Your Pastor Resigned: Six Things to Do During a Pastoral Transition

Your Pastor Resigned: Six Things to Do During a Pastoral Transition

Pastoral transitions are common.

My intent isn’t to discourage you.

Instead, my goal is to splash cold water on your face—to wake you up to the reality that pastors often transition in the United States.

Again, this isn’t meant to be a dig at pastors.

Far from it.

I simply want to let you know that if your church is going through a pastoral transition, you’re not alone.

The frequency of pastoral transitions

It’s common knowledge that pastors often transition, and studies actually validate this point.

According to one survey conducted by LifeWay Research, the average tenure for a full-time pastor is six years. This frequency of change may sound alarming, but when you take into consideration that the average employee tenure is 4.6 years, pastors aren’t doing so bad after all.

There are times when a pastor will transition for negative reasons, such as a moral failing. There are also times when a pastor transitions for less sinister reasons, such as a change in calling, conflict, or problems with their finances. What’s more, some denominations, like the United Methodist Church, reevaluate their pastors every year.

What’s the bottom line?

Pastoral transitions are frequent, and they can occur for good or bad reasons.

One key to pastoral transitions

Pastoral transitions can lead your church to lose one key thing: momentum.

I’m not talking about when a pastor is fired for a moral failure. I'm talking about normal pastoral transitions and the average amount of time it takes a church to call a new pastor, which can crush your church’s momentum.

According to pastoral succession expert William Vanderbloemen, it takes the average church 12 to 24 months to find a new pastor. If your church experiences such an extended gap in leadership, you’ll run into a host of problems, including:

  • Lack of vision
  • Lost momentum
  • Decrease in membership
  • Lack of small group participation
  • Decrease in giving
  • Decline in volunteers

Not only will a vacancy in leadership lead to these problems, so too will a mismanaged pastoral transition, which leads us to the next point.

6 ways to lead your church through a pastoral transition

Remember, pastoral transitions take on all sorts of shapes and sizes—both good and bad.

Here’s what you need to know:

If you don’t handle your pastoral transition well, you’ll create an entirely different set of problems.

To help lead your church well through this season, here are 6 steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Continue your ministry
  2. Make a plan
  3. Clarify roles
  4. Overcommunicate
  5. Be patient
  6. Follow Jesus’ lead

Let’s dig in!

#1 – Continue your ministry

There's one reality you must embrace during a pastoral transition:

The life of your church marches on.

For a variety of reasons, it’s difficult when a senior pastor transitions off staff. But the life of your church is not limited to this one man or woman. Your church is made up of every member who places their faith in Jesus Christ.

This is what the Apostle Paul emphasizes in his letter to the church in Corinth:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ … For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor. 12:12, 14).

As the body of Christ, your church—for better or worse—possesses a church culture. In other words, your church has unique characteristics, behaviors, and ministries. So, when there’s a pastoral change, what makes up the culture of your church may change, which will cause anxiety among many of your members.  

When there’s a pastoral transition, your church will be nervously questioning things like:

Will the style of worship change?

Will we continue this or that ministry?

Will other pastors, staff, or key volunteers leave?

What will become of my small group?

These thoughts and more will race through the minds of your church members.

If your church’s leadership does not address these anxieties, they will grow into more significant fears and may lead to gossip, slander, and division.

During a pastoral transition, it’s essential that the life of your church continues without interruption. There’s no need to make sweeping changes, and it’s best to let everyone know that life in your church will continue.

#2 – Make a plan

It’s easy to skip planning your church’s next steps during a pastoral transition.

Regardless of how well the transition takes place, this is still a difficult time for your church. You may be experiencing a sense of loss or feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done. Taking the time to plan for your future can feel daunting.

Hear me loud and clear:

Make a pastoral transition plan and work your plan.

Writing for the Vanderbloemen Search Group, Tracey Smith said, “Many transitions go strangely wrong because the leader(s) does not have a plan.” As I pointed out above, this is something you don’t want to go strangely wrong.

In your plan, there are several short- and long-term tasks you’ll need to think through and outline, such as:

  • Creating a job description
  • Planning for pastoral care
  • Providing pulpit replacement
  • Forming a search committee
  • Establishing milestones
  • Promoting the open position
  • Interviewing candidates

In your plan, there’s one additional item you’ll need to include: clarify roles.

Since this last step is nuanced, let’s tackle it individually next.  

#3 – Clarify roles

In team sports, when a player is unable to play in a game, his or her position is filled by someone who can assume the responsibilities.

For example, in football, if your quarterback is injured, you need a replacement who can play quarterback—not a different position.

