Behind on Your Church’s Budget? Take These 7 Steps to Get on Track

Behind on Your Church’s Budget? Take These 7 Steps to Get on Track

Your church budget can be a tremendous source of stress.

Some churches will meet and exceed their budgets this year. But there are far more churches (maybe yours?) who will “just get by” or who won’t reach their church budget this year.

If your church is behind budget, don’t lose hope.

There are many practical things you can do to get your church’s budget back on track.

Below, I’m going to walk you through seven steps:

 

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Get grounded
  3. Identify your problem
  4. Get your budget in alignment
  5. Cast a vision
  6. Get outside help
  7. Keep ministry alive

 

These tips will not resolve your church’s financial situation overnight. But they will help you to move in the right direction.

So let’s get started!

 

#1 – Take a deep breath

 

Here’s the first step you need to take:

Don’t panic!

When your church is behind on budget, it can cause a strong response of fear, anxiety, and stress, which is natural to expect. But before you make any quick decisions, sit down, relax, and take a deep breath. The best thing you can do at first is to get control of yourself.

Let’s be honest:

Getting control in a state of fear isn’t easy.

You see the numbers.

You know your church's bills don’t go away.

And you notice there is a lack of donations to cover your expenses.

All of this is a recipe for a stressful situation.

But here’s what you need to know:

Making big financial decisions while carrying significant stress can lead to bad decisions.

According to research on decision making, when you’re under stress, your ability to make clear and informed decisions is strained. In stressful situations, it’s natural to focus on yourself and your problems, which only makes things worse.

When you’re behind in your budget, there’s a good chance you’ll have to cut expenses, rearrange budget items, and, depending on the severity of your church’s finances, you may have to cut some of your staff.

These types of decisions are difficult to make, and they’re even more challenging when you try to make them alone or by your “gut instinct.”

Instead of reacting, it’s best to respond to your church’s financial situation.

Pause for a moment, and read that last sentence again.

It’s the foundation for the rest of what follows.

Ready to respond to your situation and fix your church’s budget?

Then you’re ready to take the next step.

 

#2 – Get grounded

 

Stress can lead you to obsess over your church’s finances.

Like the images of a movie with a lousy ending replaying in your head, stress can cause you to replay the worst-case scenarios over and over again.

Unfortunately, when this happens, you’re only reinforcing your negative emotions, which only intensifies how they feel. In other words, you’re making your stress worse. It’s like pouring gasoline on an out of control fire.

Here’s the deal:

You need to get grounded.

You need to confront the stress you’re feeling head on—instead of hiding from it. If you avoid dealing with your anxiety, then you won’t be in an ideal spot to lead your church well.

I’m not saying you have to be completely free from fear, anxiety, and stress. But I am encouraging you to walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7) by being transparent with your church’s leadership, your family, and friends.

To help you along the way, here are some ways you can battle stress in your life:

 

Confession

 

The first step to solving any problem is to acknowledge there's a problem.

If you’ve succumbed to stress in your life, don’t feel alone or ashamed.

Based on a poll by Gallup, eight in 10 Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently throughout the day. In your church and community, there’s a large percentage of people who are battling stress to some degree.

Remember, in Christ, you are the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).

In him, you are forgiven by faith—not based on how well you handled your church’s finances. But based upon what Jesus has done for you.

Identify your problem.

Share what you’re feeling.

And receive God’s grace to empower you to move on.

 

Seek Jesus

 

Any stressful situation is a reminder of how much we need to trust in Jesus.

As a church leader, you cannot fulfill your calling without Jesus’ help. When you’re feeling stress over your church’s finances, his call to trust in him becomes louder and more prevalent (John 14:1).

He is your rock.

He is your source of strength.

And he is your deliverer.

Regardless of your church’s finances, trust in Jesus.  

 

Meditate on God’s promises

 

Are you having a hard time trusting Jesus?

Not sure if the Lord will help you?

To combat unbelief, you have to fight for belief.

To do this, you have to read the Bible.

I’m not saying you must spend hours on end reading the Bible every day. But I am saying it’s a good idea to meditate on God’s promises daily.

In short, reading the Bible leads to believing the Bible.

