Recently, I have had several questions about declining contributions during the summer. Below, I intend to outline a brief set of steps to help counteract that potential for decline, but implementation begins long before summer.
Preach on generosity. I was recently in a meeting with Pastor Dale Evrist who said, “we must preach about the habits we hope to inspire in our congregants.” If we want to inspire evangelism, we must preach on it. If we want to see healings happen in our services, we must preach on healing. If we want to see individuals filled with the Spirit, we must preach on the Holy Spirit. In that same vein, if we want to see our congregants tithe faithfully and be generous, we must preach on both of those. You can preach on one sermon a year on tithing, but it can get a mention on a sermon on stewardship of time, talent, & resources. You can mention it again when you talk about experiencing the faithfulness of God. You can mention it again when you preach on the 3 things Jesus assumed His disciples would always do found in Mathew 6. He said, “when you give…”, “when you pray…”, and “when you fast…”
Teach on finances. I highly recommend both of Dave Ramsey’s series; Financial Peace University and Legacy. Statistics prove that many people in our pews are just one paycheck away from a financial problem and two paychecks away from financial ruin. I personally know hundreds of families who have followed these Biblically based classes to financial freedom.
Celebrate together. Celebrate what God has done through their generosity. Every church has things to celebrate but often we don’t connect the dots for our congregation. If you raise funds for something, celebrate the giving along the way. Then a few months later celebrate the outcome of what the generosity accomplished.
Sow seed. Give generously to other ministries. It is very inspiring to congregants when they see their church give to other churches. It is also a great opportunity to promote Kingdom work and interdenominational partnership and to tear down deceptions about churches competing with one another. I know a church that has given money to every new church planted in their community in the past 15 years. That gets attention. It inspires a healthy appreciation in congregants for their church leaders. It actually evokes more generosity. Another church decided to give generously to the remodel of a church in its community and offered their congregants the opportunity to join in. The congregation more than doubled the amount the Church Council had already approved.
Provide online giving options. Online giving takes the dips and spikes out of your weekly contributions. As individuals begin giving online, they very rarely stop. They will update the amounts but almost never miss a month or completely stop giving. In my experience over the past 7 years, I noticed that people were still going on summer vacations but their tithe wasn’t going with them anymore because it was still occurring online. It is proven that by offering the opportunity to give online, 1/3 of your congregation will eventually do so. Yes, there are banking fees, but they can be minimized and budgeted for. I can personally attest that the increased contributions more than covered for the fees each year.
Affirm your top 10-12 contributors. Individually, take each of your top donors (as couples) to dinner at a nice restaurant…pay for the meal and don’t ask for anything. Over dinner ask about them, their kids, their families, etc. Before the evening is done affirm their generosity as a spiritual gift (Romans 12:8). We readily affirm the gifts we see in others; teaching, singing, healing, administration. Again, affirm their spiritual gift rather than their financial gifts.
Give a small gift of gratitude. Send an inexpensive gift to your top 20-25 giving families, just because. I recommend giving a book and writing a personal note inside the cover. Don’t make the note about giving nor the gift related to a generosity topic. This is a larger group of donors to affirm which includes the group above. And don’t mention it again.
Sign annual contribution statements. Depending on the size of your congregation there is a group size that makes sense. It could be your top 40 contributors. Just write a short personal note at the bottom of their annual contribution statement that clearly communicates they are appreciated and valued. The only one squeamish about you seeing the amount they gave is you.
Celebrate their family privately. If some of your top donors have kids who actively play a sport (not sit the bench), then go watch their kids play and actually keep your eyes on the field and their kid. And don’t forget to cheer wildly. After the game pat the kids on the back and go for ice cream if it’s appropriate.
Create invitational events. I heard of one church that invited really large donors on a special mission trip every few years. It is a “by invitation only” sort of trip. These donors are invited and if they accept they pay their own way. Sometimes the trip is a scouting expedition for the future. Sometimes it involves a meeting with key leaders on the mission field. Each time it highlights the ministry reach of the church and gives an opportunity for personal ministry interaction. Some individuals with this gift mix aren’t interested in leading a VBS or mixing concrete to build a structure but they would love to encourage other church and community leaders around the globe.