Navigating the Annual Great Decline

Navigating the Annual Great Decline

Get ready for The Annual Great Decline. You are probably still basking in the glow of Easter, a packed house filled with promise and potential. Then, this past Sunday brought you back to reality. The typical church will not see any better attendance and engagement until sometime next fall. I call this the Annual Great Decline. This Coach is entitled Navigating the Annual Great Decline.

My mission is to keep pastors, and staff members focused on building a culture of generosity based on biblical stewardship principles. To accomplish this, I operate out of the principle of staying ahead of the curve. Easter represents a curve in the road for churches. You just built attendance and engagement up, and now your members are heading out the door for sporting events, the lake, the beach, the mountains, vacations, etc. Most won’t be back fully until well into the fall.

So, immediately after Easter, my focus with clients is getting them started on the major keys for summer planning. Let me break each of them down for you here.

First, get your team on board and engaged. Disconnected pastors and staff are my biggest challenge in building out a culture of generosity. Most ministers feel that discussing finances or money will drive the crowd away. Look around next Sunday. The crowd left after Easter. Move your staff to stop worrying about attracting a crowd and focus on making disciples. Disciples are generous no matter what the season. If your staff or team are not on board with your plans for heading off The Great Decline, you will probably face cutbacks this summer. It might be harsh, but pointing this out will motivate your team.

Secondly, set the vision for your summer giving initiative. Every appeal needs its vision that drives a donor to give you more. Those communicated needs are the “drivers” that will either drive me to my wallet in support of them or cause me to ignore the appeal.

The more compelling the driver, the more likely you will get a response. Tell your donors why giving to this cause is important and impactful; they will be more willing to give.

To accomplish this, your vision has to be clear, concise, and, most of all, compelling. The same is true for every appeal you make. I call that The Three C’s of Vision.

What is the story behind your summer? Each mission and ministry initiative has a story behind it. Telling that story effectively will increase your chance of giving.

Spend the next few weeks nailing down the vision for your summer giving. Work to make that vision clear, concise, and compelling; you will raise more dollars. See the Bonus Section.

After you have your vision, message, and story down, you need to next…

Third, build the infrastructure required for a successful summer giving initiative. For your summer giving plan to succeed, you must ensure you have the Basic Building Blocks of Support. Here is a post where I share with you those basics:

Fourth, after you have your infrastructure in place, work to elevate your offering time by planning out each of the 15 Sundays of summer. Here are some key elements to think of…

  • You want to inform your donors of what you are doing.
  • You want to inspire them with what you are doing.
  • You want to show them that their generosity makes a difference.
  • Share with them about the multiple ways they can give.
  • And, most importantly, you want to thank them for their generosity.

You can do all of this in 60 seconds or less!

Fifth, communicate your plan with your giving leaders. I encourage clients to communicate early with your giving leaders, laying out the summer giving plan. This builds confidence in your donors that you have a plan to increase giving so that it doesn’t all fall upon them to save the day. It also lets them know that the appeals and communications you are putting out are directed to gain new donors, not merely dog your current ones to death. At the same time, reminders like this serve to help consistent donors stay consistent during the inconsistent days of summer. One key way to accomplish this is to encourage your giving leaders to make their gifts automatic. I’ll share more on this in later posts.

By following these five steps, you will be better able to navigate The Annual Great Decline. Let me end with this statement to help spur you to start working on your summer giving plan. The 15 weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day will determine your financial year. So, start thinking, praying, and planning now for a great summer of giving! As usual, I’ll be here every week sharing practical tips and help on how you can have your best summer giving ever. Let’s get started!

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach, the leading online giving processor in America, sponsors my writing. OG is owned and operated by committed Christians active in their local church. Find out more about their services at You can also read the blog post I wrote for them at

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