Here are some verses I’ve meditated on during stressful seasons:

Isaiah 41:10:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Proverbs 3:5-6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Matthew 6:34:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

 

Ask for help

 

Your church’s finances are also your church’s problem.

You don’t have to handle them alone.

If you feel overwhelmed, you’re probably trying to carry this burden by yourself—not with the help of your church.

As a pastor, the “buck” does stop with you. But having responsibility for something doesn’t mean you’re the only one who has to handle the problem or the only source of a solution.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Share what’s going on with your church’s leadership.

Let your church know about the situation.

Not sure what to share with your church’s leadership or family?

Take the time to work through the next step to clarify your problem.

 

#3 – Identify the problem

 

One essential rule for firearm safety is to identify your target.

Before firing your weapon, you need to know exactly what you’re shooting. The same holds true for tackling your church’s financial situation. You need to clarify the problem you have to solve.

When you fall behind on your church’s budget, you need to know what’s causing the problem.

Here are some questions you can ask:

 

  • Are you experiencing a decrease in giving?
  • Have you recently lost church members?
  • Have you encountered unexpected expenses?
  • Are you overspending in certain areas of your budget?
  • Did you underestimate expenses? Did you overestimate giving?

 

These questions will help you to start thinking through your church’s financial situation.

During this process, prioritize 3–5 problems to solve. There’s a chance you’ll uncover more problems. Instead of tackling everything at once, just address a few things at first.

Now that you have a better idea about your situation, you’re ready to start solving problems.

 

#4 – Get your budget in alignment

 

 

Alright, so your church’s budget is behind, and you've identified some problems.

But how can you confirm these are real problems?

The best way to know if your church’s finances are out of alignment is to compare them to a church’s budget that’s in alignment. Let me explain.

When creating a budget for your church, you don’t have to create it from scratch.

There have been millions of church budgets created throughout history, and there is a ton of helpful advice you can glean from what others have done. By observing how churches have managed their money, you can compare your numbers to healthy benchmarks—the best practices for managing your money.

In putting together these numbers, AG Financial Solutions identified three crucial elements of your church’s budget:

 

  1. Personnel costs: 33-45%
  2. Facility costs: 25-30%
  3. Office expenses: <10%

 

As you review your church’s budget, compare your expenses to these benchmarks to see how well they align with these standards.

In your budget, do your expenses for personnel, facilities, and office costs fall within these ranges? Or do your costs exceed these benchmarks?

If your expenses exceed these benchmarks, then your church’s finances are slowly bleeding out, which will lead your church to experience financial difficulties. If your church’s budget falls within these parameters, then you’re doing a good job managing your church’s money.

As you address your short-term problems, also keep an eye on your church’s budget to see whether or not you need to make adjustments to get back into alignment.

Now that you have an idea of what’s going on, and how you can resolve your problem, it’s time to get your church behind you.

 

#5 – Cast a vision

 

There’s one thing people don’t donate money toward:

Your budget.

Before you talk about the church’s financial situation with your congregation, be prepared to talk about more than just your budget.

A small percentage of people in your church will empathize with the problem and will give toward offsetting the costs. But not everyone in your church will be motivated to pay for office expenses or just meeting your church’s budget.

Here’s what you need to know:

People give toward your mission—not your budget.

Let me explain..

As you talk about your church’s finances, frame what you say around the mission of your church. Help people to see the kingdom work their financial contributions support.

Sure, you need help to pay the bills or fill gaps in your budget. But your church—and people in general—will not get excited about contributing to your electric bill, office supplies, or a hole in your roof.

Think about it this way:

The money in your budget for personnel, facilities, and office expenses is for supporting the mission of the church. This is why casting a vision is so powerful in helping your church connect the dots between their donations and your church’s mission.

To connect your vision to the minds and hearts of your church, here are five practical tips you can use:

 

  1. Make it specific
  2. Tell stories
  3. Paint pictures
  4. Be consistent
  5. Be everywhere

 

Leveraging these tips will help you to share a compelling vision with your congregation.

 

#6 – Get outside help

 

 

Are you and your church leadership at your wits’ end?

Not sure what to do next or how to align your church’s budget?

If this is you, you’re not alone.

