The 2023 Come Back Offering Edition

The 2023 Come Back Offering Edition

It’s the middle of summer, your members are on vacation, and I have a question for you: how is giving going? Summer is the most challenging time for giving, with July being the lowest offering month of the year for the typical church. The irony is that summer is the most active time of the year, which means it is also the time when you spend more money. Let’s change that with my 2023 Comeback Offering Edition.

If you are experiencing a giving gap right now, you could be in trouble if…

  1. Your giving is behind by more than two weeks of offering.
  2. Your 4th quarter giving historically is not enough to make up your current deficit.

The time to close a giving gap is before it becomes a Grand Canyon-type gap you will never close.

To start, you need to know where and why you are behind. Knowing where giving is off is as important as knowing why giving is off. For instance, what if you have several major donors whose giving has trailed off in the last couple of months? Knowing your giving demographics allows any strategy you propose to be more laser-focused upon the same group that needs to hear the vision of your offering.

Next, ask yourself why you are behind. Here are some common reasons why churches fall behind budget…

  • Decline in attendance and engagement. From weather closings to canoeing on the lake, when attendance and engagement are down, typically, so is the offering.
  • Economic instability. According to the most recent studies, inflation and recession fears are impacting giving. When the price of gas and bread is high, many choose to decrease or stop giving to the church.
  • Internal crisis. If your worship leader felt led to start a mission church across the street from you, that will cause a decline. Seriously, any internal issues left unresolved can and will impact giving.
  • Poor budget planning.I find this to be the major reason churches get behind in giving. Budgets are all too often set based on need and desire, not giving capacity. Churches tend to operate with an overly optimistic view of their giving capacity. Finance teams seem to think that if they set the budget high, then people will rise to the occasion. Telling people you need a certain dollar amount doesn’t move many people’s hearts to increase giving. Need doesn’t drive dollars; vision does. See my Bonus Section for more on this!

Can you make up the giving ground that has been lost? Here is what I wrote a few years back about what I call the Giving Gap versus Budget Inflation. Your Giving Gap is the percentage you currently are behind the budget. Budget Inflation is the percentage beyond realistic expectations you are currently attempting to run your church by. Let’s start by looking at closing out, or narrowing, your Giving Gaps. Here are the rules of thumb I work with:

  • 5% to 10% behind now can be made up with good planning. This depends upon a lot of things, such as your past trends and if your attendance/engagement has held steady. You can close that gap with consistent work now 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 it does mean you might face some difficult decisions.

Budget Inflation – Again, this is the percentage beyond realistic expectations. When it comes to budget planning, I advise using a standard increase of 2% to 3% beyond last year’s revenue. If your past giving numbers don’t support that kind of increase, any increase above last year’s giving is your budget inflation. Budget inflation is the number one reason why churches get so far behind. It’s also the number one reason for burning out your donors.

That was good advice when I wrote it two years ago, and it is good advice for any year. The bottom line is that your budget must not grow beyond your congregation’s giving capacity.

I recommend keeping your eye on the ball and keep working on your plan. To accomplish this, use these 3 Rs:

  • Review – Constantly review where your giving is and how your plan is working or not.
  • Revise – Change your plan as needed.
  • Reapply – Like sunscreen, which you need to reapply continually, the same is true for a plan to reverse any decline in giving. If you don’t have a plan, you are planning on failing!

The 3 Rs are crucial in your planning as the longer you delay acting upon your giving gap, the greater that gap will grow. If that gap grows too much it will be impossible to close. What missions and ministries will suffer in the 4th quarter because you failed to act? Don’t wait until you are so far behind. Act now to close your giving gap!

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

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

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