Contact Larry Sykora at LSykora@TheColumbiaPartnership.org
or call him at 770.335.0836.
What Do Pastors Say about Larry Sykora?
To say Birmingham United Methodist Church was struggling to make it financially would be an understatement. With ten million dollars in capital debt, our mortgage payment was well over 50% of our annual budget---and that was before the recession. After the financial collapse of Wall Street and the banking industry, we reduced staff, cut spending and explored every fund raising possibility we could imagine.
In spite of all of our efforts, we were still on the brink of bankruptcy. We saw no other option than to have a financial campaign and try to reduce the mortgage. At the recommendation of a colleague, we invited Larry to meet with our leadership team about the possibility of consulting with us on a debt reduction campaign.
After carefully listening to our story and reviewing our budget and giving statements, Larry's recommendation was that we were not ready for a debt reduction campaign, instead we needed to focus on stewardship and educating our congregation about tithing. We decided to follow his advice and went to our congregation with a fairly simple message---stewardship is not our way of raising a budget, but God's way of making disciples.
The results have been nothing short of extraordinary. Participation in submitting an estimated giving card has increased more than 40%, the amount pledged has increased by more than 50%. One of the more amazing details about our stewardship campaign is that our weekly attendance grew each week. Our congregation has a renewed sense of hope and purpose (and incidentally, so does their Pastor!)
Looking back, I can say without reservation that there is no way we would have been able to experience the kinds of results we have had without Larry's leadership. I'm not sure what would have happened if we had gone forward with a debt reduction campaign but I'm certain we would not be in the position we are in now. Larry's years of proven experience and "behind the scenes approach" made him the perfect fit for BUMC and when we are ready for our debt reduction campaign he will be the first call we make.
Dr. Dave Benson, Senior Pastor, Birmingham United Methodist, Milton, GA
Decatur First United Methodist Church secured the services of Larry Sykora four years ago after interviewing three different companies. Our decision wasn’t based on the company, but on the person who would be leading us through our stewardship emphasis. We chose Larry and were glad we did. His history as a Methodist pastor, his pastoral approach and theological underpinning of stewardship was well received by our stewardship team and congregation. Our first year’s results under his leadership gave us a fifteen percent increase in pledged giving.
Rev. David S. Naglee, Senior Minister, Decatur First United Methodist Church
“I have worked three capital campaigns with Larry Sykora during the last fifteen years (two at Eatonton First UMC and one at McEachern Memorial UMC). They have all been successful, but the how Larry carries out his work is the critical factor. This is his ministry, and he approaches it with the same compassion and integrity you approach your own. Giving is a spiritual journey, and Larry honors that in his ministry. Our campaigns were more like revivals than fundraisers, and that goes directly to the heart of Larry’s Bible-based theology of giving. Without reservation, I recommend Larry Sykora to you.”
Dr. Robin L. Lindsey, Senior Pastor, Dalton First United Methodist Church
I have worked with Larry Sykora in two churches—the 2000 member First United Methodist Church of Fayetteville and the 4000 member FUMC of Marietta. Through the campaigns, Larry has always been prepared, energetic, engaging, and completely professional. He has interacted well both with church staff and laity, quickly gaining the trust of even the most hesitant participants. Larry knows the church and he knows his mission. He answers questions, promotes involvement, and offers great encouragement to people who are not as skilled in this discipline as is he. When our campaigns were ready to be “rolled out” to the congregation, in both churches we had committees who were prepared, very capable, and quietly confident. And we have experienced great success with his programs! Significant increases, both in numbers of congregants participating and in the dollars committed, resulted from the campaigns. The increases continued, then, into the second, third, and fourth years just as Larry had predicted for the churches.
I have complete confidence in Larry Sykora the man and the minister, and in his programs. I recommend him without reservation.
Dr. Sam R. Matthews, Senior Minister, First United Methodist Church, Marietta, Georgia
Cape Coral First, like many of you, has been experiencing the difficulties of the economy while trying to do more ministry towards making disciples and transforming our community. This past year we were at a crossroads – do something different or face staff cuts.