Here’s the funny thing about problems:

Often, you need the help from someone on the outside—someone who can assess your situation and help you to chart a new course moving forward.

In the words of Albert Einstein:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Here’s how an outside eye can help with “different” kind of thinking.  

 

New perspective

 

If your church has fallen behind in its budget, then it didn’t happen overnight.

To get to where you’re at today, there are a series of issues that could have happened, such as:

 

  • Lack of budgeting
  • Poor financial planning
  • Decline in attendance
  • Decrease in giving
  • Several financial setbacks

 

When you’re in the middle of a situation that has been a gradual decline, it’s difficult to see the problem for yourself. You’re simply too close to the case to objectively see what’s going on—and that's okay. It's a part of life.

When you invite someone from the outside to help, you are giving them an opportunity to lift the hood to your car, examine your situation, and provide a new perspective—one that’s not tainted by any biases.

 

Expert opinion

 

There will be times when you exhaust all of your ideas.

Don’t lose hope in these moments.

Remember, you’re not alone.

You can get a different insight into your situation by seeking the counsel of multiple advisors.

But don’t take my word for it.

Here are several passages from the Bible confirming the importance of counsel:

Proverbs 1:5:

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.”

Proverbs 15:22:

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs 18:1-2,24:

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion … A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

 

Invest in your future

 

Getting outside help sounds nice and all, but you’re probably thinking:

Doesn’t it cost money to hire a consultant?

I thought we should save money and cut expenses, right?

You might have a friend who’s an expert in church finances and is willing to help you get things back on track. But if that’s not your situation, then, yes, plan on forking over some dough for help.

I know this sounds counterintuitive.

But hear me out.

Getting help from an expert should be treated as an investment in your church.

Finding the right support can provide you with a ton of benefits, including:

 

  • Expedited solutions
  • Reduced headaches
  • Financial savings

 

Think about the last point for a moment.

What if paying an expert saved you months of struggling to get your church’s finances in order?

By paying someone to help you resolve your situation, you’re actually saving your church a ton of money by getting things in order sooner—not later.

Convinced you need outside support, but don’t have the cash to pay an expert?

If you’re having a difficult time coming up with the funds, here are four ideas to consider:

  1. Transfer money from a different budget category
  2. Ask a church member for a short-term loan or gift
  3. Raise a special offering
  4. Brainstorm creative solutions with your church’s leadership

 

If the first three option aren’t viable, I bet your church can identify a tangible solution by praying together and thinking through your situation.

 

#7 – Keep ministry alive

 

In the life of your church, you’ll start and stop new ministries.

This is just life.

What works well today in making disciples, leading people to Christ, or serving your community will not always be as effective.

During a financial downturn, it’s tempting to start pumping the brakes on everything or slaying sacred cows. But now’s not the time to let everything fizzle out.

There are three options you need to consider:

 

  1. Adapt a ministry
  2. Stop a ministry
  3. Start a new ministry

 

Before you pull a church ministry off of life-support, see if you can adapt the ministry. In other words, can you adapt the ministry’s budget, reallocate funds, or cut back on some activity—not all—to keep the ministry alive?

If you’ve assessed the ministry and decided there’s no way to maintain it—even at reduced capacity—then it might be time to stop the ministry.

You may have a good financial reason to stop a ministry in your church, but you still need to move forward with care. Most people don’t like change, and many people may be fond of the ministry you’re about to stop.

This might sound crazy, but a financial downturn may be an ideal time to start a new ministry.

You see, when your church is strapped for cash, you’ll be forced to think of creative ways to meet the needs of people, reach out to your community, and make disciples. In the business world, this is what’s called guerrilla marketing—promotion with little to no money.

To help you start a new ministry from scratch, here’s a step-by-step plan you can follow to building a new ministry.

 

Getting your church’s budget in order

 

So there you have it.

The seven steps to getting your church’s budget back on track when you’re behind:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Get grounded
  3. Identify your problem
  4. Get your budget in alignment
  5. Cast a vision
  6. Get outside help
  7. Keep ministry alive

 

Remember, to get your church’s budget in order, first start with yourself. I know this might sound trite and what you don’t want to hear, but treat this situation as an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus and further the mission of your church.

