3 Reasons to Consider On-Line Giving

giving online

Our church is currently in the process of restructuring our finances and committee roles.  We are adding, revising, and or deleting policies, functions, and systems.  We are also considering some new functionality.

We sat in a meeting on Thursday and literally wiped our brows having narrowly escaped the three foot snow storm that hit New York and Massachusetts.

We, like so many churches simply could not afford to ‘CLOSE’ church. Bills have to be paid and so do employees of which the pastor is one.

This narrow escape forced us to address the subject of online giving AGAIN moving it this time UP on our priority list.  Instead of discussing things-to-death we made a conscious effort to implement this task.  We even decided to enforce a deadline date as we simply could not afford to procrastinate any longer.

Three concepts we had to come to terms with:

1) We are living in a ‘cashless’ society.

To prove this point eight people were around the table and only two of the eight had cash in their possession.  The rest of us said that we had our Debit cards.

Interestingly enough, the average age of our committee was 60. So if 80% of our committee operated mostly using our cards, this only confirms what the majority of people are using – their CARDS.

2) Great number of people bank online.

Again, using our meeting as a sample poll, this percentage dropped by 50% as some people around the table still wrote checks to pay their bills.

I think it is also important to note that the oldest in this meeting was 74 and the youngest was 51. Those under the age of 60 ALL banked online.  Suffice it to say the average adult between ages 27-60 also bank online.

Why is this important to note?  Because we anticipate that when we finally introduce the concept to our congregation, it should be met with minimal resistance to the average person already familiar with the automation.

3) Closed church, closed wallet.

Weather is not the only obstacle, last year we had a mysterious power outage.  It did not only affect the church, but all the surrounding businesses and residential areas.  Everything was shut down. This lasted for four days.

What’s the significance? It’s the temptation to spend that which would have otherwise been earmarked for the offering plate.

To some, especially those not sold on this tithing thing to have to double up the following Sunday is more than they can bear.  It’s something about giving ‘the CHURCH’ that much money. See the humorous story called, ‘The Pastor and the Successful Young Man.’

The Real Benefit

Once you are set up to receive donations, contributions, tithes and offerings online, you will not be in FEAR when there is inclement weather or when there are mysterious power outages that keep you from having church services.

Many churches, from my research, have enjoyed more ‘consistent’ giving among their congregations as many of them have set up their accounts for a particular amount to be taken out at regular intervals of their own choosing.

This automation helps the member stay faithful in his or her giving as well, and of course, it eliminates the anxiety of having to double or triple their tithes on account of church closings.

There are many online giving companies that will assist the church in setting up this feature on their websites.  You can, of course, do your own due diligence, but here are just a few companies I put together that offer this service.

What is your back up plan if you had to close your church unexpectedly? How is the giving at your church?  What would happen if you couldn’t count on two of your largest tithers?

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Declining Church Membership – Do Something Different

lock door

Prevent the Padlock

My friend and I were sitting in a standing room only church hall filled with preachers and lay people. The bishop of the United Methodist Church Conference began to speak about “The State of the United Methodist Church.”  In particular, he addressed the topic of declining church membership.

He rattled off all sorts of statistics.  It was no surprise to hear that membership was declining.  This is something we had heard about with all churches across the United States.

UMC Statistics

To our surprise the bishop mentioned that we had 650 churches in our particular region and that of these churches . .

  • 40% (260) have less than 50 members.
  • 75 churches had 11-25 members
  • 81 churches had 26 to 35 members
  • 91 churches had 36 to 50
  • 4 churches with less than 10 members

I had read stats from groups like PEW Research Organization and the Barna Group that church memberships across the board regardless of denomination or non-denomination were in decline; however, the UMC statistics were alarming.

Face Realities

The survival of the United Methodist Church or any church for that matter have to face some realities, for if over time a church can no longer pay its pastor, its musician, its utilities or its mortgage, closing is inevitable. And just like those dinosaurs, we could look up and face the fact that our church has become extinct, and there is a padlock on our doors.

The message that the bishop told preachers and laity was to take some risks and to do somethings differently. Our survival depended upon it. If your church is barely making it, struggling to keep members and finances are just not enough to cover expenses, you have NO other choice but to explore OTHER options.

