Summertime brings challenges for churches
June 11, 2019 by Sherry Hester Kenney
Summer is a joyful time for the Church. From the celebration of its birthday on Pentecost, through Vacation Bible School and the All-Church Picnic, to the blessing of the backpacks and the excitement of a new school year, these months are full of fun activities and often a more relaxed and casual pace.
Many churches experience an increase in visitors, especially if the church is in an area that attracts tourists, or is housed in an historic building, or is situated in a resort area that draws seasonal residents.
But summer can be challenging for the church budget. There may be lapses in giving, as those who contribute regularly to the general offering fund take off for summer vacation. At the same time certain expenses, such as air-conditioning, may increase. This can create cash flow shortfalls and stress for the pastor and the session of the church, even though they know from experience to expect it.
Here are a few stewardship “best practices” that can help to smooth out church giving over the summer.
Offer online giving
Be sure to offer an online giving option to your members and friends. The Presbyterian Foundation’s program has no start-up costs and no monthly fees, and the flat 2% charge per gift will easily be made up by increased giving, both in numbers of gifts and in gift amounts. Use the Foundation’s promotional materials to be sure your members know you’ve initiated the program and encourage them to stay current in their giving commitment over the summer. Pew cards, which churches can order during enrollment, make it easy for visitors without a checkbook to give more than the loose change in their pockets.
Emphasize mission and ministry
It’s tempting, especially during the summer months, to print the “budgeted” versus “actual” income and expenses of the church in the bulletin. Since the gap tends to widen over the summer, the thinking is that seeing these negative numbers may motivate people to give more or to catch up with their giving commitment. This strategy doesn’t often work. Most people aren’t motivated by budgets, and they tend to prefer giving to an organization that is succeeding in its financial goals rather than in one that is falling behind. Positive emphasis on the mission and ministry of the church is a better plan.
Share narrative budget
Use the summer months to highlight the church’s engagement in the community, with “minutes for mission” from your mission partners and Young Adult Volunteers, and short-term volunteer opportunities, such a one-day Habitat for Humanity build. Teens and families with young children may find it easier to give time over the summer than during the school year, and these shared activities not only help strengthen their commitment to their faith community, but also motivate financial investment in it. This is a good time to dust off your narrative budget and remind your members and friends of how the money they give is being put to work transforming lives.
In September, the Presbyterian Foundation will again be sponsoring the Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference, featuring presentations on year-round stewardship and generosity, legacy giving, capital campaigns and more. This year, the conference is set for San Diego from September 30 to October 2. Registration information can be found here. Applications for a Church Financial Leadership Grant for pastors and members of stewardship teams can be accessed here.
Sherry Hester Kenney serves as the Ministry Relations Officer for the South Central Region, which includes Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. She works with congregations to create a culture of generosity, offers seminars and workshops, develops gifts and fundraising plans for ministries, and provides coaching to finance, stewardship and endowment committees. You can reach Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 855-342-4130.