More than half of American families live paycheck to paycheck, according to Bankrate’s Money Pulse survey, with little or no money for emergencies or extras. And when people are in that situation, charitable giving often becomes one of those extras.
If you know people in your congregation who are financially stressed, you may be disinclined to ask for what you need to keep your church’s lights on and ministries funded. But whether or not financial stress is involved, it’s a conversation that’s important for everyone to take part in, and it can be fruitful if presented in the right way.
How to speak openly about your financial needs
Be bold. “Churches need money to function; this is not something to be ashamed of, but to be treated honestly,” a Ministry Tech blog reminds us. Furthermore, the blog says, “If you don’t share, the finances can be seen as a staff secret and not a shared responsibility.” By discussing financial information and issues, leaders can make it clear that staff and congregation need to pull together in good times and bad.
Be thoughtful. Think about the best way to approach your congregation. If your church is working to raise money for a significant mission or cause, a passionate sermon, special event or email may create excitement that will prompt giving. However, that type of call to action may be less appropriate when it’s for the funds you need to keep your operations going. In those times, passion may be less important than budget spreadsheets and charts that can be discussed in small group meetings.
Be personal. Another advantage of small group or one-on-one meetings is the chance to answer questions and encourage dialogue. That kind of personal interaction can help you make your case and gain support, since people feel that their viewpoints have been heard, considered and valued.
Be specific. Rather than leaving people to wonder where funds might go, tell them. Clearly state needs and challenges you’ve had in the past fiscal season. There’s no harm or shame in discussing the average monthly air conditioning cost, for example, and telling people you’re coming up short. A call for support like that can hit close to home for your members.
Be transparent. Treat your members like a family, all sharing in the health of the church home. Not all members may have much to give, but if you let them know how they can contribute in an immediate and direct way, you’re giving them a concrete reason to open their wallets. And remember to make it simple for them to give — pass the basket, enable debit/credit card and other e-Giving solutions.
Finally, you might want to consider taking these ideas a step further by developing a set of financial policies and principles to communicate to your members. See those developed by Harvest Community Church, which details how the church handles its finances, fundraising and oversight.
The first key to a healthy church family is communication. As the head of that family, you begin and guide the conversation. Have confidence that an effective approach and the addition of multiple giving channels will help you put the right pieces in place for a collective financial effort that’s good for everyone.