I recently had the honor of working with Carey Nieuwhof and the team at Connexus Community Church in Barie, Ontario. They were unbelievable to work with and they did the Thrive initiative. Here’s what Carey had to say about it:
Carey, you recently told me that you have over 50% of your donations coming in ONLINE. How are you getting so many people to give online?
I like to think of it as chipping away at the iceberg. We’ve done several ‘Automate the Important” blitzes, but we’ve also incorporated the message that many people give online into everything we do. We even start our offering talk by thanking the people who have already given online. We also revamped our website to make it very easy to give online. We tend to see several families a week sign up for online giving. It’s not overwhelming, but over fifty two weekends it has a way of adding up.
What would you say to a church that is struggling with the idea of really pushing digital giving to their church?
I think it’s just a normal way of doing life these days. We’ve really encouraged people to automate their key priorities in life. So in the same we would like to see them save for retirement automatically, save for a vacation through automatic withdrawals from their bank account, we also want to see them give as a priority. When you automate what’s important, you can accomplish far more than if you leave it to chance. If giving is the key financial priority in a Christian’s life, why wouldn’t you automate it?
What is the top learning lesson about church finances you have learned in the last year?
When a leader gives finances his or her full attention and ties that attention to a specific strategy, things change. A leader needs to move past simply having desires, wishes and intentions and adopt an action plan.
You did the Thrive initiative and said it was different than anything you guys have done in the past. What was so different about it?
I’d say there were three key differences. 1. We focused. Outside of a capital campaign, we had never given day-to-day finances the kind of focus we did with Thrive. 2. We made it about them. Funding the day-to-day mission can too often be about what the church needs, not about what’s best for people. Thrive is about what we want for them as much as what we want from them. When people saw that we really wanted to help them live with margin and that our ask was genuinely about the mission we’re all on together as Christ followers, people responded. 3. We got specific in the ask. Never before have I as a leader gotten as granular about the ask. I learned that in the past that we were good at inspiring and informing, but really fell short when it came to actually asking people to give. In Thrive, we were crystal clear in asking every person for a response to the call to live on mission.
Thrive has given you about a 22% increase in operational income… Why do you think Thrive connected with your people?
I think people saw that Thrive was about what we wanted for them, not just from them. I wonder if people had a hard time believing that we cared that deeply about the state of their personal finances and that we were going to spend twelve months together trying to help them find margin. But once they saw we were serious about tangible help (The Financial Learning Experience includes large group teaching, small group curriculum and one on one counseling), their relief and delight was almost palpable. I think the fact that we care as much about their financial well being as ours really made a key difference.
What would you say to a pastor that is contemplating investing into the Thrive coaching resource we are providing, but is kinda scared to pull the trigger?
Why are you scared? If you want what you’re currently getting, keep doing what you’re currently doing. In our case, prior to Thrive, we had a growing church that was always just ‘adequately funded’. I was tired of so many areas of the ministry thriving but our finances only ‘surviving’. I felt I had nothing to lose by trying something different: you can’t build an incredible future on an underfunded ministry. It was a tough call in the moment, but looking back on it there’s not a single leader who wishes we hadn’t done Thrive. What’s even more encouraging is the number of people at Connexus who are authentically grateful we did Thrive. It’s helping to change their lives.