Make the Most of Your Offering Time

I think everyone knows what I mean by offering time, but just in case, I’m speaking about the specific time during service in which you take up tithes and offerings. I realize some churches don’t have an offering time during service because they apparently don’t need the money that bad, but my church isn’t one of those. I bet yours isn’t either.

So, for all of us struggling to meet budget, I want to share a few tips specifically to help you see more people give during this time.

Some of these may seem obvious, but it’s still important to mention them.

For example.

Offering Envelopes

I’m guessing every church has these. If you don’t leave me a comment and let me know why. You want to make sure your offering envelope is easy to fill out, larger-than-expected, and bonus points if it can be mailed in after they get home with no postage necessary.

Timing

If you rush through this time, which many of us are known to do, you will miss out on gifts. Because, people need time to write their checks or count their cash. Many people are not planning ahead for this moment, especially new givers. So, allow two to three minutes for people to prepare.

Giving Talks

What do you do during those two to three minutes? You’re telling people why they should give. Here’s what that can look like, “In a few moments where going to worship God by giving back to Him. While our ushers are getting ready, let me tell you a story,” or “Let me share a scripture with you…” This gives them a heads up on what’s about to happen and gives them time to get ready.

Lighting

The darker the auditorium, the less likely people are to give. For one, they can’t see to write a check or fill out the offering envelope. For two, you lose the motivation that comes from people worrying about other people seeing them not give. If that last statement makes you uncomfortable, then you need to stop trying to guilt people into praying and reading their Bibles.

Timing

Sounds so nice, I had to mention it twice. Not really. I’m talking about when you take up the offering during service. The church I serve used to take up the offering at the end of service using two ushers at the back door holding buckets. This is a terrible way to take up the offering. It feels like an afterthought rather than an important part of the service. Not to mention many of our volunteers would have already left the service before we even took up the offering in order to get in place for the next service. We’ve now placed the offering time smack dab in the middle of our service at the end of the music and before the preaching. It’s made a world of difference.

These are a few simple ways I think you can see significant increase in your giving this year. If you’d like to build on this, I speak more about a complete giving system in this post.

What does your offering time look like? Are you satisfied with the results? Let us know by leaving a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

You Can Afford to Give, Here’s How

Every Sunday we take up an offering at our church. If you’re a pastor, you probably do as well. If not, you may not be a pastor for very long. The offering goes to pay for the building expenses, salaries, ministry expenses, and so on. All of these things work together to produce life change through Jesus.

I can’t think of anything better to give to. I think most church people would agree, however there is a large percentage of people within our churches that don’t feel like they can afford to give.

But they can, and I’m going to show you and them how.

Quick clarification, I’m not talking about tithing. I certainly believe in tithing, and I think more people should do it. Current estimates show that only around 5% of Christians in the United States tithe. That’s sad, but I can’t fix that in five easy steps.

But everyone can give…something.

And I’m not talking about your time or talent, although I certainly appreciate those who serve. But serving doesn’t take the place of giving in our lives.

I’m talking about taking some of the finances that God has allowed you to have and giving it back to the church to be used to advance God’s kingdom instead of yours.

You see most people who say that can’t afford to give to church have no problem spending money on themselves.

Nevertheless, even those people can afford to give, if they’re willing to make a few small sacrifices in their life.

Here are five easy ones.

  1. Cut your cable/satellite costs.

Do you really need 200 channels? How much TV are you really watching in your busy life? Consider downgrading your package, negotiating a new rate, or cutting your cable completely. With all the streaming options available to us today, there’s no reason the average American should still be paying over a $100 a month for cable or satellite. (Estimated Savings $15+ a month)

  1. Bring your lunch to work.

I like going out to eat. I think we all do. But I’ve discovered that you spend a lot of money going out to eat as opposed to bringing your lunch. You can easily save 50-60% by eating a frozen meal, or bring leftovers and save 100%. You don’t have to cut out all eating out. Cut back to once a week, and see the difference it makes. (Estimated Savings $40+ a month)

  1. Drink water when eating out.

If you do eat out, instead of ordering a soft drink, order water. Soft drinks can range from 99 cents to up to $4. That really adds up, especially when you eat out as a family. I don’t like water, but I’d rather drink it than pay for an overpriced Coke. (Estimated Savings $10+ a month)