Our church talked with Rev. Larry Sykora, a ministry colleague of The Columbia Partnership (www.thecolumbiapartnership.org), about helping us with a stewardship campaign for our operating budget. Larry is an ordained elder from the Texas Annual Conference. He served churches there for 17 years, including founding a thriving church in Houston. He was so gifted at leading his churches in stewardship that his bishop encouraged him to develop his calling in that direction. Twenty-five years and 175 churches later, he’s still going strong. Larry is someone who loves Jesus dearly, has an authentic warmth, and can also have great fun with ministry.
Larry helped me and our church to realize we weren’t truly engaged in stewardship. We were fundraising – and there is a difference. At the end of our “Taking the Next Step” generosity campaign we were blown away with our results: a 64% increase in financial commitments to the church. The total number of commitments to the church over doubled. In fact, we had more people make first time commitments for 2010 than we had in total commitments for 2009. It also helped our congregation to coalesce around a common goal and better understand God’s dreams for our mission and ministry.
Larry also led a capital campaign for a renovation and construction project on our campus. This campaign has enabled us to completely renovate the west end of our campus including achieving a long-held dream of creating a Christian pre-school so that we can help make disciples at an even earlier age. His leadership and assistance has had an enormous kingdom-impact at Cape Coral First, and we are grateful for his guidance.
I would be happy to talk about our experience with Larry should you have any questions. God bless you and your ministries!
Jay Therrell, Senior Pastor, Cape Coral [Florida] First United Methodist Church
Larry Sykora Joins The Columbia Partnership as a Ministry Colleague
Larry Sykora of Cumming, Ga has joined The Columbia Partnership as a Ministry Colleague concentrating on Developing Resources. Larry is now available to assist congregations with capital campaigns, planned giving, and annual giving. He is the fourth new person to connect with the Developing Resources Team this year.
Larry enjoys “building relationships with people and pastors to guide them and help them reach an understanding of God’s will for them in relation to generosity, and then to act on that understanding.” He believes he can best do this through The Columbia Partnership as a member of the Developing Resources Team led by Ruben Swint, a Ministry Colleague and board member with TCP.
After receiving his Master of Divinity degree and then doing post-graduate work at the University of Edinburgh, Larry has spent more than 40 years in ministry as an ordained United Methodist minister. As founding pastor of a thriving church in the Houston area, he saw his congregation excel in growth and personal stewardship. In 1985, after 17 years in the local church, Larry sensed his calling taking a new direction and has spent the past 25 years consulting with churches through a ministry of stewardship and generosity. He has led more than 175 campaigns, each with its own dynamic challenges, and has led multiple campaigns in more than 20 of these churches.
Larry Sykora is known for spirited leadership given with the heart of a true servant. He is an expert at building collaborative relationships, strategizing the overall plan for a church’s giving campaign and structuring the team of staff and lay leaders who will carry it out.
In describing his decision to join The Columbia Partnership, Larry shares, “It is my belief that Columbia Partnership represents a ministry with great integrity and gifted people and gifted skills to further the Kingdom in the North American Church. I believe that coming alongside Ruben Swint will help to continue build a team that will further develop a high quality and effective stewardship ministry. I believe a relationship with The Columbia Partnership will allow me the opportunity to further develop, and give of the skills and gifts that I have been blessed with over the past 25 years.”
Larry is married to Gerry Sykora. They are members and teachers at Northbrook United Methodist Church in Roswell, GA. To contact Larry, you may send him an e-mail at LSykora@TheColumbiaPartnership.org or call him at 770.335.0836.
The Developing Resources Team with The Columbia Partnership now includes Ruben Swint, Ann Updegraff Spleth, Don Durham, and Larry Sykora. Within this team is more than 75 years of fundraising experience. Two have served as foundation presidents, two have served on the staff of national fundraising organizations, all four are ordained ministers, and one is an adjunct faculty member of the Fund Raising School at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. It is a highly qualified and experienced team of fundraising professionals ready to help congregations, denominations, and parachurch organizations benefit from effective generosity approaches.