What do team sports have to do with pastoral transitions?

Everything.

A senior pastor serves as the leader of the church. From providing spiritual leadership to strategic guidance, a senior pastor provides oversight for your church.

During a pastoral transition, your church will experience a gap in leadership. When this happens, your church will be concerned about how these responsibilities will be fulfilled moving forward. Also, your staff and volunteers will be curious to know how their responsibilities may change.

To help create a healthy pastoral transition, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Identify interim leaders
  • Clarify roles
  • Empower your staff and volunteers

Interim leaders for your church can be an interim pastor, assistant pastor or staff member, or even shared responsibility among your board, session, or staff. Whether it’s an individual or group who’s assuming leadership responsibilities, make sure all roles are clearly communicated to your church and staff.

When there’s a pastoral transition, there’s also a need for someone else to pick up the work left behind. The size of your church will determine how much work you’ll need to delegate to your staff and volunteers.

To clarify roles, you must first identify what work will need to be accomplished in the absence of your pastor. Take the time to jot down everything your pastor did—from preaching, to pastoral care, to administrative work.

Now, with your list of tasks in hand, it’s time to delegate among your staff or volunteers. Don’t feel obligated to make sure everything is passed along. If your team doesn’t have the additional bandwidth, there’s a good chance you can postpone non-essential work.

Finally, empower your staff and volunteers in their roles and responsibilities. Encourage them to continue doing what they’re doing.

If you need to make any adjustments to someone’s responsibilities, meet with them individually to work this out. Laying this out up front will minimize stress with your team and reduce the risk of team members vying for a different position or higher authority.

#4 – Overcommunicate

There’s one thing you cannot do enough during a pastoral transition: communicate.

As I shared above, pastoral transitions will naturally lead your church to experience anxiety and stress. Often, these feelings are exasperated when there’s a lack of communication. It’s human nature to fill in the blanks when questions are left unanswered.

Communication with your church will need to be a two-way street.

On the one hand, you’ll need to continuously share with your church about what’s going on. On the other hand, you’ll need to be open to receiving feedback and listening to the concerns of your church.

Let’s explore both of these in detail.

Continuously communicate

Here’s the deal:

In pastoral transitions, your church members and staff will be anxious.

What you share with the members of your church and staff will differ.

For example, the members of your church will be curious about many things, and fearful about others.

What led to this transition?

How significantly will this affect my family and me?

Is there anything we need to be worried about?

As for your staff, they’ll likely have similar questions, but they’re also going to be concerned about their job security.

In the plan you were encouraged to make in step 2 above, think through the questions and concerns your members and staff will have. It’s also a good idea to develop a response to these questions to ensure consistent communication with everyone involved.

Be available

In a transitional period, your members and staff will experience a variety of feelings.

They’ll feel the loss of a pastor, friend, or boss.

They’ll feel stress at adjusting to the change.

They’ll be concerned about the future of the church and their job.

Whatever your church feels, it's okay. Transitions are hard for most people.

Give them room to breathe, and let them know who they can talk to if they have questions. Providing people with a clear line of communication will be a comfort for everyone—even if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity.

#5 – Be patient

Let’s face it: Transitions are messy.

In the midst of transitions, your entire church experiences change—and it’s hard.

How your church—both members and staff—navigates this change will be different.

Know ahead of time that you’ll run into a variety of opinions, and it’s essential to exercise patience. In other words, be ready to encounter different views—even from people who won’t accept the new reality.

To prepare yourself, know that your church will fall into one of three categories when it comes to working through the transition:

  • Early adopters
  • Majority
  • Laggards

Knowing how your church will (or will not) accept change, will help you be better prepared to handle the different opinions. Let’s break this down a bit. 

When it comes to change, early adopters are people in your church who are aware of the pastoral transition, and are comfortable with the changes taking place. This doesn’t mean this group of people has hard feelings toward the previous pastor or are not fighting loss. But it does mean they are the first group to embrace this transition.

In dealing with this group, you may not have to work hard to convince them to accept the transition. A strategy that works well with this group is sharing information and answering their questions.

What is more, consider leveraging the influence of early adopters by encouraging them to be champions of the church. It’s always helpful to have a group of non-staff people who act as a supportive voice.

As for the majority, this group represents the members of your church who are battling the loss of their pastor, but understand things change, and they will fight for the well-being of the entire church.

Expect this group to be slower in accepting the transition. In working with them, be informative and answer their questions. But be patient in forcing them to “fall into line.” Quick moves with this group can lead them to become combative, rather than supportive, which isn’t a good idea.

