Is your church prepared for the summer giving slump?
By Todd McMichen
If only we had the resources, we could …
We can’t. I wish we could, but cash flow is tight right now.
As a church leader, there’s a good chance you’ve uttered one of these statements, or at least some variation of it. And as you well know, vision proceeds at the speed of resources.
Summer is fast approaching, which means more and more leaders will be talking about financial shortages. Summer is traditionally the lowest giving season at most churches.
People are out of routines and forget to mail their tithe checks or bring them to church to place in the offering plate. Others are perhaps vacationing and traveling more, and as the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind.
Before we get into tips for short- and long-term budgeting, there are several points to keep in mind.
God has a vision for your church that reaches beyond cash flow. His vision is actually so big it requires more than a normal amount of faith and resources. It requires all believers being released to all of Him. This is more a factor of discipleship than resources.
Church budgets are 100 percent man-made. We create them, and then we elevate them to a status that sometimes discourages and binds.
It’s easy to forget that budgets are merely guides that leaders create to help direct. They can be changed at any time and are not the final indicator of financial health. This is more a factor of culture than resources.
Church expenses are choices. It doesn’t matter whether they are for important ministries, staff salaries, capital investments, or operational expenses.
At some point in the history of your church, somebody decided to make that expense relevant. This is more a factor of leadership than resources.
Cash flow is inconsistent. Every Sunday will not produce a great offering. Things break unexpectedly. Churches experience bad weather days and a whole season called summer.
Cash flow is adversely affected by a lot of things from week to week. However, the church ministers over the course of an entire year. The ups and downs of cash flow should be expected, anticipated, and planned for. This is more a factor of planning than resources.
So how do you ensure your church’s vision is well-resourced during every month of the year? How do you make sure your church can realize its ministry goals, confident in your finances?
How can you avoid the stress of cash flow and always be ready to say “yes” to God’s next assignment?
Here are some tips. Actually, they’re pretty common-sense, but they aren’t easy. They will help lead your church well for today and for tomorrow.
Possess a clear vision for both the short and long term. Invest wisely today; save for tomorrow. Vision should drive resources, not the other way around. What if your church is actually spending money today that is robbing from its future potential?
Budget on 90 percent of last year’s receipts. Some churches prepare a future budget that is beyond their actual giving receipts. They believe this is a faith-stretching experience—that people will give more, and the church will grow.
Church leadership then begins to spend ahead of growth and revenue. Six months into the budget year, cash flow is tight, stress begins to rise, and “no” is heard more often.
Increase multichanneled digital giving. Many people have given up on paying with cash or a check. They’ve moved their bill-paying online and use debit or credit cards for everyday expenses.
Many of your church members may show up to church with no money at all. And they may arrive at church with busy minds, distracted with life. They may want to give but aren’t ready to give.
However, adults and teens have their phones. In today’s world, that’s equivalent to an offering plate in their pocket. So make it easy for them to be generous.
Increase digital connectedness. People are away from home more often, leading busier, more transient lives. However, they can stay connected to your church with great tools like social media. Engage your congregation via social media all week long.
Then, even if people are traveling for work or on a family vacation, they can be reminded through their smartphones and other digital devices that their participation—in all forms—is needed and wanted.
And it doesn’t hurt to remind them that—through their giving—they can participate in the ministry of the church even if they aren’t there.
Train your leaders and disciple your people. If you want to reduce financial stress and increase vision capacity, both will be needed.
When leaders invest church resources wisely, they return an investment that grows potential. When leaders take the time to invest in discipling generosity, it will greatly decrease the need to chase resources.
Plan ahead. Church giving goes in waves. Many people give a great deal toward the end of the year, then not as much during the summer. Plan ahead to manage your church’s cash flow, so you have money on hand to keep the ministry going all year long.
And remember to pray. Every church has every resource it needs to carry out God’s vision. If you’re experiencing financial stress or fearing the summer slump, be encouraged.