What You can Learn from 700K Donors

Ever wondered if your church is unique in its generosity, or if your people are similar to others? Leadership Network and Mortar Stone have released a report on church generosity based on some “big data” from Mortar Stone. They tracked giving at churches from over 722,000 households and found some interesting insights that should shape every church’s strategy to grow a generous church.

Hare are some compelling take-aways from the report.

You can’t grow significantly on new givers – The report found that over 12 months, only 6% of trackable giving comes from new givers. While important, new givers don’t significantly impact in year one. Expecting “growth” to cover large budget increases is not the best approach. Every church needs a plan to grow the generosity of those already giving.

Focus on the second gift – Only 55% of new givers will give a second time within a 12 month period. So if you get mobile donate100 new givers, 45 won’t give again that year. So focus on strategies to help new givers give again, quickly, to build a habit of generosity. Thank you letters and making that second gift simple (online giving, mobile giving, envelopes, etc) can help increase that percentage.

Early Attrition is High – On top of the difficulty of making second gifts, only 48% of new givers will keep giving into year two. That means for every 100 new gifts, typically 26 will keep giving into year two. Like any new skill, it’s surprisingly difficult to sustain initial giving patterns. Growing nonprofits need tactics to support new givers, like highlighting the benefits of generosity and helping people learn new financial patterns.

Build consistency not amount – For givers who did continue giving, in year two their giving goes up by an average of 64%. So help new givers build a consistent pattern of giving, and their generosity normally increases.

But people don’t give consistently because of real barriers. Consumer debt, consumerism, lack of trust and fear inhibit families generosity. Many have never learned how to give. So teach them. Provide classes to help people get out of debt, budget, and save so generosity becomes practical and practiced.

Disciple top givers – Being generous should be part of every church’s discipleship plan for everyone. At the same time, 6% of givers donated over $10K a year to churches. Yet those people give 41% of the church’s general fund. That means losing them is painful. So deepen their connection to Christ and their understanding of your churches mission to motivate them towards building God’s kingdom.

Pass the Plate – Churches that actually passed a plate/basket/bucket have 17% larger offerings than similar size churches that don’t pass the plate. It may be a strategic decision to passively receive an offering, but it has a price.

When they are gone, they are gone. Once a family has not given for 12 months, only 3% will give over the next 12 months. To put it another way, if a family hasn’t given in 12 months, 97% of the time they don’t return to giving to your church. The key is to not lose them. If a shift in giving pattern happens, someone should follow-up. Often these are pastoral care moments (loss of job, medical challenge, debt crunch, frustration, etc) where care and help can make a huge impact spiritually and personally.

How does your church or nonprofit compare to these percentages? Have you compared your data from year to year to see how well you are doing at developing and retaining those who fund your mission?

If your church or non-profit needs help developing systems to care for those who give and help you know what their next step is, we can help.  Schedule a free 30 consultation to discuss your church’s situation.

The Worst Moment in Every Worship Service

boredinchurchIf you have ever gone to church, you know the worst moment in every service…announcements. If the announcements are not the worst thing during your service, then you have bigger challenges, but that’s another post.

Announcements feel like lots of words about things you care little about. It takes too long. It’s dull…so we check out instagram on our phone and pretend to listen.

With distraction ubiquitous, everyone tunes out thousands of daily messages. As church leaders, we know this, yet we plunge ahead making 5, 7, sometimes 10 announcements each service. We bombard people with information hoping they will remember something…anything. Worse still, we get frustrated when eyes glaze over or people miss what we think is important.

It’s our fault people don’t hear us. Our messages are cluttered, noisy and less than engaging.

As church leaders we often pretend “it’s all important.” Announcements aren’t the important stuff; not compared to preaching God’s word, worship, and communion. The announcements are close to filler. So either we need to end announcements (and there was much rejoicing) or we need to get a lot better at doing them. A few tips:

  • Humor Makes things memorable – Here’s a promo for a men’s event.
  • Preach the announcements – where it fits the sermon, we work application of the message toward upcoming “events.” If the topic has an application for marriage, one of the things we preach is “many of you need to sign up for the marriage event to invest in your marriage.” When this happens, it’s easy ministry.
  • Group items under one focus: Don’t announce every bible study, or new groups, etc. Talk about why everyone needs a group of friends to help them grow spiritually and direct people elsewhere for details of new opportunities.
  • Videorecord announcements to play during the service. It controls the time and creates clarity every service.
  • Talk to everyone – if something doesn’t apply to half the people in the room or more, leave it out.
  • Teasers – announce “lots of exciting and fun things happening in middle school, women’s study, and with the homeless ministry…details in the program”
  • Tell Stories  – use life change stories to highlight a ministry (video, interview, sermon point)…there is no better promotion.

If you don’t want the announcements to be the worst moment in a service, plan them so that they connect and don’t distract from the main thing, worship. After all, it is a worship service, right?

How have you seen announcements handled? What is your favorite example of a good or bad announcementt?

Watts ChapelPanel Discussion with Watts Chapel Missionary Baptist Church leadership about how other churches have solved the challenges of growth.

