Church Raises Half a Million Toward New Building in Less than 3 Months

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Lawrence Wesleyan Church operated in a "temporary" space in a strip mall for 14 years. With the help of RSI Stewardship, the church has already raised over $500,000 in less than three months.

The church launched the campaign late last fall and has to date received more than $500,000 toward pledged commitments of $2 million.

The mission is not vague for Pastor Nate Rovenstine and the congregation of Lawrence Wesleyan Church. In fact, it is crystal clear: reach more people for Christ.

Lawrence is a city with a high percentage of unchurched people, including college students at the University of Kansas. The opportunity is a constant reminder of the church’s vision to see people worship Christ, grow as disciples, and serve the people of Lawrence and the world.

However, a renovated office building that served as the church for 14 years had reached capacity and it was time to move. Easier said than done. The church began looking for a strategic piece of property in 2011, but the process took four years due to limited inventory and the high cost of real estate in Lawrence.

“There are a lot of factors that have gone into it,” said Rovenstine, who has been pastor of Lawrence Wesleyan for 29 years. “One of the biggest factors had been finding property within the city. We didn’t want to be located in the country. Property outside the city is more plentiful, and perhaps not as expensive. But it needed to be a strategic location where the building would be a conduit to help us fulfill our vision.”

Lawrence Wesleyan was founded in 1936. Since then, they have built two church buildings and renovated the office building they currently occupy. Now that space constrained the church and was limiting growth, Rovenstine said. Additional renovation or expansion became an impractical option. From a ministry perspective, the building limited any outreach the congregation wanted to do. The church has grown to three services averaging about 150 people per service. The space was crowded and becoming less and less functional.

Lawrence Wesleyan’s leadership team recognized that it needed to get into strong financial position to purchase the right property when the opportunity presented itself. To make a move, Rovenstine knew the church would need the financial resources to do it. The first step was to make a decision about how that would happen.

“We had people on our team who felt we could probably undertake a capital campaign and do it successfully,” Rovenstine said. “But the truth is I was familiar with campaigns and I know they absorb a lot of internal energy. It is the ongoing details that somebody has to oversee and stay on top of or the campaign won’t get to the finish line.”

The leadership team made the decision to interview three different capital fund raising and stewardship consulting companies and eventually chose RSI Stewardship, a leader in the industry and one of the longest tenured stewardship consulting organizations in America.

“We picked RSI because we felt like [RSI Consultant] Mark [Blackmore] heard what we were saying,” Rovenstine said. “He heard our leadership team’s vision for the future of what we wanted our church to be, and the ministry goals we wanted to accomplish. We needed a plan that was going to fit us, not one that was an out-of-the-box program.”

Blackmore said the situation with Lawrence Wesleyan Church was unique and both the church and RSI needed “to get it right” when it came to a capital campaign.

“It is unusual to see a church be as deliberate as Lawrence Wesleyan was,” Blackmore said. “But at the same time there was no sense of panic or procrastination on the part of Nate or any of the leadership. They certainly weren’t letting the building situation keep them from doing effective ministry and there were extenuating factors that affected the ability to purchase and move.”

Blackmore said one of the most important elements of understanding the amount of capital that needs to be raised is to understand what it is the church wants to accomplish. The leadership team was very clear that it had a commitment to the community and a specific plan for how it wanted to serve the Lawrence community and students and faculty at the University of Kansas. With that in mind the building had to be “a landing place for the community,” Rovenstine said, and a, “functional tool for ministry.”

Blackmore said based on that information a plan was designed exclusively for Lawrence Wesleyan. The decision was made to set the capital fund raising goal at $2 million. Within six months of the campaign launch, receipts totaled more than $953,000 of the $2 million pledged on a three-year commitment.

“We’ve been able to purchase property and are in the process of securing an architect,” Rovenstine said. “It’s been a healthy give and take with Mark and we feel very good about where we are in relation to the goal we’ve set. It’s been a long road to get to this point but we feel very confident about the church’s future.

About RSI Stewardship
Founded in 1972 as America’s first company devoted solely to the fundraising needs of Christian churches, schools, and other faith-based organizations, RSI is the nation’s leading resource for practical, faithful, and effective stewardship counsel. The experience and leadership at RSI has made the difference for more than 17,000 partners in ministry.

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Hilary Sutton
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