  1. Adjust your thermostat.

The United States is one of the few countries where heating and air exist. So if you live in the U.S., you should be thankful, but you should also realize that it’s not necessary for your home to be 65 in the summer and 78 in the winter. Estimates show that you can save around 3% on your electric bill for every degree that you move up in the summer or down in the winter. That means adjusting just 3 degrees can net almost a 10% savings. (Estimated Savings $15+ a month)

  1. Dinner or a Movie.

I admit there are certain things that just go together, bacon & eggs, peanut butter & jelly, dinner & a movie. But what if you chose to do just one or the other? Instead of doing both, eat dinner at home then go to a movie, or go out to eat then come home and watch a movie. It would be a significant savings. (Estimated Savings $25+ a month)

If you add these all up, a person could potentially save over $100 a month, which means they could afford to give $20-$25 a week to their church. That may see like a small amount, but if those not giving in my church would just do this, it would result in over $100,000 more each year.

What would it mean for your church? What would it mean for your community? And why won’t more people choose to give? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Growing in Generosity

I recently had the opportunity to go on a Vision Trip with Compassion International to Kenya. Even though I’ve been back for a few weeks now, the things I experienced continue to impact me every day. The story that continues to inspire me the most involves a young man, a piece of candy, and a lesson in generosity.

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Whenever you go on a trip like this, you can’t help but fall in love with the kids.

They run to see you, they hold your hand, they want to be held, and they rub your arm hair. Rubbing your arm hair may just be a Kenya thing. I’m not sure, but they’re excited to be around you.

Throughout each day I found there was always one or two kids that I especially connected with for whatever reason.

On one particular day, we drove two hours outside the city of Nairobi to a very rural area to be with children who were part of the Maasai tribe.

The Maasai are known for very intricate bead jewelry, and many of the kids were wearing bracelets, necklaces, and other pieces of jewelry.

I told one young man I really liked his necklace, slipped him a piece of candy, and went about my day not thinking much about it.

Our group went on to explore the grounds, which included the church and school there, and later went to visit a child’s home so we could get an idea of how they lived.

In every home visit we made throughout the trip, I was constantly amazed by the conditions that these kids and their families are living in. This particular home was made of mud and sticks and may have been a hundred square feet total with a five-foot ceiling.

As we walked back to the project for lunch that day, the young man who I’d complimented on his necklace and given a piece of candy to came up to me with a gift in return.

He handed me his necklace.

The necklace he had spent hours on making by hand. The necklace, which was one of only a few possessions he would even have.

I was overcome with emotion and blown away by his generosity.

I told him I couldn’t take it, but he insisted.

I had blessed him by giving him a simple piece of candy, and he decided to bless me back by giving me much more than I deserved.

I’ve always felt like I was a generous person. I’m learning that I have a long way to go.

Have you ever been blown away by someone’s generosity? I’d love to hear the story. Make sure to leave a comment below, and if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Creating a Simple Church Budget

It’s not uncommon for some small churches to operate without a budget because it’s not uncommon for many people to operate without a budget in their personal finances. The church I serve operated for the first few years without a budget. In their minds as long as the incoming was greater than the outgoing then everything was fine.

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In my mind, everything wasn’t fine, in my mind that seemed like a terrible way to handle church finances. They needed a budget, and your church does too.

A budget allows you to not only see where the money is going but gives you the ability to plan where the money is going.

The interesting thing was they weren’t opposed to a budget, they just didn’t know how to set one up. You may be in the same situation, so I want to show you how to create a simple church budget.

A budget is made up of income and expenses.

Income is pretty simple. It consists of tithes, offerings, and any other type of special giving. The income in your budget should reflect the average giving in your church over the last few years.

If your church has been growing or declining, it can be wise to look at the trends over multiple years. For example, say your giving in 2014 was $250,000, in 2015 it increased to $300,000, and you’re on track to receive $350,000 in giving in 2016. If this is the case, you may feel comfortable budgeting your income at $400,000 for 2017.

Remember you can always go back and readjust if giving is more or less than you expected.

Now, let’s move on to expenses. The great thing about tracking expenses is that you can see exactly where the money is going. To keep things simple, let’s put our expenses into five categories.

Employee Compensation

In this category you want to track salaries, but don’t forget about the additional employee expenses such as: housing, bonuses, insurance, retirement, payroll taxes, etc. All of these should be included in this category. The average Protestant church spends around 45% of their total budget in this category.

Facilities

Facilities include mortgages, leases, utilities, landscaping, and maintenance. We also include expenses like cleaning supplies, paper towels, hand soap, toilet paper, etc. This category should make up 20-25% of the total budget.