Finally, in any transition, you’ll have a group of laggards. This group of people is committed to the previous pastor, and they will fall into one of two categories.

First, there’s a portion of this group who will not accept the transition under any circumstances. Regardless of how you deal with this group of people, they will not be willing to stick around to see what happens, and that’s okay. Don’t force this group to be different than who they are. Be ready to part ways on good terms.

Second, there’s a portion of this group who will accept the transition and embrace a future pastor, but they’re skeptical and waiting to see how things work out. In working with this group, practice extreme patience. Don’t worry about when they choose to come on board.

Also, encourage early adopters to be aware of this group, build strong relationships, and be an encouragement for the church during this transition.

In leading your church through a pastoral transition, there’s one final point to make.

#6 – Follow Jesus’ lead

Jesus is the head of the Church, and he is the leader of your church (Col. 1:17–18; Eph. 5:22–25).

Over, and over again, remind your church of these truths:

  • Jesus is alive
  • Jesus is in control
  • Jesus loves your church
  • God is involved in your situation
  • God will work things out
  • God has good plans for you

By opening up the Bible and fearlessly sharing from its pages, God will change the hearts and minds of your church to see things from his point of view.

This is not only helpful during pastoral transitions, but there are many common themes—change, vision, faith—that will also help people grow in their faith in Christ.

Over to you

In the end, I want to leave you with this reminder:

You’re not alone.

What you're going through isn’t uncommon, and most importantly of all—God is involved in your situation.

If you still feel overwhelmed after reading through this process, consider reaching out to a third-party to help you work through the situation.

4 Key Areas to Outsource in Your Church

4 Key Areas to Outsource in Your Church

Every church faces two similar limitations: money and time.

It doesn’t matter if you think your church’s budget is “big” or “small.” You only have so much money to pay for:

  • Missions
  • Personnel
  • Building/Facilities
  • Office Expenses
  • Ministry

When it comes to time, you run into the same challenge: You’re limited by what’s available. After you spend time counseling, preparing your sermon, or checking email, there’s likely little leftover if any.

To maximize money and redeem time, there’s a growing trend among churches in hiring virtual help. With advancements in technology and the growth of organizations devoted to providing virtual assistants or freelancers, it’s never been easier or more affordable to outsource a variety of tasks.

To help you get started, I’m going to share with you 4 common things many churches are outsourcing today.

#1 – Accounting

Keeping track of your church’s finances is no joke.

The time it takes to record donations and write down expenses is demanding. What’s more, bookkeeping is an exact science that requires professional training to do correctly.

So here’s the deal:

Bookkeeping isn’t an area of your ministry you can afford to overlook.

I know many of you reading this are not trained accountants, and you may not have the time to manage your church’s finances or have the budget to hire a full-time bookkeeper. But that’s okay.

Regardless of your church size, you can easily outsource your bookkeeping at a fraction of the cost of hiring another staff member.

By outsourcing your accounting needs, you will be able to free up a tremendous amount of time in your ministry and relieve yourself from a load of stress.

#2 – Administrative Support

As a pastor, God doesn’t call you to do everything.

It doesn’t matter how much coffee you drink or educational YouTube videos you watch, as a pastor (let alone a human being) you don’t have the time or skills to do everything.

From preparing your next sermon and counseling to managing an upcoming board meeting and spearheading a new outreach initiative, it’s a Herculean feat to stay on top of your schedule.

Thanks again to the advances in technology, you can outsource many tasks to a Virtual Assistant, including:

  • Responding to emails and messages
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Conducting sermon research
  • Answering phone calls
  • Managing your calendar
  • Managing digital files
  • Purchasing gifts
  • Booking travel
  • Transcribing messages
  • Preparing presentations

I understand a Virtual Assistant may not be able to greet someone in your church building. But let’s be honest: Do enough people visit your facilities to require hiring a full-time staff member?

That's not all.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant is especially helpful for newer or smaller churches who don’t have the budget to hire full-time assistance.

Think about it.

By outsourcing your administrative tasks, you can …

  • Reduce your stress
  • Better organize your ministry and life
  • Free up your time

Whenever you experience these three significant benefits, you’ll be more available for your church and able to serve from a healthier place since your plate won’t be as full.

#3 – Marketing

I know what you’re thinking:

We don’t have the money to spend on marketing.

If you’re thinking this, then you’re not alone. Many church leaders unknowingly believe the same myth. But let me shoot you straight:

You don’t have to have a massive budget to market your church.

In fact, you don’t need a budget, a dedicated staff member, or even a volunteer for many marketing strategies.

