February-10_blog

What to Do During a Giving Downturn

Some churches found themselves in a surprising spot last year.

Many church leaders anticipated a significant financial downturn in 2020. As the year progressed, they noticed something contrary to their expectations—giving was up. Even with a decrease in overhead (due to the lack of in-person events), many churches’ financial reports were better than originally predicted. Why did giving increase? Some pointed to a combination of online giving and a rescue mentality.

Why did giving increase? Some pointed to a combination of online giving and a rescue mentality.

In this case, rescue mentality stems from churchgoers fearing that their church would struggle, or even go under, during the pandemic. So, they increased their giving. The downside of the rescue mentality is that it is rarely sustainable. This, in addition to ongoing economic struggles, are a couple of reasons why some are once again expecting a downturn in church giving this year.

If your church is struck with a giving downturn, what should you do? Think in terms of defensive and offensive strategies.

Defensive Strategies

Defenses strategies lie primarily in church budgets. They deal with expenses. And defensive strategies are where most churches go to combat a giving downturn. Here are some common ways churches reduce expenditures in anticipation of less giving:

1. Make a few large cuts instead of multiple small cuts.

A giving downturn may provide you with the opportunity to make budget reductions that you know have been needed for some time. These large cuts can better position you for future ministry. Making small budget cuts here and there limits you to only doing the same ministry strategy in the future unlike larger budget cuts that restrict spending now so that your ministry can flourish in the future. So, consider where large cuts are needed instead of several small cuts.

2. Look for areas where a pause is possible.

You may desire to see some expenses persist in the future. You know it’s a worthwhile investment, but you also know your church may not be able to afford that investment right now See if there are areas where a pause is possible. Communicate to the church that there is a desire to see the ministry move forward in the future, but a pause is needed for this season.

3. Reevaluate all contracts and services.

Now is a good time to review every contract. Before committing to another year, make sure to get quotes from two or three competitors. Ensure that you understand the full cost of the partnership before signing any papers. You might be surprised to find out how much you’re over spending on services because you’ve simply gotten used to paying that much.

4. Go digital.

Churches have found that using digital communications not only reduces costs but increases reach. From online giving to email services, explore how your church can go digital.

Churches have found that using digital communications not only reduces costs but increases reach.

Offensive Strategies

While defensive strategies are concerned with church expense, offensive strategies are concerned with church giving. Offensive strategies are often not considered during a giving downtown. This is unfortunate and should be a key area of discussion for church leaders. Here are some offensive strategies for your church to consider:

1. Communicate reality.

Your church should understand the need. Many churches did this in 2020. Members often want to know how they can help. So, if the church starts experiencing a downward giving trend, be sure to communicate this reality. When people feel needed, they step up.

2. Communicate the mission.

Remind churchgoers of the Great Commission opportunity that God has given the church. People are motivated by mission. Help them understand how their generosity can make a difference for all eternity.

3. Develop generous disciples.

Generosity is a hallmark of Christ followers. Throughout Scripture, we see followers of God using their resources to advance His Kingdom. And if your church uses SecureGive, you’ve got great resources in place for both your donors and church leaders (send us an email to stewardship@securegive.com if you’re not sure where to find them.) Spend time considering how you can weave generosity into your discipleship curriculum and teachings.

4. Leverage digital giving.

Many churches experienced a surge in online giving. This provides churches a great opportunity to encourage churchgoers in this direction. Explain how digital giving can help create consistency in their giving, ensuring that they are putting God first in their finances.

Explain how digital giving can help create consistency in their giving, ensuring that they are putting God first in their finances.

 

 

If your church is experiencing a downturn in giving, consider both defensive and offensive strategies. Focus on expenses and generosity. A wholistic approach will not just help you endure a downturn, but it will help you develop a culture of generosity that will, Lord willing, persist well beyond the downturn.

Art Rainer
Art Rainer

Art Rainer is the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes and speaks widely about issues related to finance, wealth, and generosity, and is the author of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money. Art lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina with his wife, Sarah, and their three children.

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