How to Be the Exception When Giving Caves In

How to Be the Exception When Giving Caves In

I’ll never forget days like that day in March of 2020 when our nation came to a screeching halt. I was in the shower getting ready to fly to Atlanta to talk with a denominational guy about helping them build a stewardship platform. I kept hearing my phone ring. The first voicemail was from a pastor panicking about his capital campaign. I wasn’t worried about the campaign. I was worried about the offering only days away. The next voicemail was the denominational guy telling me my Atlanta trip was canceled. Everyone in his office had been grounded. I didn’t climb on an airplane until January of 2021. Looking back, I didn’t go anywhere, including church.

It was The Great Reveal. That is how my friend, Dennis Moses of Church Capital Resources, described the impact of COVID-19 in a call to me days later on March 17, 2020. Dennis told me that COVID-19 revealed the already fragile foundation of the Church, particularly its financial foundation. He was correct. As a result of the lockdowns, giving dropped like a rock, and it has never fully come back. There are exceptions. The title of this Coach is How to Be the Exception When Giving Caves In. And yes, I said when because right now, the Church is headed for difficult times.

I believe that March 2020 showed us what our future giving will be. Nearly every church saw an immediate decline in giving. Then, giving stabilized. I heard people saying, “Our giving actually went up.” Yes, but who gave those increased dollars? Our data revealed that it came from their top leaders who dug deep to give more. It most certainly did not come from new donors. Nearly every church lost some amount of donors, even if giving stabilized or increased.

Our data also confirms that the overwhelming majority of those who gave to save your church were above 50 years of age, most well above 60 years of age; in other words, Boomers. How long can that generation keep it up? Until 2030 is my prediction. By then, nearly all Boomers will be living on a fixed income, drastically impacting their ability to give. From a decreased tithe amount to a diminished ability to give significant gifts to capital campaigns, the future financial stability of thousands of churches is at risk. Our top donors are aging out while the next generation is checking out.

Every church in America is facing what I call The Great American Giving Shift. It’s the Church’s Ticking Time Bomb.The sooner we realize this and act, the better our chances of fully funding our churches so they can be financially stable for whatever the future holds. The first step toward being the exception when giving caves is an awareness of the times we live in.

Get ahead of the curve! That is the next step toward being the exception. Before you come to a curve in the road, you will see a sign warning you to slow down. If you wait until you are in the turn to adjust to the speed of the turn, you have waited too late. You’ll have to slam on the brakes in an act of desperation to avoid going off the road. You must slow down ahead of the curve, not in the curve. That takes awareness and a plan of action.

We have a lot of curves heading our way. Do you have a plan to help you navigate those curves successfully? Those that don’t will be forced into desperate acts which seldom work. Starting in 2030, we will see massive church closures across the U.S. Will your church be the exception? The time to prepare is now, not later.

Every one of my clients saw their giving decline in March of 2020. However, all but a few rebounded within weeks. The others rebounded once their local governments allowed them to meet, and the fear subsided among their flocks. All are still actively pursuing the vision God has given them. How is that possible? Beyond the grace of God, they each had a plan, and they worked that plan. Working on a stewardship plan wasn’t something new; it was what they had been doing all along. That base helped them sustain their churches when giving caved for other churches. Here is an example.

The Christ Church Example – Last year, Christ Church, outside of Saint Louis MO, increased the number of donors by 16% and increased giving by 14%. There are many reasons why this happened, but here is what I wrote earlier in the year…

The Secret Sauce for Post-Covid Success and the Road Back to Normalcy – Here is what Christ Church did that you can do.

  1. They hold a high view of Scripture and preach and teach the Bible unapologetically. People are looking for answers, and we have the book of answers, the Bible. Pastor Shane Bishop preaches biblical sermons that people flock to hear.
  2. They made connecting people to Jesus their number one priority. They did not make COVID their primary concern.
  3. They had a solid base of givers. Yes, giving has stabilized, but existing donors drive it. Are you building a solid base for the future and any potential crisis? The stewardship seeds planted today will bring a harvest in the future.
  4. They opened their doors early and allowed people to use their common sense.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Alan Prass, Christ Church’s Executive Director. He wrote, “Let me tell you how thankful I am for your ministry. I can’t begin to tell you how much influence you have had on Shane and me and how much both of us have learned from you. Christ Church would be nowhere close to being the size we are without your guidance on raising funds for God’s kingdom. We lean on your experience and knowledge and couldn’t do this without you. Thank you!” Thank you, Alan, for allowing me the joy of partnering with you!

Back to that day in March of 2020. Who did you call, text, or email, asking what to do about the potential loss of giving?

My phone rings when pastors are desperate. My advice to pastors? Don’t get desperate! How can you keep from being desperate? Follow me. I’m serious. Keep reading what I write. I’ll help keep you from being desperate! I’ll also help you be the exception when giving caves in. But we need to start building your base now!

Merry Christmas and have a blessed New Year! This will be my last Coach of the year. I will be back on January 8th. I do so appreciate each of you who read my material. I’m honored. This coming year will be an exciting one for me as I am expanding a newsletter that I have been working on for the Missouri Baptist State Convention called The Stewardship Journal. Starting on January 8th,, my potential reach of this newsletter/column will increase to over 10K pastors.

My goal is to help every one of those pastors be the exception to the decline in giving! Let’s start with you!

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

Missions and Ministry Moment (aka Offering Talk) – The final week’s talks can be accessed after you register at:

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