To connect with people in your community, word of mouth will always be one of the most effective (and free) marketing tactics at your disposal.

But here’s the kicker:

Most people in your community will visit your church online before they visit your church in-person.

Before you lose all hope, take a deep breath.

You don’t have to be a digital marketer, possess large sums of disposable income, or work with someone in your community to reach people online.

You can outsource all of your digital marketing efforts, such as:

  • Facebook Ads
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Media Management
  • Social Media Engagement
  • Email Marketing
  • Videos

Once you’ve outsourced your marketing needs or embarked on handling your digital presence yourself, you’re ready to move onto the next step.

#4 – Graphic Design

We live in a visual culture.

Whether it’s using a smartphone, watching TV, or working on a computer, Americans spend more than half of their waking hours on a screen.

For your church, this has real, practical implications.

When someone visits your church’s website, browses your social media accounts, or picks up your bulletin, they’re comparing you with everything else they see.

This reality is a hard pill to swallow, and it can feel impossible to compete with the quality of design multi-billion-dollar businesses can afford.

But that’s no longer the case.

You can outsource your graphic design needs to an expert designer in the United States or around the world for much less than hiring someone full-time.

Besides, even if you can afford to hire a full-time graphic designer, I bet he or she doesn’t have the bandwidth to keep up with all of the demands.

Based on your situational needs, you can outsource all of your graphic design work or provide additional support for your team.

Here are common design needs you can outsource:

  • PowerPoint Slides
  • Sermon Series Design
  • Social Media Graphics
  • Bulletins
  • Event Collateral
  • Newsletters
  • Flyers
  • Postcards
  • Stationary
  • Invitation Cards
  • Banners
  • Logos
  • Signs

Now that you’re able to outsource your graphic design, you’ll be able to put your best foot forward by presenting your church in the best possible light.

Now it’s your turn.

Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to outsource your …

  • Accounting
  • Administration
  • Marketing
  • Graphic Design

You’re in an ideal spot to take the first step:

Pick ONE THING you can outsource now to save yourself time, reduce your stress, and help you better minister to your people.

3 Church Communication Lessons from That Church Conference

3 Church Communication Lessons from That Church Conference

A few members of the Church Fuel team attended the That Church Conference this week, which is a communications and marketing conference specifically for churches. It’s hosted in the Atlanta area and brings in speakers from all over the country (and attendees from all over the world—like Singapore and Poland this year) who are passionate about helping churches navigate the creatively challenging and ever-changing communication and digital media best practices.

Our Founder and CEO, Michael Lukaszewski, spoke at the conference this year and so did a number of other speakers with a ton of helpful advice for church communicators. Here are our top takeaways from this year’s That Church Conference.

1. Your culture and influence reaches beyond the walls of your church.

Creating a culture that people want to be a part of is one driving factor of church growth. As a leader, your influence helps create a culture in your church—good or bad—whether you realize it or not. As one speaker, Jenni Catron, put it: “Culture exists whether you’ve defined it or not.”

The environment you create either attracts or repels people. The influence that those in the church have on those in their circle of influence, with volunteers, and online has the power to affect people in profound ways.

Nona Jones, Faith-Based Partnerships Leader for Facebook, spoke about “social ministry” which gives a discipleship angle to everything your church does. “Move beyond sharing content about your ministry to making disciples through your ministry,” she said.

How can your church use communication strategy and online opportunities to change lives?

2. The path to becoming a first-time guest often begins online.

The digital presence of churches should give a glimpse of what it’s like to be a part of the church. Kenny Jahng called it “paparazzi previews.” He also shared a mind-blowing statistic: 17 million people who are not regular church-goers visit church websites every year. What an incredible opportunity to show how your church serves God and serves people, and illustrate why they should come be a part.

Katie Vogel, Social Media Director for Church of the Highlands, emphasized the digitization of word-of-mouth. People often visit a church because they heard about it from a friend or were invited by someone; social media is an opportunity to do this digitally and even continue conversations online. Phil Bowdle, Creative Arts Pastor at West Ridge Church, made the point that “the communications team gets to preach to more people than the pastor.”

3. You have the resources you need to reach people.

If you’ve ever thought your production value, resources, or staff size weren’t enough to create great online content for your church, you’re not alone. It’s common to want to do “the next best thing” or “the big, creative thing” and we often put the time, effort, and resources into the wrong thing.

Michael Lukaszewski, founder and CEO of Church Fuel, said “boring is better.” Churches often underinvest in the ministries that are going well and driving growth and instead invest all resources and creativity into one-time events or ministries that aren’t thriving. Use the best resources, creativity, and brain power you have to improve the most overlooked, ordinary places in your church. “If you improve anything in your church by 5%, in 9 months it’ll be twice as good.”

