Offertory Crisis

Written by Rod Irvine in category 
January 15, 2019

It Is not unusual in churches for offertories to lag behind what is required to sustain their ministry. This causes particular consternation towards the end of the year. It is not merely because of the current shortfall but it also casts gloom over the planning for next year.

Some years ago, when I was on holidays, I attended a church with such a problem. It was a good church with a healthy congregation and a multi-staff ministry. Yet they were obviously under financial stress as the following notice was in the bulletin.

  • Up to the end of October offerings have averaged $9381 per week, well below budget and a little less than last year.
  • While expenses are below budget we have not been able to contain them to the same extent that offerings are down
  • We expect to finish this year with a budget shortfall of approximately $24,000
  • No budgeted change to staff currently in place
  • Expenses reflect current trends with some allowance for cost increases
  • Offerings are budgeted at $10113 per week
  • While this is a $732 per week increase on current offerings, our average Sunday attendance is close to 400 so if each person attending put in an extra $2 we would be covered
  • If offerings do not reach the budgeted amount in the first quarter of next year, the Leadership Team sees little alternative but at that time to recommend to the church reducing staff

What is wrong with this approach?              sad                                       

While it is good to bring the congregation up to date, I do not believe an announcement like this is the way to do it. Sadly, a similar notice appeared in this church’s bulletin in subsequent years. So how should the announcement be handled? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. The issue should be addressed by the senior minister. Remember the senior minister is the chief resource raiser.
  2. Frame the notice in terms of mission and vision not money and budgets. Parishioners rarely give to budget shortfalls. Remember money follows vision.
  3. Think about the effect on the congregation. The framers of the notice may not realize it but the people in the pews will hear that their church is going down the gurgler. What they hear is:
    ‘Our church is worse off than last year. People are not giving enough money.  The situation is not getting any better. There are probably lots of things wrong we don’t know about. We are not going to do anything new or bold in ministry advances next year. We are addressing this situation by cutting spending. This means fewer ministries. If this downward spiral keeps occurring, we will cut staff which will mean we will go down the gurgler quicker and the downward spiral will continue.’
  4.  The comment about $2 per week per member looks like a drowning person desperately clutching at straws. It will not succeed. See my article All we need is just the cost of a cup of Coffee. 

A better way to make the Announcement                         

Ask confidently and boldly for support. The raw numbers of the money required can be placed in the bulletin without the gloomy commentary. Omit the word budget. It is a money term not a ministry term.

The senior minister could say something along the lines of the following.happy

‘You will see a note from the treasurer in the bulletin indicating the giving is a bit down.  That’s important but I want to tell you about some of the really great ministry that our staff and our volunteers have been doing. There are so many good things and I only have time to talk about a few.

  • Our recent youth camp had record numbers.
  • More people are in bible study home groups than ever before.
  • Our compassion ministry helps twenty families each week.

 ‘This church has been consistently generous over many years in supporting all the great work that goes on here. So I have no hesitation in asking you to be generous again. I am announcing a Christmas appeal where we will give ten percent to our mission offertories and use the rest to be cashed up and ready to go for another exciting year in ministry.

Don’t forget the summer ministry programme in January, or our first ever camp for seniors, or the Easter outreach that our music team is planning right now. That is just a start.

Some people might say, ’Why not just reduce the staff? That will fix the shortfall’. Frankly that is the very last thing I am proposing. Staff are employed to empower and multiply ministry and my desire is to increase staff not to decrease them. In fact we wish to employ an additional Children’s ministry intern starting next February to help make our great Kid’s Church even better.  What I want to emphasize Is that changing lives through Jesus is what we are on about.

What I am asking is that you make a special Christmas donation in the envelope provided or go to the website and donate through ‘The Christmas Appeal’ special account.

I am asking everybody to contribute, but for those who have been specially blessed financially or receive a Christmas bonus, I ask you to be even more generous than usual this year.’

Such an announcement will obviously need to be tailored to the particular local situation. I do not say it is perfect but I do believe it will yield more fruit as it will remind people of why the local church exists, and will invite them to be part of something that has eternal consequences.  To read about how to raise money for ministry so you are not stuck in crisis mode see my book Giving Generously: resourcing local church ministry.

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