Ministries

For us this category consists of any expense related to the ministries in our church including: kid’s ministry, first impressions, small groups, student ministry, worship ministry, and leadership. This category should be around 10% of the total budget.

Outreach

Outreach includes foreign and local missions, marketing, and benevolence, as well as other administrative costs. This category makes up 5-10% of the total budget.

Weekend

This category consists of expenses directly related to the weekend worship experience. A large portion of this budget is related to special events like Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, and Christmas. It also includes things like coffee, doughnuts, free gifts, and creative elements in the service. This category is around 5% of the budget.

Hopefully, if you’ve done the math correctly, you should have 5-10% of the budget leftover for savings. However, don’t be surprised if unexpected expenses arise that take a portion of this percentage.

If you’ve never had a budget before, you may have to guess on some of the expenses the first year. Don’t let this keep you from doing a budget. What you’ll find is that each year you’ll get better and better at knowing where the money is going, and that’s a very important thing.

Does your church have a budget? If not, I’d love to help you get one set up, just go to my contact page and send me an email. Also, if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog and get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

3 Reasons to Go All The Way

I’ve been fortunate in my ministry career in that I haven’t had a whole lot of regrets. Hopefully you can say the same. Of the few regrets I have almost all of them are because we didn’t get exactly what we wanted because we were afraid to go all the way.

goalltheway

Let me give you an example. A few years ago, we decided to add several thousand square feet of kids’ space to our existing building. We were growing like crazy, and our original building just wasn’t adequate anymore.

So we hired a top-level architect who had designed facilities for megachurches like CrossPoint Church in Nashville, NewSpring Church in South Carolina, and Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. This guy is one of the best.

He designed an incredible building, we paid him a lot of money, but when it came time to hire a contractor, we picked the cheapest one we could find.

The result was a building that was a little cheaper on the budget but lacked many of the design features we originally fell in love with. Don’t get me wrong, we still love our building and are thankful for it, but it’s really only about ninety percent of what we had hoped for.

That ten percent we left off seemed small and insignificant at the time, but in hindsight I’m kicking myself for not going all the way with it.

As most of you have probably already learned, this idea doesn’t just apply to buildings, but it applies to multiple areas of our lives and ministries.

If you want to lose weight and get in shape, you have to give 100% effort. You can’t achieve your goals if you’re still drinking cokes every day.

If you want to save money, you have to live by a budget 100% of the time. You can’t overspend 10% of the time and still meet your goals.

If you’re looking to hire someone, you don’t want someone who gives 90% effort. You want them to give 100%, even if you do have to pay them a little bit more.

So, if you’re in a spot where you need to make a hard decision, let me give you three reasons why I think you should go all the way.

  1. It will cost you more in the long run.

I’m all for budgets. I’m a money guy. I know the Bible tells us we should count the cost, so I’m not saying throw caution to the wind. What I would ask you to do is think long term. Here I am in a building that I would like to make some changes to, and it’s going to cost more to do it now than it would’ve cost to do it in the first place.

  1. You’ll end up regretting it.

If there’s something you know you need to do and you don’t end up doing it or you don’t do it to the full extent, I guarantee you that you’ll end up regretting it. You will always wonder what if. What if we had made that hire? What if we had sent that promotional piece? Don’t live your life with what ifs.

  1. You never know.

As much as I love crunching numbers and making plans, there’s got to be an element of faith in our decision making. There are certain times in ministry when I believe you just have to take a chance. You never know what God can do until you try. If you fail, at least you learned something, right?

Let’s face it, most of our regrets are about things we didn’t do instead of things we did wrong. When faced with the choice of playing it safe or going all the way, I hope you’ll choose to go for it.

What’s your biggest regret in ministry? Make sure to share with us in the comments below, and don’t forget to sign up for the blog to get tips on leadership, church growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

How to Increase Giving Year Round

Most pastors don’t like talking about money. I believe they fear they’ll be labeled as caring too much about money and not enough about souls. Others may feel that if they talk about giving people will leave the church. Sometimes people will leave, but I would argue that you do your congregation a great disservice when you don’t talk about giving.

IncreaseGiving

I wish I had a great giving story. You know one of those I was on the verge of bankruptcy but then I gave my last twenty dollars to God and everything began to fall into place.

Unfortunately, my giving story is rather boring. I just read what the Bible and Jesus had to say about being generous and decided I should be a generous person.

What qualifies as generous? Is it ten percent? The Bible seems to make a pretty good argument for it, but to simplify it I just asked myself, if I were to go out to dinner and leave a generous tip, what would that number be? Ten percent seems to be a good starting point.