Date: July 8, 2016
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Event: Watts Chapel Leadership Retreat
Topic: Growth Strategies
Venue: MacGregor Downs Country Club
Location: Cary, NC
Public: Public

Your back door is open


Recently I read a great post by Ronnie Christian about “Closing the Back Door” of your church is not your goal. For you non-professional church types, back door is the metaphoric place where people depart your local congregation. The “front door” is where people come “in” to the body. In corporate vernacular, the front door is sales and the back door is customer retention.

Ronnie’s best point is that opening“closing the back door” is not the goal of any local church. Making disciples is, and that is a crucial issue of focus. At the same time, people often leave because the church has not helped them spiritually. Since “making disciples” of Jesus requires helping people grow spiritually, the problem isn’t directional; we all want the same things. The challenge is focus and systems to accomplish the goal

Here are a couple of areas that need attention:

Who are we bringing in? One of the best ways to keep people from leaving for poor reasons is to be sure they join for the right reasons. Be clear with your vision. Everyone should know where your local body is headed and your values as you go. How can they become partners in your mission if the direction is unclear?

What is expected?  People need to know what the church expects from them. It is essential for leaders to define this. If not, the not so subtle expectation is that you expect “more.” The greater clarity you have up front on this, the fewer the people who run out the back saying demands were unrealistic.

How do we know when they are in need? It’s just a fact that it is easier to shepherd 150 people than 1500. In larger churches, many people will not ask for help because 1) they don’t know the person 2) they are not sure who to approach,  or 3) they think people will not care. In some ways, it’s easier to move on than ask for help. The bigger the church the easier it needs to be to ask for care.

How do we know when someone is missing? In large groups a person can miss months without being noticed. Break the congregation down into smaller care groups and to empower those group leaders to care for people, solve problems, and bring in others if they need help. Create ways for pastors to know who is “missing” even if they can’t do it by scanning the crowd on Sunday. A systematic response to children’s check-in or attendance cards can bring a potential problem to the surface before it is critical. The larger your church the more attention you need here.

How can people access leaders? Availability of leaders is critical. Too often simple misunderstandings lead to departures. Most pastors and church leaders would alter their schedule to solve a problem, but if people perceive you to be too busy, they often don’t ask for time. Availability is primarily about perception.

It isn’t about being totally accessible to anyone for any reason, yet people need to know they can talk to someone when they have questions or problems.

How would you “close the back door” so people stay at your church?

Photo: Go through it via photopin (license)


Seven Ways to Grow your Church this Summer

July Durant Baptism

It used to feel like churches would annually say “See you in September.” Once school was out, student ministry was on hiatus. Children’s ministry would shut down for two months…sending the kids to “big church.” Small groups stopped till Labor Day. No sense working hard when no one will come, right?

That isn’t church these days. Typical growing churches have attendance drops of 8-15% at points in the summer. But that means 85% are still coming every weekend. Most families take 1-2 weeks vacation so why act like no one is around?

If people take 6-8 weeks off, it may be because churches give them so little to come to in the summer. Don’t let your church be like Jon Acuff’s “Vacation Weekend Syndrome.” 

Summer is when many new people visit church.  36 million Americans move in a year. Summer is “moving season” so chances are many new families are coming to your community. With fewer weekend sports activities, unchurched people have a chance to consider a faith community for the first time in months. Parents want activities for their bored kids. Chances are some or all of them will walk through your doors this summer. What do you have for them? Are you ready?

Here are seven practical steps you can do to grow your church this summer:

  1. Pray – Often I treat prayer like an after-thought. It should be our first approach to summer ministry, just like fall and spring. Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer is not preparation for the work – prayer is the work.”  I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit is available all summer to transform hearts and draw people to Jesus so pray that He does!
  2. Plan – If you believe that “every Sunday is someone’s first Sunday” then the team will expect guests and be ready. Have a great summer preaching series. Have gifts and material for visitors. Have relational ways new people can connect every month. Don’t make new people feel like they came “too soon” by delaying real connection till September.
  3. Coordinate – Summer is a great time for staff to vacation with family. With some planning, you can avoid those Sundays where everyone on stage is “filling in.” If your lead teacher is off, don’t have your best worship leader off at the same time, or vice versa. Spreading out key leaders vacations is doable if you plan ahead.
  4. Support – Give extra help to those teaching and leading worship who don’t do it every week. Equip, encourage, give resources, and help them prepare and lead. Everyone wants a great weekend experience so help those “filling in” excel.
  5. Be local – Every city is different in how summer feels. With snow birds, tourists, college students and year-round schools, many churches don’t have much of a dip. The summer slump can be as small as the 2 weekends around the 4th of July. Look at past attendance to have a good idea when people start “coming back” so you can connect deeply.
  6. Make is special – Do things to give them a reason to come. Do special Sundays (special events, promote kids, great guest speakers) baptize people and make church life meaningful every week.
  7. Invest – Use a slightly less crowded calendar to pour into your leaders and volunteers. Equip, motivate, cheer, and celebrate through out the summer so they can develop others.

 What are you doing to be ready for guests this summer?