Take A Next Step

Get your free copy of The Senior Pastor's Guide to Stewardship today.

Five Money Shifts Every Church Should Make

Five Money Shifts Every Church Should Make

Americans are giving more to charity now than ever before. $410 Billion in 2017, a 5% increase over the previous year and the highest amount ever. Charitable giving is up across multiple income levels and in most demographics.

But people are giving less and less to the church. Only 32% of the total given to charities goes to a local church, and that number has steadily declined over the last two decades. Giving to churches is down across the board.

You can dive deeper into these numbers by reading this Blackbaud report, but here’s what it means for your church.

People are diversifying their giving, prioritizing other non-profits over their local church. They are giving to the humane society, GoFundMe campaigns, and fundraisers for chorus trips.

This poses a fresh challenge.

When it comes to money and the church, things are changing.

Churches who are on the front end of this change will be poised to grow, while churches who neglect these shifts may start or continue to struggle with financial health.

Here are five shifts that leaders need to make in regard to how we talk about money in the church.

#1 – Shift from just preaching on giving to preaching on money.

When you think about preaching a sermon on money, what topics come to mind?

We asked pastors to share their actual money sermons and then analyzed them for content.

83% of the messages were focused on giving.

Even when broader topics like stewardship, contentment, or financial health were mentioned, the lion share of these messages made giving the foundational topic or the clear call to action. These weren’t money sermons; they were giving sermons.

There is nothing wrong with preaching a giving sermon, and generosity is certainly an important component of being a good steward. But preaching on giving is not the same as preaching on money.

If you want to lead a financially healthy church, you must address broader money topics than just giving. Definitely keep preaching on giving, just don’t forget to preach on money.

Your sermons on money must provide practical and tangible help. You need to talk about spending, debt, contentment, saving, stewardship, communication, faith, trust and so much more. People need help and hope, not just a challenge to give money to the church or advice on how to get out debt.

When you adopt a helpful posture like this, you don’t have to apologize for talking about money in church.

The people in your church are bombarded with unhealthy financial advice. They are marketed to by every facet of society. Unless they have a Christian financial planner, they won’t hear about wisdom with money anywhere else.

If you don’t talk about wise financial principles, who will?

That’s why our team is working on practical financial tools to help you teach wise financial principals to your church.

You can take a look at some of the tools we are creating for you here.

There’s so much more than “give the tithe” and “get out of debt.”  The churches who help their people be wise with money will be much better positioned for financial health.

#2 – Giving means more than giving money.

When you say the word “giving” in your church, what do you mean?

Most pastors, particularly Gen-X or older, mean financial giving.

But that’s not what everybody, particular Millennials, hear.

The Generosity Gap, a research study from Barna Study, released in conjunction with Thrivent, highlights the generosity gap that exists in churches.

Giving means different things to different people. Let me just highlight a few findings of the report, which is certainly worth studying.

  • Financial giving ranks third on Christian’s list of most generous actions. For Millennials, it’s even lower.  They rank hospitality as the most important act of generosity. That means when you talk about giving and generosity, people aren’t necessarily thinking about money.
  • When people were asked “what’s the most generous thing a person could do?” people ranked “taking care of someone who is sick” much higher than “donating $40 to an organization.” Again, more and more people are not equating generosity with finances.
  • Is it okay for church members to volunteer for their church instead of giving financially? 67% of pastors strongly disagree.  But 40% of Christians strongly or slightly agree. In other words, there’s a big gap.

What does this mean for churches?

First, we need to use clear language. When we’re talking about financial generosity, we need better words than “give” or “support.” Consider the words you use and make sure they mean what they think you mean.

Secondly, we need to recognize that people are looking for broad ways to support organizations they care about. The research shows the people who give most financially are also most likely to serve or volunteer. Don’t limit giving choices to finances; look for ways to expand your approach.

#3 – Take care of your existing donors before you worry about attracting new donors.

How can we get more people to give?

That’s a common question we hear from many of the churches we serve. It’s not a bad question.

When it comes to church giving, the 80/20 principle holds true. 20% of your people give 80% of all that is given to the church. That means there are a lot of people connected to your church who are not financially supporting the church.

