Most churches across America have one thing in common during the summer months – other than hosting VBS or various camps for kids who are enjoying being out of school. I’m referring to the typical “summer slump” in giving.
People enjoy making family plans and taking vacations during the warm summer months. But when people are absent from church, their giving is usually absent, too. Fortunately, there is a relatively simple fix to curb this summer slump (plus a super-handy and practical download to walk you through it).
And the time to start is now – to give your people ample time before summer is upon us.
So let’s get right to it! Here are three steps you can take now to avoid a summer giving slump:
Please note: In these three steps I’m assuming you have an online giving portal in place through your website. If not, you need to read this blog post first to understand the importance of having online giving, and then, the importance of being mobile. If you already have online giving in place, please continue reading…
1. SET UP RECURRING GIVING YOURSELF
(AND ASK YOUR STAFF TO DO THE SAME)
First of all, you’ll need to do this yourself because you’ll be explaining it to your people. Having gone through the set up will also help you tell how easy it was to do, while you challenge your people to do the same. And you wouldn’t ask your people to do something you and your staff haven’t done. Most importantly, this allows you to be the leader. Remember: generous churches are led by generous pastors.
2. SET TWO MEASURABLE GOALS
You may have heard the Peter Drucker quote, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Well, this statement rings true in the case of giving, too. If you want to see success in this area, you will need to first determine what success looks like for you and your church. So take a moment and set some specific goals for your giving. Make sure they are measurable and achievable – nothing too far out of reach, but something you can celebrate as a church in the near future.
Working with churches in the realm of generosity, I see it quite often – common mistakes in the church budget planning process. I see these with regularity, which makes me wonder if perhaps you too have committed one or more of the three most common mistakes in your church budget planning process and not realized it. (It’s ok – not only will I share with you what these three mistakes are, I will also share some ideas on how to avoid or fix them!)
The three mistakes listed below come straight from a recent webinar on the subject. You will want to pull it up soon to hear Jim Sheppard, one of our Principal Partners at Generis, and William Vanderbloemen of Vanderbloemen Search Group discuss these common mistakes made in the church budget planning process.
MISTAKE #1 – Operational Expense Mistakes
Regardless of church size and mission focus, there are three common line item “categories” in every church budget: people (personnel) expenses, building/facility expenses, and everything else (ministry, missions, etc.). What problems do we typically see in this area?
Churches often let the people and building/facility expense categories grow too large, at the expense of ministry and missions. The most common mistakes here are:
- staffing expenses that have grown larger than they should for a specific church’s model of ministry.
- facility costs, usually including over-sized mortgage management, on a space that is too large or was a bit too aggressive financially to construct.
If you have too much going to one or both of these categories, little is left to actually fund the mission of your ministry! For example, if you have 50% of your budget going to personnel expenses, and 40% to building/facility expenses, that only leaves 10% for everything else. And that 10% is supposed to fund all of your ministries and missions while staying within budget.)
So what portion of a church’s total budget should these categories hold? That depends largely on your individual church, but here are some benchmarks to consider:
The standard rule that has floated for years is to keep personnel expenses between 45-52% of total budget. But that isn’t appropriate for every church. It’s too much for some, and perhaps not enough for others. It depends on how you do ministry, and what resources you provide.
- Are you a staff-driven church, or one that is more congregationally driven, leveraging a large volunteer pool?
- What kinds of programming do you offer? A church that offers an on-site counseling center, daycare, or school might have larger personnel budgets than those that don’t have those programs on site.
- A church that outsources some roles might have a lower total personnel expense. I am seeing more and more the outsourcing of several areas previously handled by church staff, including communications (print design, website creation and management, video production of church announcements, etc.) and finance (accounting, payroll, etc.).
- What is too much or too little? Vanderbloemen shared that a personnel budget running lower than 40% or higher than 65% would both be numbers that might indicate need for some study and review.
I want to share a very important task with you today. This is an idea that, if you implement it by December 20, will increase giving in your church during the last two weeks of the year.
We know a large percentage of giving happens right at the end of the year. One third of all charitable giving happens in the last 3 months of the year, and 18% comes in the month of December. Also 31% of all ONLINE giving occurs in the month of December! Do I have your attention?
So here’s a way to receive a bigger slice of the pie. I’ll get right to the point of this post, and then let you read on for the full story: prepare and send an 11-month giving statement by December 20 (earlier if possible).
I’m not like most people sitting in the seats of your worship center during the weekend. I monitor giving closely. My wife and I set giving goals every year, and we strive to reach them. Giving is a priority for us.
I recall a few years back when I thought we were right on track toward our giving goal. At the end of December, I ran my usual giving report from my personal finance software. (I said I’m unusual, so here’s more proof: I actually run giving reports in my personal finance software!)
