How to Avoid Being a Too Late Church

How to Avoid Being a Too Late Church

Are you too late? Waiting too late is perhaps the biggest mistake pastors, and church leaders make when it comes to giving. By the time a pastor gets around to emailing or calling me, they are typically experiencing a huge giving-to-budget gap. At that point, they are being reactionary rather than proactive. But by then, it’s starting to feel desperate.

Maybe I’ll write a book on why churches wait too late, but one reason is that giving declines occur gradually. Finally, each week’s minor loss becomes a first-quarter overall loss equivalent to one week’s offering or more. Wishful thinking pushes aside any concern as we believe next quarter’s giving will help catch us up. So, nothing is done. With no plans and only hope, the gap widens further. Then wham, the summer is upon you, and suddenly you are now significantly behind. Some are so far behind that it is too late to save the budget. I call them the Too Late Churches.

This Coach, entitled How to Avoid Being a Too Late Church, concludes my series on closing giving-to-budget gaps. My goal is to help you avoid waiting too late and thus becoming a too-late church. How do you avoid being a too-late church when it comes to giving?

Build Better Budgets – First, it all begins at that beginning. The number one reason most churches are currently behind budget is a result of poor budget planning. I wrote about this a few weeks back in Issue 26. I wrote, “It’s a self-inflicted wound that typically happens months before the giving gap shows up.” If you are experiencing being behind year after year, it’s time to get off that merry-go-round. So, file that away for next year and stay tuned as I’m starting a series on budget planning.

Be Aware Weekly – Right now, can you give me a ballpark of where your giving is related to your budget? You should know that. So should everyone on staff and all your key lay leadership. If you are reading this, then ignorance is no excuse. Knowing where things stand from week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter, and year over year helps you better manage your spending and drives decisions and actions.

At, our clients have access to a secure dashboard that allows them to see real-time how giving is tracking in each of the time segments I listed above. This allows us to craft specific and targeted messages before any giving decline impacts our church’s budgeted missions and ministries. You can find out more at or at (615) 206-4000.

Being aware of your giving trends will help you better…

Act Immediately – You must work to close that gap as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the further the gap becomes and the harder it will be to bridge the gap. Start NOW addressing your giving gap! Let me deal with a few things before we launch into an action plan.

Let’s address when you need to put focus on coming from behind. I believe the moment you fall at least one week behind, caution flags should be waving in your mind. Then, if you get two weeks behind, consider that a checkered flag to start your engines and get going.

Develop and implement a step-by-step plan of action. I think and write seasonally. I do this to keep my clients from falling behind in the first place and help them quickly close any gaps they are experiencing. If you are executing a plan, here are a few realities you need to be aware of.

  • Pleas of desperation seldom work. Your appeal must be honest but not come off as desperate.
  • Own up to the problem. Ignoring a shortfall will not make it go away. Honestly, communicate the gap.
  • Admit what went wrong. Was the budget too high? Did the weather impact you? Did your live streaming crash repeatedly? Be honest with your donors.
  • Pledge to do a better job. Maybe you need to adjust spending or lower the budget. Show you are working to resolve future budget deficits. When closing the giving gap, you must be aware that,
  • Your top givers will be the key to closing any gap. 95% of the money you raise to close the giving gap will come from those that have given 90% of what has come in this year! See last week’s Coach on how to connect these leaders to your come-from-behind strategy.

When you are forced to act with a special offering, Set a realistic giving goal. Too often, we let excitement and enthusiasm cloud reality. That is why I set a goal of capturing one week’s offering. If you raise more, great. However, let’s get a win under your belt and some money in your bank account. Let me remind you again of what I wrote two weeks ago, the rules of thumb I work with:

  • 5% to 10% behind now can be made up with good planning. This depends upon many things, such as your past trends and if your attendance/engagement has held steady. You can close that gap with consistent work and a good end-of-year strategy.
  • Greater than 10% makes it doubtful you will close that gap. This doesn’t mean you give up, but you might face some difficult decisions.

Remember, however, that a dollar number or a goal isn’t what will inspire people to give more.

Cast a Compelling Message. Dollars follow the vision. Your vision is what drives people to give you more money. Thus, every appeal needs a driver for the vision to penetrate and capture the hearts and, ultimately, the wallet of your donors. The more compelling the driver, the more likely you will get a response. Your vision is the driver, but the best driver in the world is worthless if you are too late.

There are times in the life of every church when giving doesn’t match the budgeted needs. You can avoid that by paying attention to your numbers and implementing a long-range stewardship plan. One easy way to do all the above is to keep reading and following me. I am your Stewardship Coach!

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

I have a plan for you! I write playbooks for every season in a church’s life. I just released this year’s come-from-behind playbook, Recovering Your Lost Offerings: 2022 Close the Gap Playbook. I will be sharing pieces from that playbook over the next few weeks. While this strategy can be used any time of the year, I specifically use Labor Day as my focal point to rally the congregation to close the giving gap. As always, I do all the work for you, giving you strategy and sample emails, letters, and offering talks. Using my playbook, you will close your giving gap. Drop me an email, and I will make sure you get your copy.

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