What You Need to Know about Potential Giving Decline
In the old days, miners would carry caged canaries down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases leaked into the mineshaft, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing an early warning sign to evacuate. Congregations also need to look for early warning signs of decline.
A Simple Exercise Can Reveal an Early Indicator
One helpful exercise is to conduct an analysis of last year’s giving, looking at the age of the contributors. Of the total offerings given last year, factor both the dollar amount and percentage of total annual offerings attributable to each age group (persons under 20, in their 20’s; 30’s; 40’s, and so on). This simple exercise can help leaders spot developing problems about which they would not otherwise be aware.
One congregation recently discovered that 37% of their annual offerings came from two amazingly generous households. Both happened to be widows in their 80’s, one of whom was frail, and beginning to exhibit some signs of memory issues. The congregation was in an unsustainable position. The departure of just one of these saints will throw the congregation into an immediate, and perhaps irrecoverable financial crisis.
Who is Coming and Going
The two pools of potential for increasing your congregations’ financial resources are the existing participants, and new persons who engage in the orbit of the church. Pastors frequently tell me that it takes two or three new households coming into the life of the church to account for the financial resources given by one mature and established household that leaves due to relocation or death. You can easily factor what this ratio is in your congregation by factoring the average annual giving of the households coming into, and those leaving your congregation over the past few years.
These simple analytical exercises can help you see an accurate picture of the mid-term financial stability of your congregation. Resolve to be intentional about how you are reaching new persons, and engaging those already a part of your congregation in growing deeper in their faith and involvement in the life of the church. After all, congregational financial challenges are not about money, but about engagement and discipleship. Develop a plan and give it rigorous attention, and keep an eye on your canaries!