They are attending. But they are not supporting, at least financially.

So it’s beneficial to develop a strategy to encourage people to cross the line of generosity.

But the very first thing you should do if you want more people to engage in giving to your church is develop a robust strategy of care for your existing donors.

It sounds counter intuitive, but the way you reach new people in this area is to serve your existing donors.

I’m not talking about the occasional mass thank you email or including some pictures with the year-end giving statement. I’m talking about a serious donor care strategy.

What specific things can you to do care for your donors?

  • Start saying thank you immediately. Most people provide receipts and miss the first opportunity to connect a gift to the mission.
  • Communicate regularly with your donor base. Communication is a form of appreciation. Talk to your donor segment differently than you talk to the rest of your church.
  • Send gifts. Coffee mugs with your church logo or books that have been meaningful to your own faith are affordable and meaningful ways to say thank you to the people who support the church.
  • Host a donor appreciation event. Bring in a speaker or throw a party. Don’t be afraid to do it well.
  • Send hand written thank you notes. In a world of tweets and likes, old-school communication stands out.  You can do this when someone gives for the first time, when someone gives an unusual gift, or for no particular reason at all.
  • Make sure every donor has a “pastor.” A good pastor shepherd’s people, so make sure everyone who financially supports the church has someone who checks on their life, family, and faith.

If you want to know more, download the free Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship at the end of this post. It will walk you through several pastoral approaches to talking about money and managing money in a church setting.

#4 – Your church needs a funding plan as much as it needs a spending plan.

Once a year, finance teams and ministry leaders embark on a process of updating the budget for the new year.

Every church is different, but it’s not unusual for two or three months of reports, requisitions, comparisons and planning to be debated, crunched and ultimately presented to the congregation.

A lot of work goes into making a budget, the document that shows how all this money is planned to be spent.

You know what’s an afterthought in many churches?

Where the money is going to come from.

What would happen if we shifted some of the time spent on the budgeting process into time spent discussing funding options?

What would happen if your financial leaders took a posture of facilitating financial growth in addition to the posture of being guardrails to spending?

Finance teams need to have a perspective and give input on the revenue side of things, not simply serve as a watchdog of expenses.

This isn’t the job of most finance committees, but there are probably people in your church who could help you here. Find people with a growth mindset to help you process ideas and make real plans to facilitate generosity in your church.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find an Annual Funding Plan template and a coaching video you can watch with your team. Just follow the plans we lay out for you and you’ll move your church forward in a big way.

Working on a funding plan is an important exercise that will help you proactively meet or exceed the budget.

#5 – More shifts are coming. 

In the coming years, we will continue to see shifts in generosity in culture and in the church. That’s why the biggest shift you could make in your church is to prepare for uncertainty.

Many churches will see their financial base motivated to give to other (and more personal) causes, and harder preaching likely won’t change the patterns.

Alternative funding models will become more important to many churches as they consider ways to remain financially strong in the wake of decentralized generosity. Leaders will look for new ways to generate revenue from their facility or alternative funding strategies to pay staff.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach here but an imperative to stay open. There’s not a cause for fear, but there’s a greater reason to stay tuned into the trends and respond with strategy.

In the coming years, we will see more shifts, and the churches that are flexible and responsive will not only stay healthy but thrive.

What’s Next?

Feel like your church should be more financially healthy?

Ultimately, the financial situation in your church is up to God. It’s His church and you’re a steward.  But He chooses to work through people and entrusts us to lead well.

That's why we created a free guide filled with stewardship principles that will help your church.

Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Stewardship today.

4 Simple Church Fundraising Ideas That Make a Big Difference

4 Simple Church Fundraising Ideas That Make a Big Difference

Fundraising.

It isn’t just for your kid’s baseball team or drama club.

Fundraising is a means to create a culture of generosity in your church, to teach your church about how to steward their money well, and to serve your community or the nations by financially contributing to unmet needs.

And we aren’t talking about “fundraising” your church’s offering plate. That’s a heart issue and can be a great teachable practice. We’re specifically speaking to those unmet needs in your church and community.

