Noticeably absent from more and more neighborhood parks is the quintessential human powered roller coaster ride – the see-saw. Older generations remember bouncing up and down, back and forth, in a joint venture with a friend who you hoped was about your approximate size and weight. For those that can remember, it started with a feeling of exhilaration, but often ended – when the duration was prolonged – in nausea.
Sometimes being in church leadership feels like being on a see-saw. High highs and low lows. Constant shifts to adjust the balance and distribute the weight. Ongoing modifications to throttle the pace and find healthy rhythms.
None of the ups and downs of church leadership is more apparent than in giving.
Most churches make their budget at the end of the fiscal year as well-intentioned but inconsistent donors scramble for a tax credit in helping a meaningful cause. While these year-end donations are helpful and warmly welcomed, they aren’t the bedrock on which a church can stop the swaying nature of giving fluctuations.
Tomorrow is the first day of March, which means Easter is just around the corner. As churches plan on capitalizing on this naturally occurring cultural opportunity to reach more people, in the back of church leaders’ minds is the nagging concern of how, after spending extra on Easter, the summer slump will quickly approach. It happens all around the country, leaving churches to tighten their figurative belts and brace for a down swing on the see-saw.
But the dip doesn’t have to be so drastic. By cultivating a healthy giving attitude that permeates people’s lifestyles – rather than generous whims – churches can experience healthy, constant giving patterns that will help them better manage church donations.
Cultivating a giving attitude as a lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to thump the pulpit and quote Malachi 3:10. It doesn’t mean you have to guilt people into giving. It especially doesn’t mean you have to trick or persuade people into giving from a place that is not genuine, as if only to get something in return. It requires a calculated approach that helps people develop healthy mindsets surrounding a generous heart.
To do this, there are five very simple things church leaders can do:
1) Get Your Members into Groups
People are longing for connection, for purpose. As people build genuine relational and emotional connections to others, and the cause they support, they’ll be more inclined to consistently champion the cause; which includes financial support. This will also provide further benefit in increased social media engagement, volunteering, and attendance. Furthermore, the relationships they build will provide increased encouragement and accountability to really step up in support of the ministry.
2) Create Meaningful Goals for Ministry Members
As much as people want to be part of something, they want to know what they are part of. This is especially true of younger generations who want to see how their giving or involvement has made a direct impact. Setting achievable, visible goals will encourage people that their contributions are a key part of reaching those milestones. This might be sponsoring a specific community outreach, a missions program, or a capital campaign. In short, people want to be working toward something that matters to them.
3) Offer Multiple Ways to Give
Everyone handles their personal finances differently. Some people use cash, some use checks, some carry nothing but a card, and there are those too, who prefer PayPal or Google Pay. When you only offer the opportunity to give in one method, you make it more difficult for some to remember to prepare their donations properly. If you allow people to give in a way that is consistent with how they operate their finances on a daily basis, you’ll find that it removes barriers to freely giving.
Consider a well-rounded approach that includes:
- The ubiquitous offering basket/bucket
- Online giving solutions
- A church app that allows giving
- Text to give
- Solution that allow for easy recurring giving
Establishing an online giving solution that allows for recurring gifts and the ability to give to specific funds, will produce an increase in consistency, and a passion for the causes to which donors are generously giving to.
4) Transparent Financial Reporting
People want to know that their hard earned money, when given, is being handled appropriately. Shrouding the church budget in secrecy is a great way to dissuade honest, responsible donors from giving freely. It creates unnecessary suspicion that is, sadly, fueled by all the media reported scandals involving church finances. If you’re handling your finances in the right manner, you’ve got nothing to hide. So, share it, and speak to it. Let people know not only where the money is going, but why the money is going there. It has a Kingdom purpose that needs the light shone on it.
5) Teach about Giving
Lastly, but most importantly, as spiritual leaders it is incumbent upon the church to help people understand the heart behind giving. It’s not just about effecting a change in the world or in the church; it’s about an understanding of stewarding God’s resources. It’s about obedience to Him. It’s about love; and expressing that love with a heart of generosity. It’s about cultivating spiritual health through the way we handle physical resources. There are a lot of great materials out there that are designed to help church leaders teach on the importance of giving from a spiritual perspective. If we believe giving is a spiritual issue, we would do our people a disservice by shying away from speaking, teaching, and spending time talking about money.
Church donations don’t have to fluctuate like a see-saw. There is an inevitable rhythm that won’t ever go away, but by implementing holistic, healthy tactics and teachings, church leaders can minimize the effects of the ups and downs and find harmony in the healthy rhythms of a thriving church.