5 Church Year-End Efforts to Elevate This Year (And How)

5 Church Year-End Efforts to Elevate This Year (And How)

When the end of the year rolls around, everyone in the church world knows what to expect.

Send the giving statements.

Draft up the annual report.

Cast a big vision for the upcoming year.

We’re so used to the year-end activities, they’ve almost become routine.

But 2020 hasn’t been a routine year. And for all that the church has had to change this year, I want to encourage you to make one more change. Transform the way your church does some of your typical year-end activities.

The usual way won’t cut it this year.

It doesn’t serve anyone to pretend that 2020 hasn’t been financially, spiritually, and emotionally damaging for many people with losses of income, time in corporate worship, and feelings of hope and normalcy.

As churches seek to move forward and bounce back from the lockdowns, the stakes feel higher. Making a few small-scale but impactful changes in the year-end efforts can make a huge impact for church leaders who are hoping to revitalize both finances and spirits.

#1 – Reporting

Many churches begin their vision casting for the new year and remind the congregation of their mission through the annual report.

This year’s annual report is a powerful venue to show people what hasn’t changed in 2020. Play that up majorly and don’t skimp on the details. 

The way the Church shifted gears and continued to do ministry earlier this year was incredibly moving. Use the annual report to emphasize how you found ways to still serve your community, baptize people, bring in new members, etc.

Annual reporting should do two things: share numbers and tell stories.

When churches present annual reports during in-person services traditionally, many churches choose to have multiple people present and report on their ministry area. This can still happen in 2020. You don’t have to resort to sending out a PDF—this is the time to cheerfully share what God has done in your church this year and inspire people to participate.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to creatively engage people through the annual report virtually. You can break the annual report sections up into smaller chunks for social media.

Leverage the power of photos and videos, which helps the “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read) people digest the details. Ask ministry leaders to record short highlight videos.

Not sure which numbers to track? Check out this article on the top ten numbers churches should track.

#2 – Fundraising

Churches tend to get a year-end financial bump since 31% of charitable giving happens in December.

But this year, there are likely many churches relying on year-end generosity to close the major financial gaps that occurred during the lockdowns. Early on in the pandemic, research showed that more than half of pastors reported that giving had decreased and 30% of those pastors said giving had decreased by at least 50%.

Make a few intentional adjustments to make your church’s year-end fundraising efforts more compelling and effective.

  • Make it multichannel. Too many year-end fundraisers tend to get a lot of in-service attention but are never mentioned anywhere else. Your church website is likely getting more traction than ever—why not focus it primarily on fundraising in December? Give your year-end campaign a prominent space on the homepage. And don’t forget that social media, email, and traditional snail mail are all other huge opportunities to give year-end fundraising a big push outside of weekend services.
  • Make it easy. We say this all the time at Church Fuel: evaluate your processes and make sure they’re as simple as possible for people. The easier you make it to give, serve, join a small group, etc., the more likely people are to participate. Most online giving platforms have a text-to-give option and services like Text in Church make it easy to send text messages to remind people about the year-end fundraiser.
  • Dedicate a special day (or join in on an existing one like #GivingTuesday, when people gave $3.6 billion online to non-profit organizations last year). A specific ask for a specific fundraising effort on a specific day gives people the details they need and prompts them to get in on a big, special day of giving alongside their church family.
  • Encourage non-traditional measures for a non-traditional year. People cleared out their closets and garages during quarantine so much that some Goodwill stores asked them to stop. Others reworked their financial assets and some discovered valuables that they plan to give away. Remind people that they can give non-cash assets to the church too, such as stocks, real estate, and vehicles.
  • Go to your most engaged people. While it’s important to also inspire those who don’t usually give or serve, it’s even more effective to reach out to the most engaged segments of your congregation. Nonprofit volunteers have been shown to donate at twice the rate of those who don’t volunteer. And it makes sense—those who have already “bought-in” to the church’s mission and vision and shown their commitment through their generosity in finances and service are likely to be the most motivated to help meet year-end goals.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, check out the Comeback Offering resource that’s included in the Rebound course. It provides everything you need to do a special offering (even scripts and graphics).