Expecting to see my giving at a particular place, I was surprised, (shocked actually) that where I THOUGHT we were for the year, and where we ACTUALLY were, didn’t match. We were significantly behind. How could that have happened? It didn’t matter – it had happened.
Fortunately it was December 30, so I was able to run a check up to the church office, and our goal was attained. (I am now in the practice of running my giving report more frequently. I don’t like last minute surprises!)
It’s a well-known and common giving metric. Warm months of summer vacations and other family plans cause a trend of lower church attendance.
And when people are absent, their giving usually is too. Here’s what annual church giving typically looks like from a big picture perspective:
Does your church’s giving look like this?
If so, please know there’s good news.
#1 – It doesn’t have to be this way.
#2 – There are steps you can take to counteract this trend (and they’re easy)!
You can fight the summer giving slump by promoting recurring giving with the help of a new and practical 12-page resource designed with that very purpose in mind.
This step-by-step guide is an easy and quick read that will help you better understand the impact that increased recurring giving can have for your church, your people, and your ministry.
The topic of an annual report isn’t a new one for my blog. We’ve talked about it before (and even before that). But I want to talk today about something I haven’t hit on all that much before – the appearance of your church’s annual report.
To many lead pastors, executive pastors, and business administrators, this may sound odd. But it’s important to see your annual report through the eyes of your givers.
I’ve said it before, and it may sound cliche, but it’s the truth. Photos and videos evoke heart-level emotion. And that’s right where you need to be. More importantly, when people see an annual report that is visually appealing and intriguing, they’re much more likely to read it and much less likely to discard it.
We learn best from real life examples, so let’s take a quick look at a before-and-after annual report makeover. Here’s what a client church recently compiled to send out as a year-in-review annual report (after I redacted church and pastor names):
It’s e-book launch month again! And after the feedback I received from my last e-book, I can hardly wait to get this one in your hands. As I promised in my last blog post, this is another very practical resource to help your church accelerate generosity – this time with a focus on intentional communication.
While my co-author and designer Kaycee and I are finalizing the very last details, I wanted to provide you, my faithful blog readers, a sample of what this resource holds for you and your church.
So let’s take a look today at chapter 4 – specifically the section on worship bulletins. (I told you it was super practical!)
FROM GENEROSITY SPEAKS:
Part of the purpose of your bulletin, whether you are intentional about it or not, is that it informs and educates those who have just come through your doors, especially the very first time.
People just don’t like to talk about money. Maybe you’ve already come to that conclusion. But did you know this? More people dislike talking about money than death or politics or taxes. (Yes, you read that right!)
A survey from Wells Fargo last year revealed “nearly half of Americans say the most challenging topic to discuss with others is personal finance.”
It’s not just your church. It’s not just the people at your church. No one seems to like it!
Interestingly, although conversations about money seem to be avoided or heated, financial concerns are staying top-of-mind. Two in five people in the survey said money is the source of the most stress in their life, and one in three people said they’ve lost sleep worrying over finances.
And when you look generationally, 71% reported learning to spend and save from their parents, but only one-third of today’s parents reported teaching these principles to their children. You see, there’s a fallout happening.
How do you grow generous hearts? As a pastor you’ve probably asked yourself (and your other pastor friends) that very question. How do you accelerate generosity in your church? How do you help people take the next step in their giving journey? How do you encourage your people to live radically generous lives?
You’re not alone. The team at Generis is asking those same questions, and with more than 600 years of combined ministry and consulting experience on the team, we have a few answers to share.
With the launch of the new Generis website, you can find some of those answers while our team continues growing generous hearts toward God-inspired vision.
Giving is perhaps the best spiritual tool we have in our inventory – and often the most ignored. As a result, many church leaders find themselves in a giving rut, stuck in habits and routines that limit the generosity of their people. (We talked about those habits in my last post.)
But today I’d like to focus on the solutions. What can church leaders do when they find themselves stuck in routines that actually work against growing the generosity of their church? I’d like to propose six solutions to get you started.
1. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO IMPLEMENT CHANGE. SLOWLY.
When you realize you need to make a change, the first thing to do is give yourself permission. Change things up when they need to be changed. But do it slowly. Gradually.
We are continuing in our “You Asked For It” series with another question that came from our reader survey late last year.
In case you missed the first two topics in this series, you can quickly catch up on recent posts: encouraging generosity outside the offering moment and 3 steps to creating a culture of generosity.
Today we tackle a question multiple pastors submitted with their survey. It’s one I hear quite frequently in meetings with church leaders across the country as well.
Q: How often should we preach on the subject of giving, stewardship, or generosity in general?
A: What I find in many churches today is that many pastors only preach on this topic once a year, either in a single sermon or in a sermon series. Often, the sermon or series occurs during the church’s fall “annual stewardship campaign,” in which everyone is asked to make a giving pledge for the following year. I call it “The Hunt For Green October.”