Why am I trying to convince you? Most of you are pastors or church leaders. I’m sure you understand the concept of tithing, and you understand that for your church to survive, the people within your church have to give.

So, how can you make sure that happens? How can you make sure to increase giving all year long? Here are a few things you can do.

Daily

Practice generous giving in your daily life. Don’t expect your congregation to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself.

Pray for your congregation, not for them just to give but for the financial struggles and stresses many of them face on a week-to-week basis.

Weekly

Treat your offering time as a part of worship and not just an afterthought. Share scriptures, stories, and statistics on how giving is impacting your congregation, community, and world.

Send thank you cards to every first-time giver and those who give large gifts. If you’re worried about seeing what someone gives, have someone else give you the names and addresses without the amounts.

Monthly

Send a monthly newsletter to givers letting them know how their giving is impacting lives each week. Get started here.

Take a giver out for coffee or lunch. Show them you care about more than just their checkbook. You’ll be amazed at what you will learn in these conversations.

Quarterly

You are only required to send giving statements once a year, but many churches experience an increase in giving when they send quarterly statements.

Don’t just send the statement though. Make sure you attach a letter letting them know how their giving is making a difference. Do you see a theme emerging here?

Yearly

Throw a big end of year party and only invite those who give to your church. This is the perfect opportunity to let them know stats on salvations, baptisms, and, of course, tell stories.

Oh, and don’t forget to mail those end of year statements.

What did I forget? I’d love to hear your best giving tips, make sure to leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips each week on leadership, church growth, and more.

Thank Your Givers

One Thing Series

This post is a part of the “One Thing” series. Often we feel like we have to take drastic steps in our life or church to see significant change, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the small things create the biggest impact. In this series, we’ll focus on “One Thing” you can do that will get you and your church moving in the right direction.

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I was meeting with a couple of pastors this week, and we started discussing church finances. I was surprised to learn that neither of them was sending thank you letters to their givers.

Both of them agreed it was important, but neither of them had made it a priority.

What made it more surprising is that both of their churches are in very critical seasons where finances are a huge deal. Yet, they weren’t doing this one simple thing.

At my church our pastor sends handwritten letters each week to:

  1. Every first time giver.
  1. Every giver who gives a large gift. (For us that’s anything over $500.)

If you’re concerned about the pastor knowing what people in the church are giving, just have your finance person send the list of names and addresses without the amounts to the pastor each week. Problem solved.

Sending these letters has several advantages.

  1. It creates a wow. Most people aren’t expecting this, so it gives them a nice surprise. You can read more about the importance of Creating Wow here.
  1. It creates a connection. Having a connection with the pastor is one of the number one reasons people stay at a church. This is an easy opportunity to create one.
  1. It shows appreciation. The church doesn’t thrive without people who are willing to be generous. How often are you showing these people appreciation? I bet not often enough. This gives you that opportunity.
  1. It allows you to connect their giving with the vision. We can’t communicate the vision of our churches enough. This is an excellent opportunity to do that. One of the statements we’ve been sharing with our church lately is “Generosity changes lives.”

The amount of return you will see when you start doing this far outweighs the short amount of time it takes to write the letters. I’ll even leave you with an example to use.

Dear ______,

Thanks so much for giving to ______ church. Your generosity is changing lives. ______ church exists to reach those far from Christ, and your giving allows us to accomplish this mission. Please let us know if we can ever serve you in anyway.

Pastor ______

Do you send thank you letters to your givers? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below. Also, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips just like this delivered to your inbox each week.

Money Advice from Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan may not have been the very first church consultant, but he seems to have perfected the craft. We brought him in to evaluate our church a few years ago, and it was one of the best things we’ve ever done. He gave us several valuable insights about our church, but none more valuable than telling us to move our offering time.

Money

Before Tony showed up, we had always waited until the end of service to talk about the offering. To make matter worse, we just asked them to drop their offering in some buckets by the back door as they left.

Tony saw what we couldn’t. By waiting until the end of service to take up the offering, we were communicating that it wasn’t that important. We were treating it more as an afterthought.

Our congregation treated it the same way. Some of them gave, but many of them did not. It wasn’t that they necessarily didn’t want to give. We just did a terrible job of asking.

When your church is located in a town where the median household income is $29,000 a year, you can’t afford this type of mistake.

So, we took Tony’s advice, and our offerings tripled. Just kidding but they did get significantly better, and they’ve continued to get better as we’ve become more intentional about how we talk about money and giving.