#3 – Vision Casting

Church leaders use the phrase “casting vision” a lot. But what does it mean to cast a vision? It doesn’t mean to be preoccupied with numbers and ignore God’s direction. It’s simply setting a strategic vision for ministry, including goals and objectives, that serves God and the church’s overall mission.

This year, transform your vision casting for the new year by expanding it.

Include your staff. Cast a vision that gives staff and volunteers clarity on their goals for next year and excited about their roles. This helps to improve morale and give some of the church’s most important “players” specific parts to play.

  • How can church leaders work with ministry leaders and volunteers to cast a new vision for each ministry area?
  • Did the pandemic expose any strengths or weaknesses in ministry areas that the church needed more emphasis or a new strategy?
  • Which of next year’s church events and initiatives can help move toward the vision?

Set ambitious goals. Don’t hesitate to enthusiastically share what you want the church to look like in 2021 even though this year didn’t turn out the way any of us expected.

  • How were you inspired by the church’s response to the pandemic?
  • What do you want to carry over into the new year and what do you want to stop?
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid that the new year will be “unprecedented” too?

This doesn’t mean throwing all caution to the wind. It means putting aside fear and putting faith in a limitless God.

Don’t leave anything out. Does your church send out a year-end letter? This year, let honesty and transparency mark your tone.

Remember to mention the new vision and goals and tell people how they can help. Be honest about budget concerns. Thank everyone who gave, served, and attended in 2020 while also encouraging people to donate toward and participate in the future.

Your year-end communications are an incredible opportunity to inspire people to share in the 2021 vision and sign up to be a part of it.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, a Donor Update Email Template is one of the hundreds of documents available in the Resource Library.

#4 – Budgeting

While year-end fundraising and generosity can help churches finish the year financially stronger, it’s important to plan next year’s budget with a few things in mind.

  • Budget for new staff roles and expenses. The “new normal” for many churches will still include extra safety and sanitation measures which, of course, require extra money.
  • Budget based on this year’s reality. It’s fine to include space for a hopeful return to normal numbers but church financial experts have said that they don’t expect giving to bounce back until maybe Easter 2021. Don’t budget based on last year’s numbers.
  • Budget to fill the gaps that 2020 created. Plan for new income and not just expenses. There are multiple training videos and resources in the Rebound course that go into detail on how to do this.

Based on numbers reported from many churches, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that giving won’t return to normal for a while. Don’t plan in fear, but don’t plan the same way.

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4 Plans Church Leaders Need for Christmas

4 Plans Church Leaders Need for Christmas

Christmas season is often joyful for everyone except pastors and their church staff. 

Not that you don’t love the story of Christ’s birth and who you get to share it with. But while everyone else is singing carols and buying car-fulls of Christmas gifts as their house fills with the warming smell of sugar cookies, you are frantically trying to plan a Christmas service your church will enjoy. 

While also not vandalizing the integrity of the nativity story, or softening the truth of who Jesus is and why He came down to earth. 

And trying not to get caught up in the pageantry of the Christmas season. 

And trying to please everyone and their grandmother. 

Don’t implode just yet. We just want you to know that we understand.

Most of our Church Fuel family members have led a church through the Christmas planning hail storm or are currently serving in a volunteer role with their sleeves rolled up, working to ensure this year’s Christmas services are the best yet. 

Emotions and outside pressure aside, the Christmas planning season can absolutely drain you of all energy and mental capacity. Planning Christmas demands that you make multiple plans that work in unison to make the whole thing run smoothly. 

So, you’re not planning one thing. You’re planning multiple things that have to fit together and feed into each other. 

In reality, multitasking is a recipe for disaster and failure. Your brain can legitimately focus on one thing at a time. Introduce one more thing, and the quality of your planning starts to plummet. 

To bring everything into perspective and help you plan the right things at the right time, we wanted to give you four plans to have for Christmas. 

Read through each plan and use the resources we mention throughout. When you focus on one thing at a time, you’ll be able to plan the best Christmas your church has yet to experience. 

#1 – Sermon Series Plan

It’s tempting to phone in this part of your Christmas plan. It’s a story you’ve heard and told plenty of times before. 

But it deserves close attention to details every single year. Revisit the nativity story. Reflect on this past year’s struggles and how Christ’s birth can speak hope into the present moment.

Make a well thought out decision on what your three T’s are going to be. 

  • What’s your tone?
  • What’s your topic?
  • What’s your timeline?  

Our friend Stephen Brewster gave us incredible insight when he told us, “The trend is nostalgic more than traditional, but avoiding the word ‘home’ as much as possible.” When you go through the three T’s, prioritize creating a feeling of nostalgia in your congregation. 

They want to be somewhere familiar this Christmas as long as it isn’t home. 

Consistency in all three T’s will have a crucial impact on your message to the congregation and the ease with which you can plan the remaining pieces of your Christmas services.

#2 – Content Plan

Your sermon series plan covers what you say and what your congregation is going to HEAR.

What about what they CONSUME?

What are they going to engage with if they tune in online? What are they going to interact with when they’re with you in person? What resources will you give them to work through at home on their own, or at least in community groups? 

This is where the content plan comes in. 

Christmas is the prime opportunity to give your congregation and visitors resources that help them tap into the Nativity story’s power on a deeper level. And you don’t have to create these resources from scratch. 

For great content, you can share:

Beyond the content that you bring in to share with your community, use tools like Facebook and Instagram to encourage your congregants to be content creators.

Visit our Church Fuel Instagram profile to share swipe files we’ve made covering how to celebrate this Christmas creatively. Issue a challenge in your weekly bulletin for families to list their top give Christmas activities and share it to your Facebook page. 

Give your people content to consume and content to create. 

After you’ve shared your message, your people can walk through the rest of the week, equipped to dive deeper into the story of our Savior’s birth.

#3 – Outreach Plan

You know what you are going to say and what you are equipping your people with. 

But how are you going to get new people to visit your church during the Christmas season? People in your community are likely to come during specific holidays, which will be no different this year.

Get creative and strategic with your outreach plan. Create ways for new people to discover your church and strategize how to engage with you leading up to walking in your doors on Christmas Eve. 

A few effective and innovative outreach tactics we have seen include:

  • Postcards with a QR code for people to scan
  • Adding “New Here” information to social distancing information 
  • Creating a welcome video to watch before coming to a service 

Christmas is one of the most significant inviting opportunities of the year. That hasn’t changed. Leverage new technology to provide more meaningful outreach and invitations. 

#4 – Giving Plan

Even in the secular world, Christmas is a season of giving. And in the church world, every season is a delicate season to talk about giving money. Pre-covid or post-covid, that will always be true. 

Find a way to be insightful and thoughtful in presenting the opportunity to give to your church. 

Draw out why you need resources heading into the new year and how a financial gift to your church will be used. 

Follow the example of highly successful giving campaigns like North Point’s “BE RICH.” One huge reason this annual giving series has created so many resources through the church is its focus on the outside world.

Andy Stanley leads the church in emphasizing the need to give into the surrounding community. The campaign isn’t about the church budget or a building project; it’s 100% focused on community and global outreach. It’s a message that resonates with people.

Take our Giving Course for more insanely practical advice on presenting giving to your church.

You don’t have to feel uncomfortable asking people to give. But you do need to feel confident, and your message needs to be precise. 

Focus on these four plans while mapping out your church’s Christmas season for this year. Instead of sporadically planning everything at once and recycling most of what you did in years prior, you can develop a cohesive strategy that will profoundly impact everyone who interacts with it. 

And for the first time in a long time, you’ll be able to effortlessly feel joy throughout the Christmas season instead of desperately fighting for it.

A Sermon Series to Help Your People Reset

A Sermon Series to Help Your People Reset

Whether your church is beginning to meet in person again or your plans to reopen are still underway, one thing is for sure.

People have experienced a lot of disruptive changes.

For many, it feels like a time of wandering in the wilderness, just waiting to return to some sense of normal.

For others, it’s a time to reevaluate everything and focus on what’s most important.

The local church is a place people can turn to for help, support, advice, and truth. We want your church to be the voice of hope, encouraging people through tough times but preparing them for what’s ahead.