It can be intimidating to figure out how you are going to meet a larger financial goal, so we’ve highlighted four simple examples from other churches that are utilizing what they have and are making a difference in their community and in their churches.

1. Cross Point Church’s “Dollar Club”

Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN asks everyone church wide to give $1 a month to the “Dollar Club” fund. It acts as a “special offering.”

A pretty reasonable ask.

They then keep all of this money in a fund and each month they give it to someone in need either in their community or someone they have a relationship with outside of their community. The fund is given to anyone from single parents who are struggling to make ends meet to partnering churches.

Our favorite part of this fundraiser are the stories.

People give when they care. And stories are a great way to help people do just that. Not to fabricate emotions, but Cross Point shows their church exactly just what their $1 a month is doing. They don’t have to do this—I mean, it’s the amount you’d spend on a pack of gum—but they do. They go out of their way to make high quality videos to tell the stories of the lives changed because of the Dollar Club.

After watching these stories, I want to join this church just for their Dollar Club! Their $1 probably couldn’t do much at first, but God’s faithfulness allows them to now generously give and serve to those who need it. Don’t rule an idea like this out just because your church is smaller in number.

2. City Church's “The 99 Project”

In Luke 15, Jesus teaches the parable of the shepherd that leaves behind 99 of his sheep to seek and save the one that is lost.

This is the entire idea behind the 99 Project at City Church in Tallahassee, FL.

Being a newer church, City Church didn’t yet have a college ministry. They would just host events and they had many in attendance who were college students. But being located in the heart of a college city, they realized what a huge need their college ministry is. There are many who are lost across three different major college campuses.

So they began this project to be financially able to host weekly college services and host events on college campuses.

Once again, they tell this parable in Luke and apply it to the needs of their city. They provide testimonies and stories from former college students who have been impacted by their church and ask for a monthly giving commitment. There are asks for specific amounts and an option for a custom amount.

This is a great creative way to fundraise for a specific project.

3. The Village Church in Texas

This multi-site campus church does giving so well. We wanted to point out what we love about their regular giving plan that can be applied to your church fundraiser.

If you peruse through the Village Church’s giving page, you’ll find an unusual looking giving page that doesn’t look like most other churches.

To start, they have placed a “why we give” section front and center on their giving page to reiterate their core values and beliefs. They then go into ways you are able to give if that is a decision you decide to make.

But the unorthodox (and amazing) thing about this page is both the detailed budget and financial reports along the side of the page. We love that this is included here, not just because it is open and honest, but because it lets current givers know exactly how their money is being used and what the church is giving.

Our favorite part of this page are the resource links pointing church members to helpful resources and sermons on tithing and money. This church is not only asking their people to give, but teaching them how to steward their money well, which is a valuable thing that people want to know.

4. Christ Journey's “Feed Miami” Project

Who says fundraisers need to solely bring in money?

Christ Journey in Miami, FL takes donations every year around Thanksgiving time. There is a huge need in their area. So, they ask for bags filled with non-perishables and money if people don’t have time to fill bags themselves.

They put all the specifics on their website as well as making a direct ask of their church.

This is a simple but effective way to bring their church together in being generous to others and filling a need.

These are just four examples of some great fundraising ideas we’ve seen from other churches. Is your church doing any of these or something completely different? We’d love to hear what your church does to fundraise.

Take a Next Step

The #1 barrier to church growth starts with you.

If the senior pastor, or church leaders, are not intentionally taking the time to get better, no one else will follow suit.

We know it can be difficult to know where to begin or even where to go to grow personally. That's why we developed a FREE resource for you. The personal growth plan. All of us on staff at Church Fuel use it because it's that useful.

Take some time this week to fill this out and make your personal growth plan.

Get the free download below.

Five Ways to Promote Your Church on a Tiny Budget

Five Ways to Promote Your Church on a Tiny Budget

Do you want to invite more people to visit your church service or church event? Are you looking for the most cost-effective ways to advertise your church?

Here are some ideas for how you can promote your church.

And these ideas won’t cost a lot of money. In fact, most of them are free.

Idea #1:  Share local events or helpful information on Facebook.

Take a look at the content you share on social media.

Is it all about you?

