kids wrote their names on rocks and placed them into part of the groundwork when the new children’s building was under construction. And Fellowship Church ordered rubber wristbands imprinted with its Above and Beyond campaign logo.
Calvary Church in Muscatine, Iowa, asked kids to lead the way in a recent capital campaign. Children paraded into the worship service dressed in costumes, performed a drama, and sang. Afterward they invited adults to the lobby for dessert and an art show. Booths showed displays of what each children’s classroom would look like after being remodeled with campaign money.
“We didn’t want the campaign to be just about giving money,” says David Stern, Calvary’s children’s pastor. “So we had kids use their talents in a variety of ways.”
No matter which ideas you use to teach children about stewardship and involve them in a capital campaign, don’t underestimate what your church’s youngest members can accomplish. Some churches don’t set specific financial goals for children because they want to emphasize the life lessons being learned. Others, however, encourage children’s ministries to dream big.
“Kids can set the tone for the adults in a capital campaign,” says Hutchins.
After hearing about the And One campaign, one boy at Central Christian decided to donate a $1,000 check from his grandmother. “He said he couldn’t think of a better way to spend his money than to help kids who didn’t know Jesus,” says Hutchins.
Foundation for Success
Ministry leaders who’ve conducted capital campaigns with kids share their key principles for success.
1. Make it meaningful.
“Each campaign should have a compelling case statement that addresses a clear vision and need,” says Kelly Kannwischer, communications director with fund-raising company Viscern. The case statement points out why the need is so important for a church’s future. It’s easy to do that for children’s ministry projects, Kannwischer says, because children represent the church’s future.
2. Make it personal.
“Capital campaigns aren’t about money or buildings or patting yourself on the back,” says Steve Hutchins, children’s pastor at Central Christian Church in Mesa, Arizona. So it’s important to keep kids focused on the outreach potential by “picking a person you’re reaching out to.”
Sharlene Crutchfield, former children’s ministry director at Zoe Christian Fellowship, adds, “Campaigns should benefit the people your church serves, not just make the place look prettier.”
3. Make it visible.
Children need constant reminders about a capital campaign’s purpose and goal. Giant posters, progress indicators, and models are all great visual elements for a children’s ministry campaign. When Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, was raising money for a new children’s camp, a booth in the church atrium displayed photos of fun events from previous camps.
“It may cost extra money to have architectural models made, but that helps keep the vision alive,” says Crutchfield. “It keeps the campaign before people.”
4. Make it family-centered.
“The biggest thing is to keep talking to the kids about the campaign,” says Katie Williams, designer of children’s outreach at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California. “And a big part of that is keeping parents involved,” she adds, “because there’s so much that kids can’t do without their parents’ help.”
Stephanie Martin is a freelance writer and editor in Colorado.
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