Feeling the Financial Pinch: What to Say to Supporters
(Originally published as an article within ECCU’s former e-publication, Ministry Banking Today.)
Chances are, your ministry is experiencing some difficulty meeting your budget. Whether it’s a small bump in the road or a major pothole, you’re faced with an important question: How—and how much—do you communicate to your givers? Here are a few different perspectives on how ministries like yours are addressing the financial pinch.
Get the word out. Since 1997, The Rock of Roseville (California) has grown from a small church of 150 to a healthy community of more than 1,800 weekly attendees, planting two churches along the way. But economic events in the last year affected their finances. “For the first time in our history, we weren’t hitting income projections,” said Kenny Wahlberg, Director of Operations. “We’d never experienced a downturn like this.”
Leadership at The Rock decided that adjusting to the economic changes should be a family affair. They began a pulpit series on finances to let the congregation know the church’s situation and remind them to be obedient to God during tough times.
Each week, the church also devotes the first minute of video announcements to teach on biblical giving and stewardship. And consistent communication with the body continues in the form of e-mail updates, surveys, and letters.
“We see this as an opportunity to teach and train,” says Wahlberg. “It is a great time to focus on stewardship and faithfulness.”
Leave it to the Lord. Calvary Chapel in Murrieta (California) is also experiencing significant changes in giving patterns. This past year, the church’s working capital surplus hit an all-time low. Determined to live within their means, leadership at Calvary Chapel has made serious budget cuts. They are walking the fine line between eliminating excess without hindering essential ministry work.
Even in the midst of financial hardship, Calvary Chapel has not asked any more of the congregation. Their philosophy is that they are stewards of what God chooses to give them and whatever he chooses to give is never insufficient. “We trust Him to give us wisdom on how to use what he provides,” says Bill Johnson, the church’s CPA.
This approach is consistent with how Calvary Chapel has always addressed finances. While there are tithing boxes in the foyer, rarely are they referred to during services. At the annual business meetings, few references are made to actual numbers – instead, the church acknowledges God’s blessings and focuses on the great things he has done.
Don’t panic. Whether you decide to involve your supporters or quietly seek the Lord’s provision, be sure to take this one piece of advice: Stay calm. According to The Elevation Group, a company specializing in organizational development for ministries, “Panic is too often at the root of hurried strategies and bad decisions. Fear surrounding the economy is far more damaging to the philanthropic world than the economy itself.”
As you prayerfully consider your response to your ministry’s financial situation, take comfort in the fact that God is using your ministry for his purposes – regardless of your cash flow.
For more good news on how ministries can stabilize in times of economic insecurity, read The Elevation Group’s Calm in the Storm: How to Control the Things You Can in Difficult Times.