Chances are, you’re doing a pretty good job getting the word out about your services and your events.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to promote your church is not to promote your church at all. Stop posting selfies, and flip the camera around. Use your promotional resources to talk about things already happening in your community.

In other words, make it about them—not you.

Gwinnett Church does a great job with this with the hashtag #ForGwinnett. Go ahead and search that hashtag.

Sure, you’ll see a few pictures of church services and church events. But you’ll see a lot more stuff about the community.

Here are a few examples illustrating how Gwinnett uses their social media to be about the community.

When you talk about local businesses, local schools, and local events, people notice (and often share). You remind people that you’re not just interested in the growth of the church but the good of the community.

Idea #2:  Equip your people with tools to invite.

I’ve said this before, but churches do a great job asking their members to invite others.

“Don’t forget to invite your friends next week,” is a common encouragement at the end of many church services.

But we don’t just need to ask them to invite, we need to equip people to invite. We’ve got to give them the tools they need. Remember, the easier you make something, the more likely someone is to do it.

Simple invite tools are not expensive.

  • It could be a few creatively designed invite cards printed from Next Day Flyers.
  • It could be pre-written social media posts (with pictures) that people could cut, paste, and post.
  • It could be car stickers, flyers, or graphics people can easily share.

Create simple tools and take the time to teach people how to use them. Here are 19 ways you can encourage your church to invite.

Idea #3:  Leverage social media on Sunday morning.

Carey Nieuwhof says it’s time to stop welcoming people like it’s 1999.

What’s he talking about?

Most people in church have smartphones in their pockets. That’s not something to fear; that’s something to leverage.

Here's what we mean.

We’ve seen churches put creative signs on the floor, so people can take pictures of their feet and let people know they are at church.

I’ve seen churches encourage people to take out their phones during the welcome and let everyone know they are at church.

I’ve seen churches create sharable notes and quotes so church attenders can share a little about their experience.

The main idea here is to recognize the collective influence of your congregation and find ways to help them leverage those relationships.

Idea #4:  Go old school.

Maybe most people in your church don’t use social media. That’s okay.

There are plenty of non-technological ways you can get the word out about your church or a church event.

In fact, in a digital age, it might even be easier for something counter-culture to get noticed. There are plenty of old school, grassroots methods that still work in addition to new methods.

  • Printing flyers and handing them out might seem outdated, but if that’s what you can do, go for it.
  • Printing road signs and putting them out on the weekend can help you get some positive attention.
  • You can hang door-hangers in neighborhoods.

Be creative and be fun. And promote relevant events. But you don’t have to abandon traditional methods just because someone says everything is going digital.

Idea #5:  Join outside-of-church community groups.

This won’t cost you a lot of money, but there could be a significant long-term impact.

If your community has civic groups, join one.

If your church has more than one person on staff, divide and conquer.

Can you imagine how many relationships and opportunities would happen if every civic group in town had a representative from your church? Someone should be at every Chamber of Commerce meeting. Someone should join the Kiwanis club. Someone should show up at the Young Republicans meeting or the Young Democrats meeting.

Be present in your community and look for ways to help. Your church just might be a solution to a problem some group is trying to work through.

Those are five ideas for how you can promote your church on a tiny budget. Some of these don’t involve any money at all.

But we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment with what you’re doing and share what’s working in your church.

Three Hard Truths About Giving in the Church

Three Hard Truths About Giving in the Church

Money and church.

Whenever you combine those two subjects, it can get tense.

Pastors walk the line between avoiding the subject and using guilt to get people to give.  Are we talking about it too much?  Are we not teaching it enough?

Maybe that tension should never be resolved.

When you consider money and the church, and the larger principle of stewardship, here are three truths that might be hard to hear.

#1 – People don’t give just because something is important. 

A lot of people are passionate about a lot of causes.  And there are a lot of important causes in the world.

But just because something is important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to someone else.  And just because you’re passionate about a project doesn’t mean anyone else will share that concern.

There are lots of important causes that go unfunded.

That’s why leaders must not solely rely on passion or vision to raise money.  More inspirational sermons filled with a bigger vision of the future might not be enough to encourage someone to cross the line of generosity.