Brady Shearer, CEO of Pro Church Tools and Storytape, encouraged conference attenders in saying, “Content value matters more than production value.” Catching people’s attention online matters more than having a beautiful logo, high-quality video, or a consistent visual brand. And social media content—in which only 1 in 5 posts should be promotional, he says—is an opportunity to “ditch the polish” and tear down the “pastor persona” to show that the pastor is just an ordinary person and the church is made up of ordinary people, just like those scrolling through online and thinking about visiting your church.

Find these takeaways helpful? Check out That Church Conference and consider sending your Communications staff or volunteers to the next one. Registration for next year is already open.

How to Create an Inviting Culture in Your Church

How to Create an Inviting Culture in Your Church

Anything having to do with religion or the church can be really uncomfortable for most people to talk about. Maybe the only experiences people in your church have ever had with talking about church or inviting someone are downright painful.

So, rather than reliving an uncomfortable experience, they do nothing. They shy away. Not because they don’t want to invite people to your church, but because they don’t know how.

Instead of getting upset with your people, this is a great opportunity to teach them how to invite. This doesn’t have to be a weird thing. And you have the chance to show your people that. Inviting can become a normal part of your church’s life.

Here are five simple ways you can create a culture of invitation within your church.

1. Make Sunday service your priority.

Yes, we know that Jesus commissioned us to “go” and make disciples, but He also called us to gather together as a local church (Hebrews 10:25).

The reason this is so important is not to make your church look great, but to create an environment guests want to come back to. You don’t have to have fancy lights and a rockstar worship team to do this either.

You just need people who care about people.

If your pastor cares about people, he will preach gospel-centered sermons. If your staff cares about people, they’ll strive their best in their individual ministry areas. And when your church cares about people, they will want others to experience a Sunday at your church because it adds value to their life and personal faith.

If you need further help with this, here are five practical ways you can improve your weekend services.

But anyone can invite someone. How do you get someone to want to come back?

2. Practice Hospitality

It is easy to say your church is friendly. It is another to actually be warm and inviting to people who have never stepped foot in your building.

People want to feel seen, heard, and like they matter. And it is so easy to do this!

The best way to lead is by example.

Look around on a Sunday morning and ask: Who is standing around your lobby alone? Is anyone looking around or up at signs to try to figure out where to go? They’re likely new. And that’s a great opportunity for you to go up and greet them personally. You don’t have to ask for them to commit to membership on the spot—just welcome them and ask about them and what brought them to your church.

A great way to encourage others to have a warm and inviting mentality is to make personal asks. Something like…

“Hey Laura, I haven’t seen that woman in our cafe before. I think she’s a new guest. I think you are very approachable and would be a great person for her to connect with. Would you mind connecting with her?”

This is one of the most powerful strategies you can use to encourage and develop your existing members as leaders and to create that culture of inviting without adding shame or guilt to the mix.

3. Be completely present.

Recently, due to some serious health issues, I hadn’t made it to church in about a month or so. I was so excited to finally be feeling well again and to be back together with other believers, worshipping in song, and learning more of God’s Word from my pastor.

I came back to a few unsympathetic “it’s been a while” remarks and some people who greeted me, but looked like they were in a hurry and weren’t interested in talking to me. I felt unseen, unheard, and unimportant. And this was a place I was on staff at one point! I considered these people my family.

Imagine that being a guest at your church.

What reason would they have to come back?

People notice when you are glancing at your phone, your watch, someone else, or are hurriedly rushing through a conversation. You make time for the things that are important and people can sense when they are not important to you. That’s not to say there aren’t times where you have a lot going on and that happens—we’re human. But there are far more grown adults who still are on their phones in the middle of a meal with others than those who are not. This is not okay.

Let’s get practical. How do we avoid doing this when we have so much on our plate? Here are some tips:

  • Learn to listen. Listening is much more than hearing someone talk. Forbes has 10 great steps to learn to become an effective listener. People will come back to someone they feel listened by.
  • Let someone completely finish what they are saying before adding in what you have to say.
  • Be aware of your body language. Are your feet pointed towards the door? Are you being attentive? Nodding while the person is talking? Does the other person notice you are listening to what they are saying or is it like they are talking to a wall?
  • Are you dialed in to what the other person is feeling? Are you empathetic to what the other person is experiencing, even if you can’t fully relate to what they are going through?
  • Are you giving the other person the gift of unhurried time?

