If you’ve been a church leader very long, you know that the summer months are the toughest months for churches financially. In fact, FellowshipOne, the church software company, did a study a few years ago that showed church giving drops an average 13% during the summer.
But it’s not just giving that goes down. Attendance drops in the summer, too. At the same time, programs and expenses don’t go on vacation during the summer. Quite the opposite, some programs, such as VBS, mission trips, and youth ministry, actually amp up.
So what’s a church leader to do? We know that giving is a spiritual discipline that God has established. He can’t fully have His people’s hearts unless He has their pocketbooks as well.
And it’s our responsibility to cast the vision for a generous culture in our church. That doesn’t mean a Vision Sunday in January and then we never talk about it again until the next January.
We can unpack the vision for people in many different ways, whether it’s by preaching, by sharing testimonies from the pulpit, or through video, email, and social media. However we choose to do that, we have to recast that vision on an ongoing basis, particularly before and during the summer.
Often, our congregants come to events at church, but they don’t really understand the cost of those events – much less what it costs to run a church well. We need to help people understand the cost of ministry. If they don’t know the need is great, there’s no motivation for them to give above and beyond what they might normally give.
We also need to help people understand the impact of our ministry. When we talk about results, we’re really talking about life-change – reaching people with the gospel, freeing them from their addictions, and giving them a church home when they didn’t have one before.
After you’ve communicated the vision, the need, and the impact, don’t forget to say thank you. It’s important all year, but it’s especially important in the summer.
In many churches, there’s an expectation that people should tithe because the Bible says so, and the church never says thank you. But that’s not the way people are wired. When you feel appreciated by someone, it makes you want to pour into the relationship more. The same is true with churches. If I as a congregant feel appreciated, then I want to give more of my time and resources to the work Jesus is doing through the church.
Once you have communicated all these things, there are other ways to stimulate summer giving:
• Make giving easy while people are away. Create a seamless online giving process because more and more giving is shifting online every year.
• Preach a great sermon series. If you want to have guest speakers preach during the series, that’s fine, but put a series in the summer that you know will speak to people’s needs. Give them a reason to show up at church.
• If you’re a senior pastor, show that the summer is important. Don’t take eight weeks off every summer. If that’s the case, you tell your church, “I’m taking off, so this is the time when you take off, too.”
• Don’t assume that your people don’t want to give. Don’t assume that their pocketbooks are closed in the summer because they might go on vacation. Give compelling reasons for people to give throughout the summer. Remind them of the ministry that’s happening, of the lives that are being changed, and the unique position that your church holds in the community. If you do, it will help them understand why giving is so important during the summer months.
Trent Dunham is president of Dunham+Company, which consults with churches and nonprofits on their fundraising and marketing needs.
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