Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, most economists would likely add a third certainty: The inevitability of recessions. Take a look at a list of U.S. recessions, and you’ll find recessions have come like clockwork every six to ten years since 1982.
Your church can run, but it can’t hide. Your church can teach stewardship every single week. But another recession is coming. It’s not a matter of if but when. Are you ready for it?
In fact, most economists agree that economies need recessions. Ben Carlson, a portfolio manager and popular economics blogger, compares recessions to pit stops in a NASCAR race:
“Economies need recessions to take a breather every few years, as well. Growth can’t continue uninterrupted forever. Although they’re painful, recessions are needed to weed out the strong companies from the weak, as many companies go out of business during the downturns and new ones emerge.”
If you’ve paid any attention to the stock market in the past week, you see further confirmation of this financial fact. On February 5, the DOW plunged 1,600 points, which was the largest one-day drop in history during a trading day. The DOW dropped another 1,000 points on February 8th. Is it an aberration or the beginning of a correction in the economy after a prolific rise in the U.S. markets in 2017? No one knows for sure.
So how does this translate to churches? Your church’s giving likely won’t drop immediately with the rest of the economy. Local churches tend to lag behind national charitable giving rates—maybe six months behind. But the giving decline will likely come. During the last recession, the 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches reported a $1.2 billion decline in giving to churches. That followed a report of a $431 million decline the previous year.
There is good news. Charitable giving recovered after the last recession—much faster than experts predicted. The Center for High-Impact Philanthropy says giving rose to pre-recession rates by 2014.
The damage had been done along the way, though. In 2010, more than 1 in 5 churches saw a 10 percent dip in giving. Church giving dropped three straight years according to LifeWay Research. Staff had to be cut. Programs were killed.
No one knows the duration or intensity of the next recession, but churches must be prepared. Frankly, through most of the Church’s history, we’ve had few tools to help us mitigate the ups and downs of the economy. When the larger economy struggled, churches got hit hard. Nothing churches could do could mitigate against this.
But 2018 is a new day. Unlike the last recession (when mobile giving options for churches were limited, if existent at all), churches can be better prepared for a coming recession simply by employing a comprehensive mobile giving strategy.
Here’s the catch. Being better prepared for the next recession isn’t just about having a generic mobile giving app or even a fancy customized app. You need a mobile strategy that encourages your congregation to engage with you—and give—while they are on the go.
Here are three reasons why:
1. A mobile strategy will spread your giving to more people
When a financial crisis hits, you need more givers, not fewer. That’s obvious. A mobile strategy that encourages donors to give from their mobile devices will increase your donor pool. Why? It’s how people make financial transactions today. Your congregants bank on their mobile phones. They shop Amazon on their mobile phones (at a 70-percent clip during the holiday season). They order groceries on their mobile phones. Nearly a quarter of all Millennials have never written a check and only 14% of churcgoers want a cash or check option.
Offering your congregation the ability to give on their mobile phones will open up a whole new segment of your congregation to generosity. You’ll need this during a recession. Sure, you’ll have people who would still prefer to give through cash and checks. Fine. They are your consistent givers. Developing a mobile strategy is about mobilizing everyone else.
2. A mobile strategy drives your congregation toward more regular giving
At its core, generosity is a spiritual discipline. As a Christian, it’s something we strive to do on an ongoing basis. We give even when we don’t feel like it. A mobile strategy that emphasizes mobile giving will help your members develop a giving habit. That’s critical since even those who would be considered active churchgoers aren’t attending worship services as often as they did in years gone by. Twice a month is now the “new normal.” Mobile giving means that churchgoers can give wherever and whenever the Lord leads them. Your congregation no longer has to be in church to give.
Recurring giving is also critical. It helps your members commit to give on a regular basis and puts a mechanism in place to make sure that happens. When the next recession hits, giving will be second nature to mobile givers who use recurring giving. That should mean it will be one of the last areas cut from dwindling personal budgets.
3. A mobile strategy allows you to keep more of your congregation in the loop
Tough times, like recessions, require church families to pull together. A mobile strategy isn’t primarily about giving—it’s about communication. Driving your congregation to engage through mobile devices is a key part to preparing for a recession. Your congregation no longer primarily communicates through snail mail, email, or paper products (although each still has a place in your overall communications strategy). Whether it’s through texting or mobile apps (or phone calls), your members are communicating through their mobile devices. Your church should be no different.
A mobile giving strategy will include the opportunity to engage your weekend messages, event registration, push notifications, and more, directly from a mobile device. Because your church members likely spend much of their time (about four hours a day) on mobile devices, they’ll stay on top of what’s going on much better than ever before.
If a recession is on the horizon, the time to develop a mobile strategy is now. You don’t have to do that alone. For more information about how your church can recession-proof your church through a mobile-giving strategy, schedule a Pushpay demo.
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