Make it about reaching people. I remember when that popped into my mind as a young pastor. I was out in my driveway shooting hoops, thinking and praying about how to raise $1 million. Back in the day, that was serious change. I kept thinking, “How will I get people to give to this project?” Like a ping on your phone, the phrase popped into my mind, “make it about reaching people.” That’s what I did then, and that is what I continue to do. I will show you how in this edition of the Coach entitled The Message Behind Your Budget.
Before we do that, let me speak to you as your Stewardship Coach. As you enter this last quarter of the year, I’m recommending three primary things for you to focus on when it comes to stewardship.
Tighten your budget and manage expenses. The price of everything is going up, from your utility bills to pumping gas in the church van. Your members might be giving exactly what they did last year, but you are in worse shape as the dollar doesn’t go as far as it did last year. The bad news is that nearly every “expert” forecasts more economic decline well into 2023. Now is the time to tighten up your budget. While you can’t dictate what utility companies will charge for your electricity, you can manage your use. If I were your Minister of Stewardship, that is one of the huge things I would be talking about with you. It’s another one of those cut the fat, be lean, and mean, kind of years coming up. Prepare now!
Execute your end-of-year giving plan. Let’s end well to begin well. My goal for clients is to raise at least one additional week’s worth of offerings. Closing any giving gap you have builds confidence in your donors and positions you well for the start of the New Year. At the same time, a well-run end-of-year campaign can also help you add new donors.
Begin thinking about your first six weeks in 2023. In my experience, the first six weeks of a New Year determine how the rest of your budget year will go. January is second only to July as the worst giving month for churches. I will soon start shifting my writing away from EOY planning and toward getting you off to a good start to the New Year. Again, now is the time to start thinking about the future and making plans. By the first of December, our focus will be more on the start of the New Year. Since giving starts slowly, plan for a slower start to budget spending.
How does “make it about reaching people” fit in to this? Because few, if any, in your church get excited about hitting some budget number. To them, it’s just a number. But numbers are people, and people count. If you make giving about hitting some number, you will always struggle to be financially sound. If you link giving to helping change lives, you will always have the funds you need to do the ministry God is leading you to do.
“Please consider an end-of-year gift to help us raise money to replace our sanctuary lights.” That was an appeal that a church we were members of years ago sent us in late November.
“Your gift now can help feed the homeless in Tulsa!” The same week John 3:16 Mission in my hometown of Tulsa sent that appeal to us. Guess which one we gave to.
The success or failure of your end-of-year appeal will be determined by the message of that appeal. Make your appeals about reaching people, and you will end the year stronger and with a deeper donor base for the New Year.
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach