Each fall, churches start putting plans together to shake off the summer slump and get themselves back on track. But perhaps it’s wise to pause a second and ask ourselves, “What can I do to shake off this cycle? How can we increase our giving and attendance this fall, and stop it from taking a big hit next summer?”
Why Does the Summer Slump Happen?
The fact that churches have an instantly recognizable term like “summer slump” to describe the summer’s shaky financial situation is a sign that this seasonal downswing is a legitimate problem. So why does it happen?
1. We’re not training people to give regularly
The church has a long way to go in teaching people to be more generous. Many don’t give at all, and the ones that do tend to give sporadically. It’s important that we teach giving as an area of responsibility and not just an impulse. You can guarantee that whether they’re on vacation or not, people still make their car payment when it’s due. Why do they think about giving to the church differently?
Conquering the summer slump relies on people thinking about giving differently. To do that, they need the right tools necessary to change their giving habits.
2. We’re training them to only give on Sunday mornings
Think about your church’s main givers. It’s quite likely that they give in regular intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly) but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they give on Sunday.
Part of the problem is that we’ve set up a traditional offering system that makes church feel like a pay-as-you-go service. We show up and in the middle of the worship service, everything is stopped in order to collect money. In our desire to communicate that giving is part of worship (which it most definitely is), we’ve inadvertently communicated that giving is what you do when you’re at church.
What Can We Learn from This?
Technology has made it so that we’re not at the mercy of Sunday morning (or seasonal) giving. Start talking about the summer slump in the spring. (Also, consider how you leverage social media during the summer months.) Let your congregation know how giving drops off. Show them graphs and charts about how giving has dipped in past summers. Share some of the ways this shortfall makes ministry more difficult. Think about VBS, for example. Your community is full of parents who would relish the opportunity to drop their kids off at your church for five days straight, but when everyone’s gone and not contributing regularly, you don’t have the resources to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.
Challenge them to commit to giving throughout the summer. You might even follow it up with a letter or email.
The more people understand how their behavior affects the church budget and calendar, the more motivated they become to change their behavior. When you can provide the right tools to accompany the motivation, you have potential for real change.
Encourage Recurring Giving
With recurring giving, people don’t have to rely on their memory or their location to give. Getting your church set up with with a tool for recurring giving—and then training them to get comfortable using it—is a game changer. When people set up automated giving, they become more involved and interested in the life of the church—plus they don’t have to regularly think about the task of giving. Once they’re signed up for their giving to recur naturally, you’re that much closer to being out of the woods.
The best way to encourage recurring giving is with your own mobile app. Not only is a mobile app a secure way to give and will enable your people to give from anywhere (even if they’re traveling internationally), but it also helps you stay engaged with them while they’re gone. Having your sermons, calendar, and congregational communications all bundled up within the same app that people are using to give is a genius way to get your church over the summer slump.