When you were a child, did you receive a Christmas or birthday card with a crisp bill of money from a grandparent? Were you ever chastised for neglecting to send a thank you card, including how you spent the money?
As a kid in Kansas City, my church conducted a large fundraising campaign to build an addition to the building with a much larger sanctuary. I gave $250, which was quite a lot of money. Unfortunately, when I graduated from high school, the building had not yet been completed. Nor when I completed college. Each time I visited Kansas City and drove past the unfinished building, I was thankful for what I had received from the church but also frustrated that my gift had not produced the result I had hoped for.
I’ve been privileged both to receive and give to NCC while I attended from 2010-2013 as well. The difference in this experience is that NCC completes projects and starts new ones at a rapid pace. It’s hard to keep track of the progress. I’m proud to be an “NCCer,” but sometimes wonder if my opportunities for contribution (and spiritual involvement) are behind me. I received so much and wonder if there is a way to contribute more.
Colleges and universities have alumni networks, like my alma mater Regent University. So do some Christian ministries, like Summit Ministries. So do big consulting firms like Accenture, where I worked in DC. Why? To share their positive stories and earn the opportunity to continue to serve friends and family members or sell additional services.
So why don’t churches have alumni networks? It’s extra work, and church people are already busy. But the potential payoff is enormous. In fact, I believe NCC is the perfect church to have an alumni network.
Why NCC is the Perfect Church to Have an Alumni Network
NCC believes that the church ought to be the most creative place on the planet, and that to reach people no one is reaching, you have to do things no one is doing. Church alumni who have moved away often transition from “reached” to “unreached,” unless or until they find a new church to attend on their own. It stands to reason that NCC is the kind of place that would continue to invest in their alumni once they move away from the DC area.
Strategically speaking, NCC attendees hail from every state in the US, and many countries as well. By nature of their work, they are expected to be innovators and influencers. Because of the transient nature of the geography, their stints in DC (and NCC) may be short before life redeploys them back from whence they came or in a new direction. If the “church” is actually made up of the people who belong to Christ, that means NCC is already launching thousands of expressions of NCC to the nations each year without planning or capital campaigns. The basic structure of an Alumni Network would maximize the investment that is already taking place.
As a creative leader, I believe NCC is able not just to create a great Alumni Network, but to build a model that could serve as a best practice for other churches as well.
Let’s explore the significant benefits both to alumni and NCC.
Benefits to Alumni
NCC Alumni would benefit in many significant ways.
- Ongoing connection with NCC – Many NCC alumni leave a great church, great friends and (in many cases), high emotional/financial investment in NCC causes behind. Having an alumni network would provide an ongoing connection back to these people, experiences and opportunities.
- Opportunity to continue NCC charitable giving – With an ongoing connection to NCC, alumni would be given the opportunity to continue to contribute to NCC causes as part-owners – especially if specifically invited to do so and provided with periodic updates.
- Increased community with other alumni in new locations – Often times NCC alumni who leave the DC area do so without a friend or peer group. An alumni network with a social component could provide connections to other NCC alumni in the same cities.
- Increased speed to find a new church (and decrease church abandonment) – An alumni network would be a tremendous benefit to NCC alumni who relocate to other cities and need to find a church. NCC may recommend churches in different cities, but even more beneficial would be a way for alums to see which churches other NCC alumni in that city are attending, ask for their recommendations and receive invitations to visit. The rate of NCC alum who stop attending church after leaving the DC area may not be currently known, but an alumni network would help prevent church abandonment and ensure that time spent at NCC was “seed that fell on good soil.”
- Opportunity to participate on missions trips – Inviting NCC alumni to participate on a missions trip (either with current NCCers or as a designated alumni group) would provide an involvement opportunity that could take significant time to find in a new city. NCC alumni in different cities could spend time together again while serving on a trip. It would also provide an engagement opportunity with NCC.
- Business Opportunities – Including a business directory would be a great way for NCC alumni to buy/sell/recommend services to one another.
Benefits to NCC
An alumni network would significantly increase many key metrics of special interest to NCC.
