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7 Ways to Manage Church Finances During Economic Downturns

7 Ways to Manage Church Finances During Economic Downturns

In my four decades of ministry experience, I’ve seen churches of all sizes navigate through sunny and stormy weather alike.

One of the most challenging climates to navigate is the financial strain caused by economic downturns.

Churches are not immune to economic cycles and the despair they can bring with them.

church finances

Understanding the Impact of Economic Downturns on Church Finances

All pastors experience sleepless nights. And especially over finances.

Most pastors fret during an economic downturn because it can lead to dwindling giving and ultimately budget cuts.

But it’s in these times that our resilience and faithfulness are truly tested.

Economic downturns often feel like sudden storms. They leave us to grapple with lower giving. Our members face financial hardships.

At the same time, we might find operational costs climbing, creating a perfect storm of financial strain.

Let’s consider some proven strategies that can help manage church finances during trying times.

Here are 7 Strategies for Financial Resilience

1. Adjust your Budget

First things first. Revisiting the church budget is crucial.

This means prioritizing what’s essential which includes vital ministries and upkeep costs.

While doing this we must find areas where we can afford to trim.

Think of it as tuning up a vehicle to ensure it runs efficiently on less fuel.

In the 1980s our church suffered financial challenges during a deep recession.

We had to adjust our budget, and this required putting staff off.

I’ll never forget those meetings as I sat with our founding pastor through those difficult discussions of downsizing our staff.

It was a necessary but painful pathway that we walked.

2. Financial snapshots

A season of financial challenge also allows you to review how you inform your church about your finances.

In a recent poll in our Grow a Healthy Church Facebook group, I asked people how often they reported to their church their financial situation.

Most churches report annually.

However, I think there is a benefit to giving your church a financial snapshot every 3 to 4 months.

This enables you to show them the benefits and outcomes of their giving.

People are motivated by achievement, and they are encouraged in their giving when they see the church wisely stewarding the finances.

Sharing stories of how their contributions have made a difference can reignite the flame of generosity, even in tough times.

This style of regular and transparent sharing produces confidence and trust in your church’s leadership.

3. Review your Giving Pathways

People use different methods to give today, especially after the pandemic.

A financial challenge allows you to review your giving pathways. It helps you ensure people have easy access to the church account details and online giving.

Don’t make assumptions about how people give. Instead do a thorough review and ensure people find it easy to give.

Investing in digital ministry doesn’t have to break the bank. Some inexpensive tools and platforms can help us reach our congregation.

Church leaders should review their giving traditions during a crisis.

What traditions are hurting us and which ones are helping us? An economic downturn can see churches introduce new giving pathways such as an annual giving campaign.

Our church’s annual giving campaign enabled us to increase our support of local and global mission projects.

4. Get Help

Sometimes, steering through financial tumult requires professional insights.

Accessing the skills of your accountant can be helpful during this season.

The Hub has a How to Raise More Money road map.

This gives you a step-by-step guide to increase your financial intelligence and help you raise more finance for Kingdom projects.

Access the Hub and try it for 14 days at no cost.

5. Raise a Special Crisis Offering

There are different ways to handle a financial challenge.

My preferred method has always been to stand in faith and courage privately with our leadership team, believing in the Lord’s provision.

However, there are crisis times that warrant going public with the full knowledge of the shortfall in funds.

With this option, there is a clear call to the church members to rise to the occasion and avert the falling income with increased giving and even a special offering.

This option should only be used as a last resort.

And when used it should be utilized again for many years.

raise more money

Pastor, do you want to raise more money for your mission?

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6. Cultivating Alternative Avenues of Income

During an economic downturn, it is worth exploring opportunities for other streams of income.

I think sacrificial tithing and giving should remain the bedrock of church finances. It’s an essential element of discipleship.

However, it is worth exploring options such as leasing our building space or conservative investments.

We had a season in our church of hiring out our facilities for school graduations. This provided an income stream for the church and casual work for members of our church.

However, other sources of income should not move us away from the primary method of supporting the church through sacrificial giving.

church finances

7. Cash Flow Management and Reserves

One of the benefits of a crisis is it brings problem-solving to the fore.

Hardship forces us to face the fact that cash flow management is vital for stewardship in tough times. We realize cash reserves play a vital role in the best practices of church finances.

I recommend churches maintain a minimum of 3 months’ expenditure in cash reserves.

These reserves give a church space and time to respond to an emergency.

An emergency fund is like a lifeboat during a storm.

Stashing away funds for a rainy day is crucial and can provide us with the financial buffer we need to navigate through unforeseen crises.

Faith and Courage

Navigating through economic downturns demands a blend of faith, courage, and flexibility.

As church leaders, we’re called to shepherd our flock through the green pastures.

We must also guide them through the deserts.

These strategies can help the financial management of churches around the world. They can also strengthen our ministry’s foundation for years to come.

raise more money

Pastor, do you want to raise more money for your mission?

Take our simple 3 min quiz and we will give you specific and personalized steps to boost your church's finances.

John is a wellspring of information, experience and advice in all things church. His responses were often out of the box of what's been said before.
Ps Christie Blaikie
Oasis Church

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