Assessing your Church’s Financial Health

About eight months ago, I called into the Dave Ramsey Show and got through. After I quit gushing over Dave, I asked him, “What would be the Baby Steps for a church?” This was not just a passing fancy of mine. I’ve been thinking and reading and visiting with people about this subject for many years. In this quarter’s webinar, Sheri Meister and I discuss the seven areas that church’s need to give attention if they want financial freedom to follow Jesus Christ.

Here’s the short version of the areas. I encourage you to watch/listen to this webinar to get the long version. Plus, there is a link to the assessment below that you can take for your church:

  1. Invested Leaders: Church leaders should be raised up from the top 20% of givers. Leaders that don’t give worry about what others might think. Leaders that give worry about the mission.
  2. A Focused Team: Now that you have Invested Leaders, the next step is to help them take responsibility for Overseeing Spending, Growing Giving, and Managing Reserve Funds.
  3. Stewardship Teaching: Money can be either a great obstacle to living for Jesus or a great tool. If you help people manage their money and teach on the benefits of giving, church income will go up.
  4. Budget Accuracy: With a growing income, now is the time to be honest about your budget. How will you plan to spend the income…not what you wish the income was.
  5. Debt Aversion: Debt is a weight on the ministry of a church. It will affect how you lead and make decisions. The sooner you can rid yourself of the debt, the better.
  6. Capital Reserve: With the Debt gone, a Growing Income, and an Accurate Budget, it’s time to build up reserves to care for the property. This helps you avoid always raising funds for the building so that people begin to think the building IS the ministry.
  7. Operating Reserve: At the same time, building up an Emergency/Opportunity Fund will help you take risks and weather storms.

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Letting Go to Fuel Generosity

In the 4th quarter webinar for 2020, Sheri Meister takes the learnings from Matt Miofsky’s book “Let Go” and applies them to the church fundraising world. Here’s what I got as the key teachings:

  • A New Hope: Discover who you are as a church and what success looks like for your church. Without hope of a better future, giving, volunteering, and passion will dry up.
  • Letting Go is Necessary: You can’t have it both ways. The world we were ministering to in 1970 or 1990 or even 2019 no longer exists. What ministries and methods are still life changing and what is life draining? We just don’t have the capacity to do a bunch of new things to reach the world of 2020 while still doing everything we’ve always done.
  • Value the Past without Living in the Past: This was a powerful statement from one of our attendees. Is your past a foundation you’re building off of or an idol you’ve started to worship?

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The Art of the Ask

One of the scariest tasks that pastors and others leaders can face is asking for money. But there are some people that seem to be able to ask for large donations without breaking a sweat. Are these people just born different? Maybe. If you are one of the normal people that doesn’t look forward to asking for donations, Sheri Meister can help you.

There are really two things you need to pay attention to when preparing to make a big ask. First, pay attention to building the relationship. Treat the donor as you would want to be treated. They are not a checkbook attached to a person. They are a person. Don’t just call on them when you want something. If you go to make the ask without building the relationship, get ready to be shot down.

Second, pay attention to building the case. Sometimes when people go to make the ask, they don’t have it clear in their mind the details. The most important thing is: What will be accomplished as a result of this gift? How will the world or the church or whatever going to be better? You should also have a good enough grasp of the strategy for using the gift. You’ll need to know the who, what, when, and where.

Sheri Meister is the primary teacher relying on her decades of experience in the non-profit and fundraising world.


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Old Money, New Opportunities

How many times have you been at a church meeting where you are discussing a great ministry opportunity, but there’s no money available for it…except for the money in that one fund? Most churches have that pot of money whose purpose is not written down but is actually embodied by the committee that has historically controlled the money. That’s not healthy. It becomes a control issue instead of a stewardship issue.

Sheri Meister, Barb Brower, and I talk about how to properly setup funds and how to work with the church to rediscover the purpose of old funds. We believe the donor gave the money to bless the church…not divide the church. We hope this helps you find new opportunities for some old money.


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3 Principles that will Transform your Church Budget

Gallup did a poll some years back and found that 33% of households kept a formal budget. The adopting and living by a budget is really the first step for anyone wanting to feel more secure in their finances. The same is true for the church. While the vast majority of churches adopt a budget, few live by that budget. Why is that? Because most of them adopt a bad budget. The budget is usually unrealistic, doesn’t support the church’s vision, and feels like a waste of effort.

In our work with churches, Sheri Meister and I have identified three principles that will change the way you budget.

  1. Know your bottom line: You’re not the Federal Government so you can’t spend money you don’t have.
  2. Include your long-term goals: You should be looking forward to more than just surviving the year.
  3. Tell your story in numbers AND words: Go through the exercise of creating a narrative budget.

The first two will honestly be the most difficult and bring the most resistance. You will have to push forward because your church’s financial future depends on it.


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A Deep Dive into Endowments and Legacy Giving

Endowments are one of the best gifts you can give to a church yet they are largely misunderstood. Sheri Meister and I go over the details on how exactly endowments work and why they are such awesome gifts.

In the Dakotas, the simplest way to think of an endowment is to imagine someone gifted you some farmland. The farmland holds its value while still generating income from the church. That is how an endowment works…except without having the pain of being a landlord.


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The Why’s and How’s of Electronic Giving

Electronic giving isn’t going away yet some churches are still resistant to allowing people to give electronically. I wonder if there was a time when checks were knew and churches only accepted cash, livestock or grain. In this webinar, I try to make the case for why churches should make the switch. Long story short, 1)checks and cash usage are in decline, 2)it’s kind of silly to only accept gifts one hour per week…if the weather is good, 3)it helps people give consistently, and 4)it can be part of a person’s discipleship.

Deciding to allow electronic giving is only the first step. We also need a strategy for promoting and transitioning donors. Just because we set up electronic giving doesn’t mean that people will flock to it or even be aware of the option. You need to have a strategy for rolling it out and regularly making the congregation aware of this option.


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