You can always ask a trusted friend (or spouse) how they feel like you listen and then to evaluate you using some of these new techniques. Even the best listener can always work on becoming a better one.

4. Be involved

Here’s what I mean.

It’s easier than ever to not have to leave your house. You can get groceries to delivered to your house, have your close friends over to watch a college football game, and continue to get into the same routine with the same people. We’re not against this, but try broadening out.

City Church in Tallahassee, FL does this well and we even have a case study on it in our Church Fuel Resource Library.

Here are some ways you can try to broaden your horizons:

  • Instead of forming an IM soccer team with your church, grab one or two friends and join an existing team.
  • Take a group exercise class to meet new people.
  • Take your dog to the dog park or dog events to meet other pet owners.
  • Get to know the local businesses in your area. You can build great relationships with them and even partner with them to do an event.
  • Volunteer at high school events to give parents a break to be able to actually watch their kids at their sport or performing art.
  • Partner with an event your city does every year (this could be anything from an Easter Egg Hunt to a local concert).
  • Go to local bookstore readings to get to know the literary scene better.

The great part about this is you don’t have to go out of your way to “evangelize.” People can tell when they’re a project and that’s not how you want to come across.

If you get involved in your city in things you already have an interest in, it becomes very natural to build relationships with people. And once they can see that you are a normal person that likes the same things that they do, you may completely change their perception of the local church. A little intentionality goes a long way.

4. Teach your people how to invite.

Most pastors assume their people know how to invite, but this may be foreign to some people.

You can talk through some of the points we’ve mentioned in this article to your church. If you don’t want to do this during a sermon (which we think is perfectly normal), you can mention these during member meetings, volunteer trainings, and small groups.

Andy Stanley also mentions to North Point regulars that they should look for three cues. When they are talking to someone else and they hear one of these three sentences:

  • Things are NOT going well…
  • I was NOT prepared for…
  • I am NOT from here….

Then that clues them in that that is a great opportunity to invite. You can point these out to your church as well.

Elevation Church also created graphics for their church to share on social media. This is a great and easy way to have your church share what is going on in your church on social media. You can even encourage people to tweet during the service!

Choose one of these action steps to begin creating a culture of invitation in your church today. What will you work on? Let us know.

Take a Next Step

The #1 barrier to church growth starts with you.

If the senior pastor, or church leaders, are not intentionally taking the time to get better, no one else will follow suit.

We know it can be difficult to know where to begin or even where to go to grow personally. That's why we developed a FREE resource for you.

The personal growth plan. All of us on staff at Church Fuel use it because it's that useful.

Take some time this week to fill this out and make your personal growth plan.

Get the free download below.

Five Money Shifts Every Church Should Make

Five Money Shifts Every Church Should Make

Americans are giving more to charity now than ever before. $410 Billion in 2017, a 5% increase over the previous year and the highest amount ever. Charitable giving is up across multiple income levels and in most demographics.

But people are giving less and less to the church. Only 32% of the total given to charities goes to a local church, and that number has steadily declined over the last two decades. Giving to churches is down across the board.

You can dive deeper into these numbers by reading this Blackbaud report, but here’s what it means for your church.

People are diversifying their giving, prioritizing other non-profits over their local church. They are giving to the humane society, GoFundMe campaigns, and fundraisers for chorus trips.

This poses a fresh challenge.

When it comes to money and the church, things are changing.

Churches who are on the front end of this change will be poised to grow, while churches who neglect these shifts may start or continue to struggle with financial health.

Here are five shifts that leaders need to make in regard to how we talk about money in the church.

#1 – Shift from just preaching on giving to preaching on money.

When you think about preaching a sermon on money, what topics come to mind?

We asked pastors to share their actual money sermons and then analyzed them for content.

83% of the messages were focused on giving.

Even when broader topics like stewardship, contentment, or financial health were mentioned, the lion share of these messages made giving the foundational topic or the clear call to action. These weren’t money sermons; they were giving sermons.

There is nothing wrong with preaching a giving sermon, and generosity is certainly an important component of being a good steward. But preaching on giving is not the same as preaching on money.

If you want to lead a financially healthy church, you must address broader money topics than just giving. Definitely keep preaching on giving, just don’t forget to preach on money.

Your sermons on money must provide practical and tangible help. You need to talk about spending, debt, contentment, saving, stewardship, communication, faith, trust and so much more. People need help and hope, not just a challenge to give money to the church or advice on how to get out debt.

When you adopt a helpful posture like this, you don’t have to apologize for talking about money in church.

