Managing cash flow is a church planting function that nobody notices until you’re suddenly short on cash. It can be a challenge to have adequate cash during a time of year when giving traditionally dips. How can you wisely manage cash throughout the year? To find out, we asked executive pastors at several sending churches around the country. Four themes emerged from these conversations.
Promote your vision and mission
How we handle different rhythms and patterns in both giving and attendance, specifically during summer months, is deeply rooted in our mission and values,” says Mike Celosse, executive pastor at BridgePoint Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. “We have a clear mission that we speak to ALL the time, and we celebrate and encourage individual buy-in to the mission, which affects attendance and giving year-round.” This missional focus permeates the church’s culture. One of their values, for example, is “Invested people invest in people." So people in the church are invited to see themselves as missional investors all year long.
Promote a culture of generosity
When you focus on mission, your communication about giving doesn’t change during the summer. It simply continues a story that you’re telling all year long. “We’ve never had a summer plan that differs greatly from our financial plan during other months of the year, ” Celosse says, “Specifically for the summer, we ramp up rather than assume that attendance will decline. We give people a reason not to miss church in the summer.” Gregg Bergman, executive pastor at Blackhawk Church in Madison, Wisconsin, echoes the call for consistency. “When teaching on generosity, focus on consistency and being proactive,” he says. “It’s just wise to plan, to ensure that your intentions are fulfilled.”
Promote online giving
Today, online is preferred way of doing many things, including giving. Joel Lingenfelter, executive pastor at Lancaster Evangelical Free Church in Lititz, Pennsylvania, says online giving is one reason for the consistency in their giving. “Our non-December monthly giving averages 8.15 percent of our annual total,” he says. “For the summer months it’s 7.99 percent, so there is very little deviation from our monthly norms.” Bergman says online donations account for 55 percent of Blackhawk Church’s total giving, in large part because they “maximize” the technology. “Online, recurring giving is the single largest antidote to the summer slump in donations,” he says. “A donor using recurring giving, on average, gives 40 percent more than a donor using a single giving option.” His practical advice is simple: “Make it as easy as possible for people to give while they are away from church. If it takes more than a 30 seconds to donate via iPhone, it’s taking too long.”
Promote fiscal responsibility
Lingenfelter says that “a culture of fiscal responsibility and tithing” is another key to steady giving at his church. “The result of this, plus a near 10 percent reserve,” he says, “is that we spend very little time managing or fretting over cash flow.” Celosse echoes this sentiment. For BridgePoint, fiscal responsibility also includes careful spending. “We instruct ministry leaders to operate at 80 percent of your budget year round,” he says. It also involves careful oversight and judicious use of financial tools. “We have checks-and-balances for our check requests, credit card and purchase order systems,” Celosse says.
For church planters looking to keep close tabs on spending, while maintaining cash flow, you can learn how one tool, a business credit card, can help.