Go Visiting

Visit some churches outside of your comfort zone, even visit some churches outside of your own denomination. Visit some large churches.  While you are there, objectively evaluate how they do church. How long is the preacher preaching and what kind of songs is the choir singing? What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What is the energy like? How do the people seem to you? How do they attract new members? How were you greeted when you entered the church. How do they acknowledge visitors?  I am sure you will be surprise to learn that not everybody does church the same way.

Check out online resources, magazine and websites

The Internet is filled with resources to help us do church better.  There are church and ministry magazines you can subscribe to in order to keep you abreast and get ideas.  The whole premise is to obtain ideas and credible solutions to enhance ministry, encourage community, and move toward your vision.

Here is a list of people I believe that will give you a great start.  Go ahead and click on their names and peruse their sites.:

Rick Warren, Thom S. Rainer, Ed Setzer, Michael Hyatt, Kent Shaffer

Recommended Books Include:

Church Growth

Go BIG: Lead Your Church to Explosive Growth – Bill Easum * Bill Cornelius

Church Growth6

The Creative Leader – Ed Young

Church Growth3

The Purpose Driven Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

..to next level. Where You are Won't Get You There

..to next level. Where You are Won’t Get You There

Recommended Magazines Include:

Leadership

Leadership Journal

Ministry Today

Charisma

Christianity Today

 

There really isn’t any point of re-inventing the wheel when there are resources available at your finger tips.  Applying a few tips can be what will make a difference in turning your services around.  Let’s learn from one another.  We are all on the same team.  It’s about the Kingdom.

Can you  think of any church leader or pastor who would benefit from this post?  If so, please share.

 

 

 

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Church Improvement – Just Start Somewhere!

Church Improvement – Just Start Somewhere!

I was at an event and was engaged in small talk with some friends who attend another church.  I asked them, “How’s things going at ABC church?” One of the men replied “Ah… we’re okay.  We’re just trying to make it like every other church. It sure would help if the preacher didn’t preach so long. Our preacher preaches over an hour.  A lot of people are leaving.  I think that is why we are having money issues.”  He ended by saying, “The good news is that other churches seem to be having money issues too.”

I thought how sad. It actually makes us feel good that others are going through the same thing we are.  While it might bring us some comfort to know that we are not the only ones going through dry spells, it actually casts a dark shadow over the CHURCH as a whole.  For example, the church is known for always beggin, wanting things for free, being broke, busted and disgusted.  Well, who would want to join an outfit like that?

Sometimes, all the average church has to do is commit to making some minor adjustments to start yielding positive results or be willing to make an investment into itself.  I’m reminded of the following saying,

Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.

Start with Small Steps

Shaving 10 minutes off the sermon time, include a 5-minute skit or 3-minute video in the mix and commit to a weekly 2 minute ‘offering message’ to address the who, what, when and whys of giving before taking up the tithes and offering are just a couple of ideas that churches can begin to implement immediately that will yield them tremendous results.

The above hyperlinks in blue offer sites where you can get free skits, discounted videos and a sample video on the effectiveness of an offering message.

As we embark on a New Year won’t you commit to making some minor adjustments?

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Sermons: How Long is Too Long?

Alarm clock

Sermons: How Long is Too Long?

Just how long should your average Sunday morning sermon be? There is no real ‘right’ answer to this question because it largely depends on you and the congregation you serve.

I say this because I have heard well-prepared pastors speak over an hour and have left me wanting more. Then again, I have heard pastors speak as few as 10-15 minutes and it seemed like the longest sermon ever.

On-Line Survey Reports

You may find the results of this online survey which reported how long pastors typically preach, of interest, especially in determining where you rate compared to the average.

  • 49% preached 20-25 minutes
  • 44% preached 30-45 minutes
  • 7% preached greater than 45 minutes

Facts About Human Behavior & Response

I thought it would be helpful is sharing some research about human behavior and response in order to assist us in getting a grip on what is reasonable considering the times we live in.

No one knows people like the media giants, especially in terms of what it takes to get people to buy. They study human behavior and responses to a variety of sensory inputs such as sound, sight, color, etc.  Did you know that 40 years ago commercials use to be as long as 90 seconds and now the average commercial is only 15 seconds long? That’s more than an 80% reduction!

Can you guess why?

If you guessed budget you are partly correct, but the main reason they cut the length of commercials is because of the shorten attention span of the public viewers. 

