In my early years of pastoring, I learned about the “summer slump” in attendance and giving. The difficulty I saw was that while so many of the summer ministries run at an optimal level, the giving was below average, falling far short of the need. While it is hard to overcome the attendance challenges due to many people traveling in the summer, it is imperative to find a way to continue to engage in practicing biblical stewardship.
That is why more than 20 years ago at Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas, I implemented a strategy that was a success with our people. Looking back, I think there may have been only two summers we did not meet our summer giving goal.
One practical reality is that many churches are doing well financially as they enter the summer season, but they lose momentum in stewardship support because they have no plan to finance the ministry through that season. I learned if we could find a way to create consistency in giving during this challenging season, it would have an impact on the entire year. Our simple plan helped lead to financial support in a way that was above and beyond what we ever imagined.
Prayerfully, we are nearing the time when churches can meet together again in the same room for worship. Depending on where you are financially and how your church is doing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe this strategy can help. During this challenging season, this strategy will serve as a friend.
Here are the steps we used that you can implement in your church.
1. Determine how many weeks exist between the Sunday before Memorial Day and the Sunday before Labor Day. In 2020, that is 16 weeks.
2. Determine your weekly budget requirement. For our example, we will use a budget of $520,000 annually. That would mean the weekly budget requirement is $10,000. Whether your ministry budget is much smaller or larger, consider this strategy.
3. Multiply the weekly budget requirement by 16 (weeks). Using our example, this makes your summer giving goal $160,000.
4. Announce to your church family by mid-May what your summer giving goal will be for your church. For example, a pastor would tell his church on Sunday, May 17, “Church family, we have 16 Sundays between Memorial Day Sunday and Labor Day Sunday. I want to announce that we are setting a summer giving goal of $160,000 to be given over these 16 weeks. This is important because summer ministries operate at an optimum level and we need our giving to support it regardless of our vacations or time away with family.” Additionally, on the Monday before the beginning of your summer goal, send a letter to your church family, challenging them to join you in seeing this happen.
5. Challenge people to be faithful to give the first tenth of all God has given them personally, regardless of where they are during the summer season. This goal will maintain focus and remind each person to exhibit stewardship weekly and personally so the church can do things faithfully and fruitfully. I believe the summer of 2020 will be a great opportunity for churches everywhere.
6. Publicize your summer goal of weekly giving in all your communications; in other words, keep it before the people regularly.
7. Inform the people personally and through all your communications of the real-time status of your goal every Sunday. We did this through a gauge that looked like a thermometer. You can choose a graphic that is clear and simple. This will keep it before your people strategically each week.
8. Each Sunday, connect a ministry experience with the offering and goal. For example, if your church has a Vacation Bible School, you can say something like, “This past week, we were able to reach 100 children through our Vacation Bible School, and 12 of these children came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Church family, without your financial support, this would not be possible. But today we rejoice, knowing God has used each of us, through our support, to be part of seeing 100 children learn about Jesus and 12 make public decisions to follow Jesus.” A 60- to 90-second story before the offering each week will result in great response. Dollars follow vision, especially vision that results in lives being changed by Jesus Christ.
9. During mid-summer, perhaps in the second week of July, produce a short newsletter and video, if possible, to share the great wins that have occurred in your church during the first half of the summer. Additionally, give the status of where you are with your goal and make another challenge relating to it.
10. Follow through, finish well and celebrate what God has done. Never apologize to your people while talking about what God is doing and letting them know how they can personally participate in ministry and financial support. Whether the goal is reached or not, celebrate. I would be shocked if your church does not advance beyond previous summers.
A summer giving goal that resources the needs of your church throughout these 16 weeks of the summer is really an opportunity budget. You are giving your church family the opportunity to go on mission with God together. Together, you can go so much farther and do so much more than anyone can do alone.
Tell the story of what God is doing.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and former pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.)