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Twombly on Church’s Mission and Vision

May 1, 2005

Jerry Twombly, former Director of Development for Grace College and Seminary and a Grace Seminary graduate, is featured in an interview with journalist Ron Keener in the April issue of “Church Business” magazine. More information is available at

Q & A with Organizational Developer Gerald H. Twombly

In this interview in a series on congregational planning for campus expansions and building programs, freelance writer Ronald E. Keener talks with organizational developer Gerald H. Twombly about building a congregation’s mission and vision before entering such a program.

Twombly has spent 34 years serving ministries in organizational development and capital campaigns. He’s the president of Development Marketing Associates Inc. (an international consulting firm in Indianapolis) and a member of the Building God’s Way Ministry Consortium.

Twombly has written several books, including Funding Your Vision: New Hope for Non-Profits and Transforming Culture: The Church at Work in the World.

Ronald E. Keener: What do you see as churches’ and ministries’ critical needs today? As they consider campus expansion and outreach, what should they keep in mind?

Gerald H. Twombly: We need churches that plan, design and organize for impact. Every ministry needs to thoughtfully think about the question, If we were to disappear tomorrow, would it make a difference? And while I’m sure that our immediate response would be that there would be a significant hole left in the communities we serve, I suspect that a more thoughtful consideration might yield a different answer.

REK: Why?

GHT: Frankly, I think relatively few organizations — and too few churches — think much beyond the pressing needs of a given day. We exist for a purpose, and it seems to me that purpose played out to its fullest extent will result in changed lives. The impact of changed lives should be reflected in changes in culture. I think a good question to ponder is, How would our community look 10 years from now if our ministry were totally successful in fulfilling its mission?

REK: But not all churches are this way. Have you observed things that are characteristic of churches of impact?

GHT: I’ve seen four things that seem to be consistently present among those ministries I would describe as cutting-edge today. First, they all have a very clear understanding of their mission. They know why they exist, they know precisely what they’re called by God to do, they have clearly thought through how they intend to do it, and there’s little superfluous in the way they administer their work. Second, they have a clear vision for where they want to be. I think one of the incredible qualities of men and women I’ve admired over the years is that they actually ‘see’ a world impacted by what they do. They see individuals for what they could be, not for what they appear to be. They see communities transformed in some very tangible ways by the work they do.

Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade, was a man like that: He literally lived in another world — a world that was transformed by the redemptive work of Christ. And it’s happening elsewhere today!

A third characteristic is that all these ministries have a clearly defined plan composed of quantifiable steps designed over a set period of time to take the church from where it is to where they’re trusting God to take it. Any plans organizations have that don’t have this kind of quantifiable definition are little more than good ideas.

The fourth characteristic is that they have a development or business plan. These churches realize that resources will be required to accomplish strategic planning initiatives, and they know exactly what they’re going to do each year to add to the existing resources to create the internal infrastructure that will be required to build for the future.

REK: Isn’t the whole idea of “planning” a problem for churches?

GHT: Yes. Dallas Willard made an incredibly telling statement in his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines. He said — and this won’t be word-for-word — that the average church has no more idea how to address the mandates of Scripture than the average senator going to Washington knows how to address the national debt.

His point is that we don’t have a plan to impact our communities, to impact peoples’ lives, on how to work to bring about the kind of cultural changes that have always accompanied the presence of God in a place.

Think about it: The testimony of the residents of Jerusalem of the maligned disciples of the ascended Christ was, ‘They’ve turned the world upside down.’ That’s not a statement typically used to describe a church in many communities.

REK: But can you expect this sort of thinking and planning of the 75-member church, or even of the 150-or 300-member congregation? How does the ‘typical’ church manage to do this?

GHT: It must be the thinking of churches of any size! The challenges facing smaller churches are predominantly organizational issues — how to leverage limited resources for maximum impact. I’m of the belief that when God calls a work into existence, He provides for it in every way. Every church is composed of gifted people who need one another to accomplish the great work to which the Church is entrusted.

REK: How is impact realized?

GHT: Through relationships. If I look back at my life, all the decisions I’ve ever made, both good and bad, have been associated with people. I can think of godly men and women, Sunday school teachers, pastors and others who encouraged me when I needed it, admonished me when I required it, and pushed me to do what I might have been reluctant to pursue.

REK: That’s true, but are there ways to organize what is typically a spontaneous work?

GHT: We can create relational environments, both inside the Church and outside the Church. That was certainly true in the early Church, and it needs to be more characteristic of the Church of our generation. It’s good to talk about this, but we need a plan to get it done. We can talk all day long about the demise of values and its accompanying effect on society, but what do we intend to do about it? Do we have a plan? Are we training and equipping people in a manner consistent with Ephesians 4? And are we deploying them in organized, planned and purposeful ways to truly be ‘salt and light’ in our world?

REK: You sound frustrated.

GHT: I am. I sincerely believe we live in one of the most exciting times in history. Our generation is poised like no generation that has preceded us to impact an entire generation for Christ. We have the people — [more than] 40 percent of the population of our country claim to be evangelical Christians. We have churches, [and] we have unbelievable communication capabilities. We have everything we need but a clearly executed plan.

REK: You’re regarded as someone who has been quite successful in helping organizations raise funds. Why have you talked so little about it here?

GHT: Raising money is not a series of slick techniques creatively designed to extract from people what it is they would rather not be without. Effective organizational ‘development’ is all about relationships; it has very little to do with money, and, interestingly, very little to do with what you have to say. To the degree that you build relationships, however, you’ll never lack for money, nor for an audience who will be responsive to what you have to say. But if you lead with your need apart from the relationship, you’ll almost always be perceived as manipulative.

REK: Do you feel churches are typically ready to enter a capital campaign?

GHT: On average, no. I’m not suggesting that churches are incompetent; I’m suggesting that major funding campaigns are more of an afterthought. We realize that we need to build something to accommodate growth, and it’s suggested that what needs to take place is a campaign. That was the first moment, in many organizations, that anyone had given clear thought to the important role a campaign might plan in their future. And just like a lot of individuals, the vision of an organization often outstrips its potential.

REK: What should a church do?

GHT: Well, there are a lot of obvious options. One would be to begin creating infrastructure to match the need. That’s relatively easy to do, but it involves time and attention.

Another is to create a plan that’s more consistent with organizational capacity. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t an important faith component to the tasks to which we commit ourselves, but after 34 years of doing this work, I’ve seen more presumption than faith — and there’s a difference.

A third option is to check out creative funding solutions. Our organization is working with some key national financial players in developing some very creative options that can be effective in generating income to qualified organizations to build buildings now, without significantly impacting operational income. There are answers out there.

Ronald E. Keener writes from Mesa, Ariz., where he follows faith issues for the Church in society and culture, church renewal and growth, and leadership and management. He is the former editor of Christian Management Report. Contact Keener at

Gerald H. Twombly, president of Development Marketing Associates Inc., is a graduate of Miami Bible College (1967) and Grace Theological Seminary (1970). Twombly has spent his career in organizational development. Since he founded DMA in 1985, he has worked with nearly 4,000 churches, schools, colleges and ministries in all 50 states, as well as five provinces of Canada and several countries around the world, to raise nearly $2 billion to further the cause of Christ. Reach him by e-mail at
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