- Higher attendance at NCC – Because of it’s strategic location in our nation’s capitol, NCC has members from each state, as well as alumni from each state. By engaging this population, alumni are much more likely to recommend NCC to friends and acquaintances moving to the DC area.
- Increased giving to NCC – NCC Alumni made charitable contributions to NCC and NCC projects (like the Dream Center) while attending in DC, despite the fact that their earning potential was (in many cases) far below its eventual potential. But even if their NCC/DC stint was short, alumni feel a sense of ownership in the church and the projects they helped fund. We would love to continue to contribute, especially if we specifically invited and provided status updates. We’d also be likely to fund new projects, like the Bridges Nashville church plant – especially if we had existing relationships with the leaders there through NCC. Additionally, alumni earning potentially is likely above what it was in DC, which means more potential dollars to contribute.
- Higher participation in missions trips – If mission trip opportunities were available to NCC alumni, some would undoubtedly want to participate and make a meaningful contribution.
- Increased sales of products produced by NCC staff – NCC is a creative church and a productive church, with thought leaders and authors frequently producing new books, curriculums, music, etc. Alumni would purchase these items if they were made aware of new releases.
- Achieving each NCC Dream (and new ones) – NCC alumni could help NCC achieve each dream, and new ones too.
- Close the “why we exist” loop – It’s often said that NCC “exists for the people who aren’t here yet.” An alumni network would allow NCC to simultaneously “exist for the people who aren’t here anymore.”
- It’s in the name “National” – An alumni network emphasizes the “National” in “National Community Church.”
- More people coming to faith in Christ – Accepting, knowing, loving and serving Jesus is the ultimate goal. All the other metrics contribute to this.
What it Could Look Like
- Communications Oversight – Most alumni engagement initiatives fall under an organization’s business development or communications department. For NCC, the first step would likely require the Communications team to take ownership.
- Database – The next step to creating an alumni group would be adding a database or updating the existing database with an alumni identifier. This might be achieved by identifying all the individuals who have made a contribution to NCC and who have updated their address to another city, and automatically sending them an email from a template asking if they have moved away and would like to join the NCC Alumni Network.
- Quarterly Newsletter – The most simple outreach idea would probably be a quarterly newsletter sharing goings on at NCC such as project updates (e.g. Dream Center, new campuses, staff updates/changes), new sermon series, staff published works, charitable opportunities, etc.
- Portal – A portal would be another benefit. It could be social media-based (like a Facebook group – or series of groups by geography), or it could be like an educational alumni group – like the Regent University alumni association – with chapters, directories, mentor communities, etc.
- Alumni of the Year – One fun feature could be alumni spotlights in NCC communications, such as an Alumni of the Year (or Quarter). This would underscore the point that NCC alumni are still contributors to NCC. (I would nominate Stephen Reiff, who started the Ambassadors Club in Dallas, which resulted in over 50 young professionals giving over $200,000 to charitable Kingdom causes in 2018 and was profiled in World Magazine. Ironically, these 50 individuals accomplished 10% of NCC’s dream to give $2 million to missions. It was only after I randomly met Stephen that we realized we had both attended NCC at the same time together, but had never crossed paths. What a lost opportunity that would have been – one that could have been much less random with an alumni network!)
- Virtual small groups – While nothing can replace in-person, life-on-life community, successful models have existing for some time, such as addiction-based groups through XXX Church or international outreach to members in countries with governments hostile to Christianity. For a church who believes that church should be the most creative place on the planet, you might expect NCC to be an early adapter and leader in this type of endeavor. NCC alumni might be the best people to serve as leaders for this type of initiative.
- Services broadcast live – Ideally NCC alumni are firmly planted into new churches, but streaming live services from NCC would be a benefit, not competition – and could be easily shared.
The Best Approach
- Start small
- Get a quick win
- Gain momentum
- Grow alumni network from there
I believe the possibilities for impact with an alumni network are only as limited as NCC’s vision itself. I am only one of the NCC alumni who would stand ready to participate.