ARVADA, COLORADO: “Do NOT turn in your pledge card today!” This is the first time members of Arvada United Methodist Church had ever heard these words from Dr. Amy Gearhart. That’s because this campaign was different. It was intended to benefit the long-term future of the church, and was inviting people to consider leaving a gift in their estate plan. This pledge card was worded in a way that required conversation with loved ones and perhaps an attorney. This was about planned giving which is a thoughtful, prayerful, individualized process.
Many capital campaigns start with a soft launch where the pastor and other church leaders have one-on-one conversations with potential donors. This helps church leaders take the temperature for the idea. Is it the right time? Will there be enough support to reach our goal? During this process, the result was overwhelmingly positive. Pledges totalling more than $1.6 million came in which exceeded the original goal by more than $100,000!
Steve Greenhalgh, Chair of the Foundation and Legacy Fund Design Team asserted, “a church this size needs a much bigger endowment.” He had worked with his university in past years to help grow its endowment, and understood how powerful a healthy endowment can be.
In setting the goal for the campaign, Steve helped the church identify a missional purpose that most church members could relate to that would help them understand how an endowment works and why its necessary. On an FAQ brief provided to all members, one question was, Why aren’t we campaigning for missions instead of maintaining our building? Answer: Twenty percent (almost $200,000) of our church’s annual operating budget goes toward the upkeep, maintenance, insurance, and security of our building. This is a large amount of money that isn’t available for programming and missions by the church, while nonetheless vital to our operations. By increasing our endowment beyond $2 million we can draw a larger amount of interest from the endowment for the capital costs of the church, so as to free more monies for missions, programming, staffing, and new ministries each year.
The official campaign launched on Sunday, March 19th, 2023, during a catered luncheon where the new goal of $2 million was announced. The entire congregation was invited to attend this beautiful banquet, paid for by one passionate church member, and was attended by more than 130 members. The purpose was to celebrate the church’s past, present, and future and learn about how each member could sustain the church’s future by contributing to the New Foundations Legacy Fund.
Rev. Lauren Boyd opened the luncheon with a prayer that gave gratitude to the saints of the church that came before, making it possible for all to be there now. A professional jazz pianist, Patrick Lee, led the entertainment, followed by a performance of The Impossible Dream by Tim Kennedy from the musical Man of La Mancha. Bishop Karen Oliveto provided encouragement to the church members through a video message. Wrapping up the event was church members, Fran Swisher and Camille Parker who provided testimonials of what the church has meant to them and why they have created planned gifts to the church.
Kristi Kinnison, Executive Director of the Methodists Helping Methodists Foundation, who attended the luncheon, was very impressed by the way this campaign was executed.
“This campaign was text-book. The leaders have done a fantastic job understanding their missional purpose and communicating it to their members. The goal made sense, and the invitation to be faithful in the estate plans, with no out of pocket today, was something that all members of the congregation could do. It was a way for all members to lean into their innate need to give that is achievable for anyone, regardless of wealth.”
In order to continue the dialogue, Arvada United Methodist Church will be providing classes this fall where young adults or individuals who haven’t prepared their wills will learn about the benefits of charitable contributions and become educated on good stewardship.
Would you consider leaving a bequest to your church? Click here to learn more about bequests and other planned giving techniques.