By Renn Salo
The church hallways get awfully quiet over the summer. It’s not just vacations (and staycations) that drive church attendance down over the summer. It’s the disrupted routine. Church leaders know this as the dreaded “summer slump.”
This year, churches are looking at the added complication of the pandemic. Many people aren’t ready to return to in-person gatherings, and some churches wind up running out of space each week.
All this together is sending some churches into the summer months on a low note—not only is attendance already dropping, but giving will drop, too. Taking initiative now, however, can prevent churches from hitting the summer slump head-on.
The very first step is to simplify giving by adopting an online giving platform.
The norms are changing when it comes to church gatherings. Live streaming services and participating in events from the comfort of one’s home are now nothing out of the ordinary.
Online giving is even more important today as people have become accustomed to connecting online and are more tech-savvy than ever.
Mobile giving provides the opportunity for members to donate at any time and in any place. They no longer have to wait for the offering plate to be passed around during Sunday service. Not only does mobile giving make tithing more accessible and more sanitary, it ultimately can assist with disciplining the congregation, too.
Embrace the Power of Technology
In a society where credit cards, Apple Pay, PayPal, and Venmo are taking over and physical money could become obsolete, churches must tap into the benefits of mobile technology if they want to survive.
This includes incorporating QR codes, texting features, a giving button on the church website, and maybe even launching a church app.
Technology can make our lives easier and is now an expected part of everyday life. Why should church be any different?
Churches will also benefit from the impact technology can have on giving habits, as churchgoers often give far more consistently after setting up recurring giving.
Build a Giving Communications Plan
One of the biggest reasons that giving declines is that people forget. But I have good news. You don’t have to talk about giving constantly to get past the “I forgot” excuse. Instead, align your communication avenues so they each mention giving in a clear, low-pressure way.
For in-person attendees, create announcement slides that clearly outline how to download and use your mobile app. Even better, include a QR code on your slides that automatically sends people to the giving page on your website and provide a number for text to give.
All of these can even be printed on the back of the church bulletin or individual flyers where people can pick them up.
Intertwine giving into the church’s social media strategy. Make sure to curate posts, captions, graphics, and links that remind congregants to contribute. Include a call to action in emails and newsletters, as well.
All of these ideas are easy ways to refresh your members’ memory and invite new people to set up their first gift when they’re ready. Just remember that giving is about your church’s mission, not just the money.
And don’t forget to weave storytelling throughout your messaging. When members know where and how the funds they gave previously have been used to further the mission of the church, they’re far more likely to give again.
Make It Simple and Convenient
Finding a digital platform that best fits the needs of your church should be the first step in making giving accessible. For example, Faithlife Giving is a great resource that makes it easy to give whenever prompted. It’s mobile-friendly, allowing users to give through the website and app. And because people can give without logging in, it works great for text to give and one-time donations.
Recurring giving is also an incredibly convenient feature and one of the secrets to beating the summer slump. Givers can set up their gift once, assign a giving schedule, and rest easy knowing their gift will go through when it’s scheduled—without any additional work.
It’s ideal for your givers because there’s no need for setting reminders, carving out time in an already hectic schedule, or feeling guilty because they missed contributing again.
The easier it is to give, the easier it will be for you to see giving go up. That’s why regular prompting, clear instructions, and fast options will only benefit churches, especially during the slow months of the summer.
Make Giving About Discipleship
As you consider how to encourage people to give over the summer, it’s important to remember how giving is tied to discipleship.
It’s not just a checkbox or an obligation—it’s an attitude and culture shift that starts with your leaders and permeates through all your discipleship structures.
Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28:18–20 commands us to be disciples:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Discipleship encourages us to serve, model as an example for others, and teach the ways of Jesus, which can all be done through giving. Many church leaders can easily see the connection between giving and discipleship, but it’s not always caught by people in the (literal or figurative) pews.
One simple way to help your members make that connection is by showing how giving is a key to making your church mission a reality.
As you talk about your church’s vision and mission, people will feel motivated—like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. And when you show how your church uses each dollar to support that mission, people can find joy in making an impact.
Be careful, though, to make sure you’re practicing what you preach. As you encourage your members to be generous with their giving, your church must lead the way in generosity. Ensure your church is taking every opportunity to help others and serve through faith that God will provide what is needed.
Everyone—even church leaders—can come up with good excuses not to be generous. However, when you focus on the discipleship impact of generosity, people will be more eager to join the ministry of giving.
Renn Salo is product manager for Faithlife Giving, a product of Faithlife, which uses technology to equip the church to grow in the light of the Bible and offers 14 products and services for churches, including Logos Bible Software, www.faithlife.com.