Deliberate fundraising helps aging church make needed repairs

By Tex Sample

Trinity umc 1800 2
Trinity UMC - Kansas City, Missouri

A large, old building and delayed maintenance. Our church faced the problems of many congregations. We needed work on the roof, tuck-pointing of the building’s stone walls, and repair of the bell tower.

Initial estimates suggested the repairs would cost about $50,000. That was a huge amount for us.

Trinity United Methodist Church is a midtown congregation located 20 blocks south of the central business district in Kansas City, Mo. About four years ago, the congregation went through a serious conflict and lost about half of its members. Today, it has about 75 participants.

Tex sample
Rev. Tex Sample, Ph.D.

I served as the church’s interim in 2014. At that time, Trinity had an endowment of more than $300,000. When I came back in 2018 for my second term as pastor, the endowment was below $100,000. Large withdrawals from the endowment fund had been used to balance annual budgets.

We needed a capital campaign to raise the money for the much-needed repairs.

First, I talked one-on-one with about a third of our congregation, asking them to make initial pledges. We raised about $35,000 in this advance effort. We subsequently raised most of the remainder when we went to the rest of the membership.

We also had help from a number of people outside the congregation. I have 5,000 friends on Facebook, and I posted about our capital campaign effort there. Seven contributors made gifts that ranged from $500 to $3,400. By the time we concluded the capital campaign, we had exceeded our $50,000 goal by $2,500. Almost half of the pledges have been paid, and we are now seeking out companies to do the repair and maintenance work.

First, we were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the church being in its present building. Many people prized the old structure and were committed to its maintenance and repair.

Raising this amount of money was a lot of work for our congregation, but several factors helped us.

First, we were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the church being in its present building. Many people prized the old structure and were committed to its maintenance and repair.

Second, the church increased its programming. We started a new Sunday school class and organized a justice task force that actively participates in three different community organizing efforts in the city.

Interview with Rev. Tex Sample

When Trinity United Methodist Church in Kansas City needed to raise $50,000 for much-needed repairs to their historic building, the congregation of 75 found themselves facing a big challenge. The Rev. Tex Sample shares with Ken Sloane the journey of Trinity's capital campaign.

Third, we have continued to be a welcoming congregation for LGBTQ people. The congregation is half-LGBTQ with a small number of African-American and Hispanic people. Politically, it may be the most left-wing congregation in the United Methodist Church in Missouri. In that sense, the congregation and I are a good mix.

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People follow pastor’s lead on generous giving

Seeing her pastor involve himself in fundraising by talking with the congregation, involving people outside the church, and giving his own money made church member LaVonne Meyer more than just willing to contribute to the capital campaign. She was excited to give.

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We do have our challenges. Our budget is about $180,000 a year, difficult to meet with just 75 participants. From time to time, we have supplemented our budget by renting out space to other congregations and to nonprofits. We are in a high-density urban neighborhood, so we rent out some of the spaces in our parking lot. Further, we are experiencing some success in building our congregation, having taken in almost a dozen people in the last year and half.

Whether we can fully make our budget this year is still up in the air. We are attempting not to draw more than five percent annually from our endowment so that those funds can grow again. If, however, we can continue to grow steadily, we should be able to make our budget and increase our mission.

The Rev. Tex Sample is a specialist in church and society and a much sought-after lecturer, storyteller, workshop leader, and consultant. The Robert B. and Kathleen Rogers Professor Emeritus of Church and Society at Saint Paul School of Theology in Leawood, Kansas, Tex pastors Trinity UMC in Kansas City, Missouri. He works with Urban Summit (an African American advocacy group), Jobs for Justice (an organization working with people of faith and labor), and the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity in Kansas City. He is author of more than a dozen books, including A Christian Justice for the Common Good and Working Class Rage (both by Abingdon Press).