People generally won’t give to something they believe is unimportant, but they don’t necessarily support everything they believe to be important either.

#2 – People spend their money in unwise ways.

Every year, Americans spend $350 million on Halloween costumes.

For their pets.

That’s a lot of money for what I think is a pretty silly thing. But apparently, there are a lot of people who don’t see it like I see it.

Chances are, if you looked at my spending, you’d label a few things as waste.

That’s because we all have different financial priorities.

You can teach people about money.  You can show people what God’s Word says about stewardship (see Romans 13:8, Proverbs 13:11, Exodus 22:25, Deuteronomy 15:7).  You can challenge people to give generously.

But you don’t really have a say in how people spend their money or what they feel is important.

This is why laying on guilt or encouraging people to skip the cup of coffee won’t usually motivate someone to give.

#3 – The church is not people’s only source of charitable giving.

In 2019, Americans gave $390 billion to charitable causes.

Only 32% of that went to religious causes.

In fact, people are generally reducing the amount of money they give to churches, even as charitable giving is on the rise.

As church leaders, we know giving to the church has a tremendous ripple effect throughout the community.  But individuals in your community are dividing their donations among several causes they deem equally worthy.

For a family, they may decide to give a set amount of money.

Then, they will divide that between the church, the Humane Society, and the national faith-based non-profit.  In their minds, it’s all coming from the same place and going to good causes.

If you want to read more about national trends and statistic, here is a great summary.

Take a Next Step

Talking about money in church doesn't have to be awkward.

We've created a guide that helps pastors and church leaders with finances and discuss them in the church without feeling like you're guilt tripping people. The Senior Pastor's Guide to Stewardship is an insanely practical eBook that will help you navigate why people aren't giving, ways to increase giving, and more.

How to Thank Your Key Donors

How to Thank Your Key Donors

Dan Glaze from the National Christian Foundation says the six most important words in fundraising are “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Just like a personal thank you can go a long way, no show of thanks or gratitude is a recipe for disaster.

Everyone who is giving to your church in some shape or form needs regular communication, sharing stories of success and letting them know where the money goes. You should be thanking first-time givers when they give for the very first time and regular givers who are supporting the ministry year-round.

It’s also appropriate to say a special thank you to those who have funded the ministry in a big way. Today, I want to challenge you to personally thank some of your key donors.

Here are some ideas.

#1 – Send a personal note.

When you want to thank a key donor, do NOT send an e-mail and don’t send a formal letter.

Hand write a thank you note and make it personal.  Put it in an old fashioned envelope, use an old fashioned pen to hand write the address, and use an old fashioned stamp to send it in the old fashioned mail.

Hand written note cards work great because they stand out in the mailbox.  They don’t go in the trashcan with the other junk mail and they don’t go on the desk with the other bills.  They are usually opened right away and sometimes kept out for days.

In other words, personal note cards are meaningful.

Thanking your donors also goes a long way towards keeping them engaged throughout the year and will help you create a culture of generosity.

#2 – Send a small gift.

Once a year, consider sending a small gift to your donors.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, but a small token of appreciation goes a long way when it comes to donor development.

  • A good book that was meaningful to you last year. Let people know why it was special and how you think it could encourage them. One book I’ve sent to others is Soul Keeping by John Ortberg.
  • A custom moleskin notebook embossed with your church logo. You can find those here.
  • A box of the hot, cheesy gooey stuff. Pizza!! You can order a pizza from Lou Malniti’s, one of the best pizzas in Chicago, and they will ship it to whatever address is provided. This will definitely make a positive impression.

#3 – Share inside information.

If people know what’s coming or know the results of what happened, they sometimes feel special.

Information is a form of appreciation.

The people funding your ministry should get a slightly different look at things than everyone else.  They should know how their contributions are making a difference.

Once a quarter, or maybe even once a month, send a donor update email.  You can share a few statistics or an image or two.

This isn’t a church wide email – it’s just an update to your donors.

It won’t cost you any money and it will just take a little bit of time but sharing information with your donors is a great way to say thanks.

Thank Your Donors

When people give to your church, particularly for the first time or in an unusual way, make sure you say thanks.  It’s always appropriate and it’s nearly impossible to overdo.