And while there is much to lament and still much concern for the future, both churches and people can use this time to reset many areas in life.

That’s one reason we put together this three-part sermon series themed around the word “Reset.” It’s a look at how the early church focused on their mission after a time of great chance. It’s a study through the first few chapters of the book of Acts, helping people build new rhythms and fresh community.

We’ve put together everything you need to do this series in your church, including…

  • Sermon Graphics
  • PowerPoint Slides
  • Message Notes and Outlines
  • Promotional Assets

It’s great for when you reopen the doors.  But you can use it whenever you feel like your people are truly ready for a reset.

Here’s a look at the first week in the sermon series.

Week 1: Reset the Church

Text: Acts 1:1-12

Topic(s): Waiting, Reset, Movement, Patience, The Holy Spirit

Big Idea of the Message: Setting things back to the way they are supposed to be.

Application Point: Discover where the Holy Spirit wants to direct you in this reset.

God specializes in resetting. Throughout the scriptures we see God resetting His people. We see it from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We see it with Noah and with Moses. The crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus…a reset. Resetting is what God does best. The good news is the resetting is always for our benefit and for His glory. Sometimes the opportunity to reset is grace. Our struggle is that we always want to go back to the familiar instead of into the unknown. But resets are not about going back to the normal comforts of what we knew, but instead, a reset puts things back to the way they are supposed to be. As followers of Jesus, we have to move in the direction that God is leading us instead of moving back to where we use to be. We have to reset.

What if we were as intentional about the community we help create outside the church as we were cultivating within the Church?

This three-week sermon bundle is a part of the Rebound Course from Church Fuel, which gives you a full game plan to lead your church to bounce back so you can move forward.  There’s practical help for church services and weekend activities, strategic advice for what happens throughout the week, and a plan to keep church finances healthy.

You can get the Rebound Course here.

Because our members get everything, this sermon series is included for all Church Fuel members in addition to all of our other premium courses and 150+ documents and templates in our Resource Library. At $45/month with no contracts, this is a great option for most churches.

Join Church Fuel here.

3 Tips for Managing Your Church’s Volunteer Staff

3 Tips for Managing Your Church’s Volunteer Staff

Many churches we work with have paid staff members, and all of them have volunteers who function like full-time staff.  

Your volunteers are often the most needed yet most neglected group in your church. 

Not because you’re intentionally neglecting them. It simply takes more than free donuts on Sunday at 5 am for them to feel noticed and cared for. They may not be your paid staff, but they still need to be managed. 

It’s the lack of management that makes your volunteer team a revolving door instead of a solid, thriving team of people excited to contribute to the work of the church. 

While managing your volunteer staff may feel awkward, it doesn’t take an MBA or an extra class at seminary to do it well. 

So, save the extra tuition money and follow these three tips for free. 

#1 – Recognize Your Volunteers Have A Whole Other Job in Writing 

Your 8-5 job is working for your church (as well as your night job—we know). 

But before your volunteers come to fulfill their volunteer duties, the majority of them spend 40 hours per week or more at a whole other job. 

Volunteering their time and talents for your church is definitely a priority, but they still have to do their full-time job to keep the lights on and the mortgage paid.

So, when a volunteer no-shows the Tuesday night meeting or the 5 am Thursday meeting, it’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they have already worked a whole day and have kids with five games and thirty piano lessons before the sun goes down. 

Don’t assume they aren’t committed. Assume they’re pursuing the family time that you have likely preached on a time or two.

If you’re willing to be flexible on time, your volunteers will be flexible in return. 

And flexibility will precede grace when time commitments change or fall through altogether. 

To set the standard and make your volunteers feel relief from the get-go, send them a quick handwritten note recognizing that they have full-time career commitments at their place of work. 

From the start, they won’t feel neglected. 

#2 – Clarify What Each Person Needs to Do

Without clarity, there will always be confusion. 

Confusion on a volunteer team leads to the wrong job getting done, jobs being done incorrectly, jobs not getting done on time whether they are right or wrong, and frustration on both sides. 

Frustrated volunteers will quit and take their talents elsewhere.  

