Use Offering Time To Tell Stories

  1. Donors want to hear how their gifts are being used in ministry. A financial statement doesn’t tell the whole story. Church leadership must share interesting stories of how offerings are being used.
  2. Find 52 compelling stories and insert those in the offertory time. If the church doesn’t have 52 stories, the church has bigger issues. Work with the worship leader to coordinate where in the worship the offering time will fall so that the offertory and its accompanying story add synergy to the service. Insert stories that relate to the sermon, to the liturgical calendar, to the school year, to seasons of the life of a church, etc. Make the story/offering time a key element of worship, not just a way to kill three minutes.
  3. During the year, give every ministry a chance to be on the platform telling one (and only ONE) story. Tell a story about real people, real events. Give ministries time to announce an upcoming youth event, a mission trip, Vacation Bible School, small groups, Christmas, or Easter activity, etc. This is “thank you” time (not an announcement time).
  4. Tell the stories using different methods such as interviews, slide shows, testimonies, songs, handouts, etc. Be creative each time and vary the method the story is told from week to week.
  5. Here are some examples:
    1. I’d like for you to see what our youth did on their summer mission trip. Because of your gifts, 13 kids spent a week that will change their lives for the next 60+ years. Thanks! (then comes slideshow with cool music)
    2. In two weeks we’re launching new small groups and we want you in one of them. If you can’t afford the study book, the church’s offerings will buy you a book. We’ll even pay for babysitting so you can be there. And yes, thanks to everyone’s contributions who are making this possible.
  6. Make each story compelling and have each presentation heart-touching. Always use the words “thank you” and “generosity/generous” – those words have no negative connotations. Soon, the offering time will be something people look forward to.

Lead On!

Steve

www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Giving Cards in Pews

People who come to church often want to give but they don’t have cash or checks on them. With digital donations now available, giving to the church can be done anytime. Churches can provide a “giving card” that informs people of the various ways they can support their church.

  1. Inform your worshippers of the various ways they can support the church financially with “Giving Cards.” Create a card (about the size of an offering envelope) with all the ways that people can give to your ministry budget: cash, checks, website (include link), church app, text to give, a QR code link, etc. Put this card in the pew with the offering envelopes for people to take and have a reminder to give.
  2. In most churches, people can only give if they have cash or checks at the moment the offering plate is passed. A giving card shows people the other ways they can give from their home computer or smartphone after worship is over.
  3. On the flip side of the card you can include a verse (1 Timothy 6:17-18 is good) and/or ways for people to get involved in the church: small groups, mission trips, volunteering, etc.
  4. Use the card to educate people about how they can help their church and themselves.

Lead On!

Steve

www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Personal Investing

My family asked me about my personal investing. I’ve done well in the market – I’ve averages over 8% returns per year for the past 11 years (2007-2017) which includes several down or flat years.

  1. It’s all in mutual funds in Vanguard
  2. I re-balance my funds about once a year unless there is a major world event in which case I’ll immediately re-configure my investments (think war, economic collapse of a country/region, etc.)
  3. I’m invested 80% in equities and 20% in bonds. The bonds are a hedge against the stocks. You can be more aggressive by having more equities or by having more aggressive equities (emerging/international markets and/or small cap).
  4. My specific investments and percentages
    1. VFIAX    Vanguard 500 Index Fund Admiral Shares – 40%
    2. VEMAX  Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund Admiral Shares – 15%
    3. VWETX  Vanguard Long-Term Investment Grade Fund Admiral Shares – 20%
    4. VSGAX   Vanguard Small-Cap Growth Index Fund Admiral Shares – 25%
  5. This means that my portfolio is a good mix of aggressive and conservative, US and international. This is a secret to investing – diversification! That can’t be stressed enough – don’t put all your eggs in one stock or even one mutual fund. Here’s my mix:
    1. 40% invested in large US companies (stable growth)
    2. 15% invested in international companies (stable with some speculation)
    3. 20% invested in bond (conservative part of my portfolio)
    4. 25% invested in small cap or aggressive companies

A few rules for investing

  1. “A rising tide lifts all boats.” When the market is going up, you don’t have to be particularly smart or good to do well.
  2. “Be a pig, not a hog. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” Go for gains of all kinds but don’t get greedy and chase after the high flyers each week or even each month.
  3. “Never fall in love with your investments.” They don’t love you back. Investments are tools, nothing more. Be willing to bail on them whenever necessary.

Lead On!

Steve

 

Questions re Accepting Credit Cards (part 4 of 5)

Churches which do not have online giving often have several questions which hinder them from proceeding. Here are some of the concerns I’ve run into over the past few years:

  • Promotion
    • To be successful, there must be a promotion/awareness/visibility campaign to let members know they can now giving online. The best way to do this is as a teaching opportunity rather than crass marketing. Just as we let members know about different Bible study times and other events, we need to inform people about the different ways they can support their church. They want to give their money to their church – we’re simply providing information and ways for them to do that.
    • There are a variety of methods to get the word out using bulletins, pulpit announcements, website, giving cards in the pews, etc. All of these must be used to make this a success.
    • If we do not give easy ways to support their church, we’re putting hurdles in front of our donors. That is simply not wise or good.
  • Accounting and Reporting
    • The finance office will need to be diligent in ensuring that all online financial transactions are posted to the General Ledger so that the monthly bank reconciliation is accurate and the end of month financial reports are correct. That office also needs to ensure that any reporting provided to the church during the month contains the online gifts. This will require the staff to adopt new patterns and checklists.