The people in your church are bombarded with unhealthy financial advice. They are marketed to by every facet of society. Unless they have a Christian financial planner, they won’t hear about wisdom with money anywhere else.

If you don’t talk about wise financial principles, who will?

That’s why our team is working on practical financial tools to help you teach wise financial principals to your church.

You can take a look at some of the tools we are creating for you here.

There’s so much more than “give the tithe” and “get out of debt.”  The churches who help their people be wise with money will be much better positioned for financial health.

#2 – Giving means more than giving money.

When you say the word “giving” in your church, what do you mean?

Most pastors, particularly Gen-X or older, mean financial giving.

But that’s not what everybody, particular Millennials, hear.

The Generosity Gap, a research study from Barna Study, released in conjunction with Thrivent, highlights the generosity gap that exists in churches.

Giving means different things to different people. Let me just highlight a few findings of the report, which is certainly worth studying.

  • Financial giving ranks third on Christian’s list of most generous actions. For Millennials, it’s even lower.  They rank hospitality as the most important act of generosity. That means when you talk about giving and generosity, people aren’t necessarily thinking about money.
  • When people were asked “what’s the most generous thing a person could do?” people ranked “taking care of someone who is sick” much higher than “donating $40 to an organization.” Again, more and more people are not equating generosity with finances.
  • Is it okay for church members to volunteer for their church instead of giving financially? 67% of pastors strongly disagree.  But 40% of Christians strongly or slightly agree. In other words, there’s a big gap.

What does this mean for churches?

First, we need to use clear language. When we’re talking about financial generosity, we need better words than “give” or “support.” Consider the words you use and make sure they mean what they think you mean.

Secondly, we need to recognize that people are looking for broad ways to support organizations they care about. The research shows the people who give most financially are also most likely to serve or volunteer. Don’t limit giving choices to finances; look for ways to expand your approach.

#3 – Take care of your existing donors before you worry about attracting new donors.

How can we get more people to give?

That’s a common question we hear from many of the churches we serve. It’s not a bad question.

When it comes to church giving, the 80/20 principle holds true. 20% of your people give 80% of all that is given to the church. That means there are a lot of people connected to your church who are not financially supporting the church.

They are attending. But they are not supporting, at least financially.

So it’s beneficial to develop a strategy to encourage people to cross the line of generosity.

But the very first thing you should do if you want more people to engage in giving to your church is develop a robust strategy of care for your existing donors.

It sounds counter intuitive, but the way you reach new people in this area is to serve your existing donors.

I’m not talking about the occasional mass thank you email or including some pictures with the year-end giving statement. I’m talking about a serious donor care strategy.

What specific things can you to do care for your donors?

  • Start saying thank you immediately. Most people provide receipts and miss the first opportunity to connect a gift to the mission.
  • Communicate regularly with your donor base. Communication is a form of appreciation. Talk to your donor segment differently than you talk to the rest of your church.
  • Send gifts. Coffee mugs with your church logo or books that have been meaningful to your own faith are affordable and meaningful ways to say thank you to the people who support the church.
  • Host a donor appreciation event. Bring in a speaker or throw a party. Don’t be afraid to do it well.
  • Send hand written thank you notes. In a world of tweets and likes, old-school communication stands out.  You can do this when someone gives for the first time, when someone gives an unusual gift, or for no particular reason at all.
  • Make sure every donor has a “pastor.” A good pastor shepherd’s people, so make sure everyone who financially supports the church has someone who checks on their life, family, and faith.

If you want to know more, download the free Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship at the end of this post. It will walk you through several pastoral approaches to talking about money and managing money in a church setting.

#4 – Your church needs a funding plan as much as it needs a spending plan.

Once a year, finance teams and ministry leaders embark on a process of updating the budget for the new year.

Every church is different, but it’s not unusual for two or three months of reports, requisitions, comparisons and planning to be debated, crunched and ultimately presented to the congregation.

A lot of work goes into making a budget, the document that shows how all this money is planned to be spent.

You know what’s an afterthought in many churches?

Where the money is going to come from.

What would happen if we shifted some of the time spent on the budgeting process into time spent discussing funding options?

What would happen if your financial leaders took a posture of facilitating financial growth in addition to the posture of being guardrails to spending?

Finance teams need to have a perspective and give input on the revenue side of things, not simply serve as a watchdog of expenses.

This isn’t the job of most finance committees, but there are probably people in your church who could help you here. Find people with a growth mindset to help you process ideas and make real plans to facilitate generosity in your church.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find an Annual Funding Plan template and a coaching video you can watch with your team. Just follow the plans we lay out for you and you’ll move your church forward in a big way.