Get ahead of frustration with clarity. Clearly define what each volunteer team needs to do and clarify what each person on that team needs to do in order to contribute. 

Be clear on expectations and role descriptions. 

“Make dinner on Wednesday nights,” will not serve you or your volunteers well. 

“Smoke brisket for the men’s group that meets in the fellowship hall at 6 o’clock on Wednesday night,” will get the right volunteers in the right place at the right time. 

This may take extra work and thought on the front end but will develop thriving volunteer members and teams in the long run. 

If you want to save the extra work, we have excellent role description templates you can find here. Download as many as you’d like so you can relieve your stressed volunteers with clarity as soon as possible. 

#3 – Let Every Volunteer Know What to Expect From You

Unsaid expectations are unmet expectations. 

It’s easy to let a volunteer know what you expect from them, but it’s uncomfortable and challenging to let your volunteers know what to expect from you. 

We have seen many pastors express anxious feelings resulting from volunteers swamping them with questions and needs while there are church members to meet with, facilities to take care of, sermons to plan, and various other time-consuming duties that come with being a pastor. 

Unsaid expectations are unmet expectations. 

You have the ability to fix it. It is not your volunteers’ fault or their responsibility to change it if you have not set an expectation of what you can give them.  

When people join your volunteer staff, give them a uniform set of expectations for the jobs you can help them with, how much time you have during the week to communicate, and who the point of contact is for duties you do not have a responsibility for. 

This way, each volunteer knows what is expected of them and what they can expect of YOU. 

Like the rest of your congregation, your volunteer staff should always feel known and loved. 

A huge part of knowing and loving them will be equipping them for success using these three tips to manage them well.

Take the Next Step

If you want further help managing your volunteer teams, we have a course dedicated solely to volunteers. Join Church Fuel to take The Volunteer Course.

This insanely practical course is designed to help you recruit, train, and shepherd healthy volunteers who will meet your church's needs and increase your impact on the community.

Why Churches Should Work With a Marketing Agency

Why Churches Should Work With a Marketing Agency

From the hand-written letters of the Apostles to the 140 characters on Twitter, the way the Church meets, communicates, and spreads the good news of Jesus has greatly changed over the past 2,000 years.

This isn’t to say that the message of the Gospel has changed, or that people are in any less need of Jesus. But how people find, engage with, and often give to a Church is radically different than it was even 20 years ago.

With the advent of modern technologies like the internet, mobile phones, and the ubiquitous use of social media, Churches now more than ever need to both understand and utilize these modern forms of communication in order to effectively reach and engage with new, existing, and possible future congregants.

The challenge that many pastors face, however, is that they didn’t go to school to learn how to build a website or create a social media account. They went to school to learn how to shepherd God’s people.

The reality today is that people almost exclusively use the internet and internet-connected devices to both find and engage with a Church.

And for pastors, this could potentially sound daunting as their already overwhelming schedule doesn’t have room to set aside time to learn how to build a new church website, how to implement SEO, how to manage a Google Ad Grant, or how to run digital ads across all the various social media and advertising platforms.

That’s where Missional Marketing can help.

Missional Marketing is a Christian advertising/marketing agency focused solely on helping Churches of all sizes to more effectively reach and engage with existing and new visitors.

They have over 25 years of experience and have helped hundreds of churches across North America by removing the stress on pastors of having to reach new people in their communities.

Their proven methods of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Search Advertising (Google Ad Grants program and Google Ads), and Website Engagement Optimization (improving website effectiveness) all work together to help Churches reach new people, increase online giving, and more effectively communicate with their local congregation.

The reason we’ve chosen to partner with Missional Marketing is not only their vast experience in church growth through digital marketing efforts, but because their goal is to be a valuable contributor to the Church’s overall success and to grow the Kingdom, not just to get more clicks. They want to see more people hear the Gospel and find salvation in Jesus Christ.

After all, that’s the only “conversion” that really matters.

About Missional Marketing

Missional Marketing is a Christian advertising/marketing agency focused on helping Churches of all sizes with church growth by improving their online presence. They have an “arkload” of experience and specialize in all areas of digital marketing, including church website design and development, Google Ad Grants, paid advertising, and SEO.