 

Lead On!

Steve

 

Questions re Accepting Credit Cards (part 3 of 5)

Churches which do not have online giving often have several questions which hinder them from proceeding. Here are some of the concerns I’ve run into over the past few years:

  • We’ll Get That Money Anyway
    • Some people feel that money given by members via credit cards would have come to the church via cash or check if the church didn’t have online giving. Personally, I’ve put things back on the shelf when I realized the shop didn’t take a credit card and I didn’t have cash to pay for it.
    • I don’t believe all of that money would. Some would come in but not all. The convenience of credit cards eliminates hurdles to giving and allows for giving more.
  • Back office administration
    • The finance staff in the church has to get the donations posted to members giving records and to the church’s financial records. The worst way to do that is manually and the best way is to do it electronically with few or no human touches.
    • Digital donation providers are continually working to ensure their systems can seamlessly “talk” with church financial records systems. Also, the online giving platforms have a way for members to access their giving history and even download a document suitable for their tax purposes (which means less contact with the church’s finance office).

 Lead On!

Steve

 

Questions re Accepting Credit Cards (part 2 of 5)

Churches which do not have online giving often have several questions which hinder them from proceeding. Here are some of the concerns I’ve run into over the past few years:

  • Portal Fees
    • Digital donation providers themselves have a fee which usually depends on the size of the church (number of Sunday morning worshippers).
    • This is the fee paid to the provider their services
      • A portal that makes is easy and friendly to give
      • Back office assistance to post contributions
      • Help in creating categories for gifts
      • Continuing training to existing and new staff at the church
      • Ideas for successful marketing and implementation
    • This fee is to the digital donations provider just as we’d pay the plumber for their labor (that is, the portal fee) and we also pay for parts (that is, the credit card fees) – two different expenses paid to two different companies.
  • Debt by members
    • Some churches are concerned that members will get deeper in debt by using their credit cards to pay their tithe. There are two ways to address this within the church:
      • Encourage people to use a debit card or an ACH transfer (bank to bank). These are cheaper for the church and don’t create credit card debt.
      • Have a class teaching members wise money management using materials from Financial Peace University and/or from Crown Ministries. These classes can really help people get their financial house in order AND tithe.
    • But some people want to use their credit card to earn rewards points and they will pay off their credit card balance each month.

 Lead On!

Steve

 

Questions re Accepting Credit Cards (part 1 of 5)

Churches which do not have online giving often have several questions which hinder them from proceeding. Here are some of the concerns I’ve run into over the past few years:

  • Online Giving (itself)
    • Making financial transactions online has been normalized by society in the past 10 or 15 years. Amazon and other online businesses have made us comfortable with spending money online and using our credit cards on our computers and smartphones.
    • In 2016, our society spent more on restaurants than groceries; in 2015, we spent more electronically than we did using cash and checks. We have moved inexorably into the age of electronic transactions.
    • I predict that by the year 2025 (maybe 2030) we won’t even be using credit cards anymore – transactions will be made using Apple or Android pay or some other electronic financial exchange system which is being created even now.
  • Fees paid by the church
    • All credit cards have fees ranging from about 2.3% to 5% of the transaction. VISA and Mastercard have lower fees while American Express has the highest. Most VISA and Mastercard providers have fees in the 2% to 3% range.
    • Remember that banks have fees on every check and cash transaction they process, albeit about 25 to 30 cents for each one and that is lower than credit card fees.
    • Fees on credit cards is very much a “cost of doing business” in today’s world. Just as every church has a copy machine and air conditioning, fees on credit cards are just part of being “in business” for a church.
    • Frankly, the fees aren’t that much. If a church gets as little as $10,000 in online gifts during the year, the fee for that is about $250 which seems pretty small when weighed against the $10K that came in.

Lead On!

Steve

 

First Time Donors

Coming to a church for the first time is frequently celebrated. People are encouraged to introduce themselves, provide contact information, and are even given coupons for coffee or food. These are good steps whose goal is to encourage the people to return again and again.

Churches can take another step which is to send a thank you note to all first time donors. The first time someone gives to a church is a big deal. It is one thing to come but it is an even bigger step to pull out your wallet and financially support the church. That action should be acknowledged.

Every first time donor should get a thank you note from a church leader – the pastor, the treasurer, or the church administrator. This simple act will take about 3 minutes per card and cost a dollar or two including postage. But the benefits of that expense will be enormous – people will comment about that for a long time and they will be genuinely surprised and grateful.

Take the time to write a thank you note. It is a big deal.

 Lead On!

Steve