Church Giving Through a Crisis
The world just flipped upside down. For as long as any of us can remember, our churches have found our center of gravity on Sunday mornings in our sanctuaries.
With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and associated illness, COVID-19, we find ourselves not just unable to meet on Sunday mornings, but unable to gather at all.
While none of us wants to make this about money and giving, we all understand that local churches cannot function and provide effective ministry without the generosity of people.
When people don’t meet on Sundays, giving goes down. It’s a fact we’re all aware of.
This week, I joined Jonathan Carone, a fellow StoryBrand Guide, on the Solving Problems podcast to discuss church giving through this uncertain time.
We covered a few things to keep in mind as you’re developing a strategy to maintain giving through this period, but I thought it might be helpful to share some specifics you might try. Some of this will overlap the podcast.
Be careful not to over-spiritualize giving. It can come off as a guilt trip.
We talked about this in the podcast. People are plenty overwhelmed with learning to work from home, e-learn their kids, and keep everyone healthy. No doubt most of us end the day feeling guilty enough for not doing a better job. No one needs the church piling on.
Be honest about the needs
Giving will go down in the coming weeks. People are so focused on what’s in front of them they are likely to forget to give to their churches without physically going to church. Don’t be afraid to just remind them that the ministries of the church and your ability to help the community are dependent on their generosity. Don’t be heavy-handed, but be clear.
Show the results of giving
Pivot quickly to how the money they give is directly making a difference in your community right now. Not down the road, now. We’re being pummeled by sadness and despair all day long on social media and the news. Break it up and by telling them the positive stories of how your church is helping those nearby in need. They will want to give to see that story have a happy ending.
Diversify your communications
We work with smaller churches. Mostly churches under 400 in weekly attendance. Not everyone will be reached by an email or Facebook post. You need to diversify.
First, make sure it is clear all the ways people can give
- Online Giving
- Text to Give
- Mail a check to the church office
- Put a lockbox outside the church for dropoffs (seriously, make it easy)
Next, make sure you know where people find your information and connect with them there, both digital and analog.
- Text Message
- Snail Mail Letters
- Direct Phone Calls
One way to determine who might need a letter or phone call is to check your email platform (MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.) and look at the last few emails and see who hasn’t opened them. Export that list, pull home addresses and phone numbers, and send a letter or make a phone call.
Be Realistic. Show Empathy. Make Adjustments.
If we’re honest, we know things are about to get very hard for churches. Things are about to get very hard for everyone.
Even if we average out predictions in the news, we’re looking at significant unemployment during and after this pandemic ends. People just aren’t going to have as much money as they used to. What they do have will need to go toward necessities for them and their families.
Show empathy and grace. It’s easy to get up in front of the congregation (literally, or by video) and preach a 10% tithe. That’s all well and good, but for a while, what people will need is some understanding. Ask them to just give whatever they can whenever they’re able. I promise you, the ones that have been faithful givers already feel plenty of guilt if they’re not making their pledge or giving at all. Remember, 10% of $0 is still $0. Avoid piling on guilt.
Keep your head up!
This will pass. Keep your head up. Look for the needs around you and keep working for the good of people and God’s kingdom. We’ll all get through this together!
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