Currently, these are the four things we’re doing that we believe is making a difference in the finances of our church.

  1. We make giving easy by offering people three different ways to give. They can give through cash or check as we take up the offering each week. They can mail in their offering through a postage paid envelope we have available at our Guest Services desk. Or they can give online. If you don’t offer online giving, you’re making a huge mistake. Get online immediately.
  1. We speak on giving throughout the year. The past couple of years we’ve done a financial series in the fall. These series not only teach people the concepts behind giving but also are designed to teach people better money management.
  1. We make the offering a part of our worship set each week. After the third worship song, someone on staff will come up and talk for two to three minutes on why we give. They’ll sometimes share a personal story, other times it’s a scripture, and other times it’s a story of life change taking place in the church.
  1. We offer classes once or twice a year on financial management. Many people would like to give to the church, but they just aren’t in a spot where they feel they can. So, we try to help them set up a budget, save an emergency fund, and find ways to pay down debt.

Our per person giving is still nowhere near where I’d like it to be, but we continue to make progress. I’m just glad we called Tony when we did. His advice couldn’t have come at a better time.

How’s the giving at your church? What are you currently doing to increase generosity within your congregation? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Get Rich Slowly

The Secret to Accumulating Wealth

I really like money. I would say I love money, but the Bible says not to. If you’re like me, you like money too, and you wish you had more of it. Well today is your lucky day because I’ve found the three ingredients to accumulating more wealth, and I want to share it with you.

Pile of cash

When I was a teenager I was lazy. I liked money, but I wasn’t willing to work to get more of it. My idea of making more money was going to Mom and Dad and asking them for money without them finding out the other one had already given me twenty dollars.

My parents paid for everything. In high school they paid for my car, my insurance, gas, food, and anything else I needed. When I went to college they paid my rent, but they couldn’t afford my tuition. Thankfully, the government was willing to loan me the money.

The government must’ve known I would soon be making big money and could easily pay them back. They had to be surprised and a bit worried when my first job out of college paid seven dollars an hour. I know I was. They had to be even more worried when I quit that job a year later to go see a girl.

But that girl was exactly what I needed. That girl was my motivation.

Now, I needed money because I needed to get out of my parent’s house, and I needed money to pay for a wedding and a honeymoon. Now I have to think about kids and insurance and retirement and on and on.

Now, I can’t be lazy anymore, but more than that, I have to be smart. I have to figure out how to accumulate wealth, and I have found that there are three main ingredients.

  1. Live on a Budget – Yes, the word everyone loves to hate, the dreaded budget. You can’t accumulate wealth without one. You need to know how much money you’re bringing in and make sure it’s more than the money you have going out. It used to take hours to do this because you had to jot down every receipt and put it into a spreadsheet. Thankfully now there’s an app for that. Mint is the best budgeting app I’ve ever used. It does everything for you. You just need to link it to your online banking account and any other account you want to track. It’s safe, secure, and best of all, free.
  1. Reduce Your Debt – Once you start using a budget, you’ll soon find out where all your money is going. At this point you can reallocate some funds that may be going to Starbucks, McDonalds, or iTunes, and start using that extra cash to pay down debt. I really like Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball Method, but whatever method you use, the main thing is you focus on paying off debt. The less debt you have, the more coffee, burgers, and music you can buy in the future.
  1. Give 10% Back to God – This is the piece most people miss because on the surface it doesn’t seem to make sense. How can you have more money if you’re giving it away? God tells us we are stewards. We are people who manage or look after someone else’s things. Nothing we have is ours. It is all God’s, and we’re responsible for looking after it and using it how God would want us to. We learn in Matthew 25, the importance of good stewardship. God’s blessings flow through open hands. If you’re doing everything else right and still can’t seem to get ahead, this may be the piece you’re missing.

These three ingredients are great, but there’s one thing that holds them all together. I like to think of it as the secret sauce of accumulating wealth.

Self-discipline holds all the pieces together. This is where most people fail. They have the right ingredients, but they don’t have the self-discipline.

A budget does you no good if you don’t stick to it. You’ll never pay down debt if you can’t say no to some things you want. Without self-discipline, you’ll be tempted to take the portion you’ve set aside to give back to God to pay for other things in your budget.

If you struggle in this area, and I think most of us do, Michael Hyatt gives five tips for developing more discipline in our lives.

Once you get disciplined, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy financial future.

What would you do with your life if money weren’t an issue? What one thing would you buy that you’ve never been able to afford?