Working on a funding plan is an important exercise that will help you proactively meet or exceed the budget.

#5 – More shifts are coming. 

In the coming years, we will continue to see shifts in generosity in culture and in the church. That’s why the biggest shift you could make in your church is to prepare for uncertainty.

Many churches will see their financial base motivated to give to other (and more personal) causes, and harder preaching likely won’t change the patterns.

Alternative funding models will become more important to many churches as they consider ways to remain financially strong in the wake of decentralized generosity. Leaders will look for new ways to generate revenue from their facility or alternative funding strategies to pay staff.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach here but an imperative to stay open. There’s not a cause for fear, but there’s a greater reason to stay tuned into the trends and respond with strategy.

In the coming years, we will see more shifts, and the churches that are flexible and responsive will not only stay healthy but thrive.

What’s Next?

Feel like your church should be more financially healthy?

Ultimately, the financial situation in your church is up to God. It’s His church and you’re a steward.  But He chooses to work through people and entrusts us to lead well.

That's why we created a free guide filled with stewardship principles that will help your church.

Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Stewardship today.

3 Reasons to Use Email to Impact Marriages in Your Church

3 Reasons to Use Email to Impact Marriages in Your Church

How does your church communicate with married couples? If you’re like most churches, you have the occasional small group study or sermon message on marriage. But the rest of your efforts are probably put towards responding to couples in crisis—trying to help couples at the brink of divorce.

But we have found that there is one simple but effective thing every church can do that impacts every couple.  One of the best things your church can do to help married couples is send them regular, bite-sized tips and reminders through email.

While there is obviously more to marriage ministry than just email, it’s a great tool for all churches including those that are too busy or unsure what else to do. But why an email?

1. It’s Where People Are

Married couples are busy. Just like you, they’ve got too many things going on. They don’t need another book to read or seminar to attend. Plenty of couples love books and seminars—but those aren’t the couples that need help. The couples that need help won’t take initiative.

Where are these couples already spending most of their time? What place gets plenty of their daily attention? Their digital screens. This includes their email inbox. A mobile phone doesn’t have to be a distraction for a couple—it can be the way you sneak helpful tips into their marriage.

Thankfully, email is not restricted to certain ages or demographics. It’s simply the way that most people communicate these days. No matter what size your church is or where you’re located, email is a universal way to reach people—especially married people.

2. It’s Quick and Cheap

If you’re like other church leaders, you don’t have much time. If your church is like most churches, you’ve got a smaller budget. Thankfully, email offers a relatively speedy and very cost effective method to helping church couples.

One of the biggest benefits of email is that it’s instant. It’s not like print pieces that can take time to print, sort, and mail. It’s not like events that take weeks to organize. All you need is an hour or two per month to dedicate to schedule content and manage an email list.

There are plenty of email services out there, but MailChimp offers a 100% free service for email lists of less than 2,000. Even if you do pay, they offer a discount to nonprofits and churches. Email marketing may already be something your church already pays for.

3. It’s Trackable

One of the biggest challenges of any marriage ministry is telling whether or not it worked. Shifting from a proactive instead of a reactive strategy is much better. But it’s harder to track. It’s easier to tell how many divorces you’re preventing the closer the couples are to divorce.

Email platforms provide you with data that can begin to tell the story of marriages you’re impacting. You can measure the size of your email list and numbers of people opening and clicking on your emails. It gives you an idea of what works, and what doesn’t.

Next Steps

Email is the best place for your church to start impacting marriages, but it’s not the end. If your church is committed to marriage and think you can pull this off, here are some action steps to begin.

  • Create an account. If your church doesn’t already have one, sign up for an email platform. There are plenty of options out there, but MailChimp is always a good option.
  • Start collecting emails. Hopefully your church has a membership database that you can import into your new email platform. But you can also grow your list by asking people to sign up through your website or social media.
  • Find content to send. People are busy, so don’t clutter their inbox with meaningless messages. Send them stuff that provides value. Don’t know what that looks like? Then you really need to check out MarriedPeople Monthly.

What’s MarriedPeople Monthly?

Because email is such a powerful way to engage married couples, our friends at MarriedPeople have created a customizable email that your church can send to couples every month. It’s chock full of practical things couples can do together, including blog posts, fun videos, and discussion questions.

Your church can get a year of MP Monthly for only $99—that’s $30 off the normal price when you use the coupon code CHURCHFUEL at checkout. You get all of the content each month as well as instructions on how to implement and customize to your audience.

We really think is a resource you and the couples of your church are going to love.