Attention span is the amount of time that a person can concentrate on a task before becoming distracted.

It seems people would glance at the commercial and move on whether it was for a bathroom break, to get a snack or to change the channel.  The media moguls had to make the necessary adjustments based on people’s behavior, and had to come to terms with the approaches which ONCE worked were NO longer working.

As a result, they created more attention grabbing clips, used clever and more innovative ways to attract views to their products all in less time. This forced them to focus on what was important.

Shrinking Attention Span – Growing Epidemic

If the world has determined that the attention span of its viewers is shrinking overall and has made certain adjustments, doesn’t it make sense that the CHURCH would have to do NO less?ADD-Squirrel

We are living in a mobile media technological age where the Internet, smart phones, tablets and computers are all competing for our attention.

Gone are the days where we can even expect people to give us two hours of their undivided attention as we preach long auditory sermons from our pulpits.

I read an article that stated that we are processing information at 400 times the rate of our ancestors. Everything is quick and instant. We text messages in short hand and tweet in 140 characters or less.  It is no wonder that more and more people young as well as old are being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

A Different Generation

We are in front of a different generation of people – people who are consumed with social media which, by the way, is ONLY 8 years old.

Don’t let them get bored or believe me they will be Facebooking, texting, tweeting, etc. in your church services or worse yet, you will simply start seeing your attendance decline where they have stopped coming altogether.

That being said, let’s be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I challenge you to be like the media giants to a degree.  Find creative ways to respond to human behavior.

Here are some suggestions

  1. Always prepare and plan your sermons
  2. Aim for a goal of 20-25 minute sermons
  3. Consider some visual aids (props or video clips) to accompany your sermons
  4. Consider implementing a 2 minute skit before or into your sermon
  5. A good rule of thumb is for a 2 hour service, 25% dedicated to ‘audible’ sermon (30 minutes tops)

How long are your sermons? Do you know many pastors who regularly preach greater than 45 minutes and keep their congregation’s attention?  If so, are they using any of the above suggestions?

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Improve Your Church Holiday Services by Planning Ahead

Snow laid woods w Red Xmas ball

Improve Your Church Holiday Services

Christmas is fast approaching.  For the church, there are three days a year that can serve to EXPLODE your church in terms of growth.  The three days are: Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter.  We call it the C.M.E. days.

These days should come as no surprise to you.   If you can’t get people in church any other time, you usually can on these days. I implore you to really pay attention to these days and not to ignore such a great opportunity to fish.

Feature Your Best Stuff

It is during these times, churches need to pull out there BEST stuff: music, best readers, drama, sermon, etc.  I’ve been in congregation where pastors sand blast their members for not inviting others to church with them.  Believe me when I say you don’t get warm fuzzies staring out at empty pews.

However, on the other hand, if there is nothing to look forward to but a typical Sunday morning format, where is the motivation to do anything different?

Plan Ahead

There are churches who put significant time into planning for the C.M.E. days to be a great worship experience, not only for their existing congregation, but also for their visitors. Some churches start planning as much as a year ahead for these special days.

The result of significant planning will always yield you positive results.

It really gets me how pastors will put in a week or two of planning, if that, just before the ‘special’ day and have the audacity to rebuke the congregation for not inviting guests.

The truth is there are always churches nearby that have planned ahead and are offering a great worship experience.

You know this personally because more than a month earlier, you received their glossy postcard, or a member gave you an event ticket, or you saw their specialty banner on the road, or viewed their updated website  or you heard their radio announcement or saw their TV commercial.

These are all indicators that this service has been well thought out, planned and will be different.

People Will Share What They Value

The truth is congregations from these churches will gladly invite friends, co-workers and strangers to their churches. Members value the time, effort and planning that went into that service.  And whatever gives them a sense a pride, they will gladly share.

So if you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly.  However, if you sow generously, you will reap generously.

Don’t Be Surprised if Your Own Member Skips Out

So, if you are a pastor who says, “It don’t take all that,” don’t be surprised or offended if you look up and even some of your own members are missing on these days.

Where are they?  They are at the church down the road enjoying their ‘planned’ church service.

 

 Does your church plan ahead for C.M.E. days?  How early?

Feel free to review the blog entitled, “10 Ways to Sabotage Your Church Holiday Service Efforts.”

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