How does your church evaluate its giving? Do you do this by comparing weekly needs to weekly giving, or by contrasting your annual budget with the total yearly gifts? These methods are valid, but they are just a starting point.
Here are 10 questions you need to ask in order to fully evaluate giving in your church and whether its potential is met, followed by a word of encouragement to church leaders.
Q1: Has your church met budget in each of the last five years?
If not, the budgeting process may need review. It could be that your folks are getting too comfortable with not meeting budget. Many may not even know there is a shortfall. Or perhaps the church budgeted for a strong vision, assuming they would not meet budget. Whatever the cause, consistent shortfall demands review.
Q2: How many “units” give annually?
A “unit” is an individual, couple, or family that gives. In this case, the question to answer is simply how many give any amount during the year? You might also want to determine how many tithe (give 10 percent of their income). Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn argue that a church with a full-time pastor needs at least 25 tithing units.
Q3: What is the average given per giving unit and what is the trend?
If the average reflected 10 percent of each unit’s annual income, what would their income be? Do trends show an increasing, decreasing, or unchanging average? You might also use this average to determine your church’s income if every potential giving unit were to give the average amount.
Q4: What is the average income in your church’s ministry area?
Many factors affect this number, but it’s still a good figure to use for comparison. If your church attendees earn the average income of the area, does their giving suggest a higher or lower income? On average, Christians currently give 2.5% of their income to their church. Knowing the average income will help you better understand how people are giving, how often, and what more is needed to meet some of your ministry’s needs.
Q5: Does your church rally to meet special giving goals but not weekly budget goals?
Many members give sacrificially toward specific needs, but less so toward the weekly budget. At a minimum, you may need to improve how you promote needs that get addressed through the regular budget.
Q6: What is your plan to introduce visitors and new members to opportunities for giving?
Envision a new believer from the unchurched world. How will he learn about your church’s processes and expectations for giving? The longer it takes for new believers to understand the biblical mandate for giving, the less likely it is they will give regularly.
For additional reading on inviting new folks to give, here’s 4 Ways to Turn Your Giving Talk into an Invitation.
Q7: Does your church have an annual stewardship emphasis?
If not, when are regular attendees challenged to increase their giving? Many faithful attendees settle into a pattern of giving and don’t think about increasing their amount unless specifically encouraged to do so.
Q8: Does your church train children and teens to give?
Young people who learn to give a portion of their allowance or their first paychecks are more likely to become lifelong givers. Start your training early.
For additional reading on how to engage Millennials in your church, check out this post from William Vanderbloemen.
Q9: What would happen if your church lost its top 10% of givers?
I am not suggesting that pastors should know each unit’s giving, but churches should be aware of top-heavy giving trends. In some churches, losing just a few people would create serious hardship.
Q10: Would your church’s giving pattern change if the tax deduction were no longer available?
You cannot answer this question, of course, but it’s a smart thing to consider since it may someday happen. If believers’ motives for giving are anything less than to support God’s work, such a change may herald a decrease in giving.
A Word of Encouragement to Church Leaders
Frankly, I am surprised at how often I meet church leaders who have little knowledge about the financial condition of their church. I understand why a pastor might want to keep some distance from having specific information about givers, but I strongly believe that a good leader must be aware of his organization’s financial situation. I encourage you to discuss these questions in regular staff meetings, to review the giving patterns at least quarterly, and to develop an annual strategy for creating gospel-centered givers in your congregation. The time you spend on creating and carrying out an effective strategy will not be wasted.