If you've been a church leader very long, you know that the summer months can be some of the toughest months for churches financially. In fact, FellowshipOne, the church-software company, did a study a few years ago that showed giving drops 13 percent during the summer on average.
Not only can giving go down; attendance typically drops, too. But programs and expenses never go on vacation. In fact, some programs, such as VBS, mission trips and youth ministry, actually pick up during the summer.
So how do church leaders avoid the summer slump?
First of all, you must avoid the temptation to make this a "self-fulfilling prophecy." If you mail it in, leave for three months and run a series of guest speakers through Sunday mornings, you are communicating that it's time for your congregants to check out, too.
I'm not suggesting no one gets a vacation or a break, but there are ways to provide staff with necessary breaks without communicating to your congregation that things are on auto-pilot for a few months. It's hard to get pumped about showing up and engaging in the life of the church if no one you know is there.
Figure out how you can rotate your team, give people time off and still maintain the engagement and energy that people have come to love and expect.
Secondly, why don't you plan a great sermon series for the summer?
This axiom is still true today: Content is king!
Often the attraction of diving into a meaty series as a church is mitigated during the summer because there are lots of guest speakers, or the topic changes every week. It's difficult to build consistency and carry people from week to week when the messages are all over the place.
These first two points are really focused on keeping your congregation engaged because we all know that giving is more consistent and predictable when people are actually in the sanctuary each weekend.
But that's not all you can do to ensure people keep giving during the summer. One of the easiest things to do is to make it easy for people to give even if they aren't in town.
If your church isn't one of the 74 percent of churches that have enabled online giving for your congregation, you need to make that your highest priority now.
Why? Well, in 2016 (the last full year of data available) more than $28 billion was given online. Add to that the fact that 74 percent of Americans say they write no more than one check per month, and you definitely aren't going to be growing your church revenue if you don't have online giving as an option.
And after you've implemented an easy form of online giving, it would be wise to ensure you talk about it with your congregation from time to time ... especially leading up to the summer months.
What a great way to ensure your congregants can support the many ministries of the church that happen throughout the summer while they are away! They can set up a recurring bank draft or donation from their credit card if you have a seamless online giving experience.
Finally, 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 during these months. 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.
Consider using one email each month to focus on a ministry of the church that thrives during the summer and present people with the opportunity to give in that email. You've set up the online giving technology, so give people a convincing reason to click through and support the work of the church financially.
If you make progress on some of these items, it will help your people understand why giving is so important and easy during the summer months ... and you'll be surprised how you aren't playing catch up when September rolls around.
Trent Dunham is president of Dunham+Company, which consults with churches and nonprofits on their fundraising and marketing needs.
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