Navigating Your Church’s Next Financial Phase with Jim Sheppard

Thanks for listening in to this week’s unSeminary podcast! Today we are joined by Jim Sheppard, CEO of Generis. Generis is in the business of helping churches and ministry organizations with giving development. They’ve been around for a little over 30 years and are most known for their giving campaigns as well as coaching churches in developing an ongoing culture of generosity.

Jim is with us today to talk about what he’s seeing as he speaks with a broad spectrum of churches across the country, and how churches can plan well financially for an unknown future.

  • Be intentional about the offering. // Around March 15, 2020 the coronavirus shutdown caused nearly all churches across the country to suddenly shift to remote services, leaving many unprepared as to how to handle the offering. As a result that first weekend was terrible financially for many churches. They didn’t pay enough attention to the giving moment during their online-only services, instead assuming that people would just “get it”. Suddenly giving dropped by 80% for some churches and they realized that if this trend continued while they couldn’t physically meet, they’d be broke in a matter of weeks. During moments like these, it’s important for churches to be specific when talking about the offering, and don’t assume that people who don’t give electronically will suddenly start doing so. Make a plan ahead of time so people have options and understand what they are.
  • Increase your online giving. // Since the initial lockdown, many churches have seen a surge in giving. Not only has their giving returned to normal, it may be even better than where it was last year at this time. The churches that have made online giving easy have faired the best in this season. There are many robust options for third party online giving that are currently available to nonprofits. Make it a point to encourage more people at your church to give digitally to avoid the types of interruptions that can come during this type of season.
  • Get an accurate picture of your giving. // Jim’s concern for churches right now is that people might be getting a little too comfortable with the giving rhythms that they’re seeing. When the government liquidity gets pulled out of the market, what new dynamics will we need to pay attention to? Some of your core donors may have stepped up in this season and given what they’ve committed to earlier than planned, but it may not change the overall picture at the end of the year. Take the one time surge of giving out of your numbers so you can discern how well giving is really going at your church.
  • Build your reserves. // Take this season to be building your reserves. If your giving seems to be going well and your expenses are down while you’re not regathering, then take that money and put it aside as much as you can. You should have a minimum of three months worth of reserves. Think in terms of what thirteen weeks of reserves looks like for you. Setting aside reserves will help your church not to panic when you encounter times like the current one. Furthermore, make sure that you have a policy for spending reserves in addition to accumulating reserves. You don’t want to strip all of your cash out, but if you need some extra, it’s there for you.
  • Increase revenue. // If your church isn’t in a place where you have extra to put aside for reserves, it’s time for the pastor to begin to cast vision around why this is important in order for the church to continue its mission. Cast vision to your higher capacity givers and your faithful core givers in particular because this message, while not glamorous, will really resonate with them.
  • Plan for the worst. // Be prepared with an action plan before you might ever see a dip in giving. Determine what specific numbers will kick things into action and model out what this will look like through the end of the year. How will you cover your expenses? How will you continue to flourish and thrive? Plan now for a worst case scenario so that you aren’t behaving in a reactive way if it ever happens. Having a plan A, B and C enables you to be proactive no matter what scenario you encounter.

To learn more about Generis and how they can help your church, visit their website at generis.com or email Jim. You can also download their ebook Beyond: Forward Focus, Planning the Critical Next Seasons for Your Ministry.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Portable Church Industries

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.