While we do consider ourselves to be knowledgable about church management, we’re the first to admit that we have some very clever church partners. We learn from them all time! We’re also continually analyzing our aggregate data for patterns and ideas that even we can’t see with the naked eye.
Do the Math
We recently published a blogpost on the compelling math around our churches’ Easter visitors last year. There are a few other stealth numbers that could be hiding from you and skewing your perception and decisions:
Math Hack #1: Build a More Reliable Budget
We helped one Texas church analyze contributor levels above and below the $500 gift mark separately. They discovered that organizational gifts were typically above $500, but they came in sporadically. They did the math and learned that 70% of their giving was coming from 6% of their donors, and that they were building their budget around these unpredictable influxes.
Application: Separate regular giving from unexpected gifts and plan budgets around what is typical. (Have a plan for extra gifts, too, so it won’t get frittered away. See our blogpost: What would your church do with a $10 million gift?)
Math Hack #2: Plan sermon series around actual attendance
Another church guesstimated that 15% of their kids were attending their childrens’ classes at least 50% of the time. Actual reports showed that it was closer to 3%. We did the math in our data and learned that 75% of members attend 25% of the time and consider themselves “regular attenders”.
Application: If a pastor plans an 8-10 week sermon series, the majority of attendees are catching only 1/4 of the whole picture. Find out what’s happening with your church’s attendance and plan sermon series accordingly!
Math Hack #3: Know the cost of member retention vs. visitor attraction
Our records consistently show–across all size churches–that member giving rates per gift are 2 1/2 to 3 times higher than attendee gifts. In the effort to attract and assimilate visitors into members, don’t neglect current member attrition rates.
Application: From a financial perspective, as well as loyalty, connectedness, volunteerism, and leadership growth standpoint, one member (bird in hand) could very well equal 2 visitors (birds in bush). Keep your fingers on the pulse of member back-door rates and explore the why.
Math Hack #4: Save some trees–and a lot of time and money (see a sample of how this works)
Eastlake Church in California agreed to let us tell their story of why they came back to Fellowship One after leaving for a competitor to save money. One of the first things they did for their 6,000-member, 8-campus church when they returned was move all their giving statements online. They saved $20,000 their first year! Plus lots of time and a lot of trees (stamps, envelopes, paper). Members didn’t complain, but if they had, it wouldn’t have been a big deal to print out the occasional statement.
Application: Automate whatever can be automated. Make it a win-win for members and staff.
Math Hack #5: Protect your church from risk
The cost of risky practices and failure to plan for risk is incalculable, so it’s hard to do that math. But the costs are real–both financially and in terms of human suffering and consequences. Churches are often at risk just because they are open, friendly, trusting, thrifty, and…naive. For example:
- Are you vetting all volunteers with automatic background checks?
- Are you emailing sensitive childrens’ information to volunteers rather than having them login to learn what they need to know?
- Are you scanning checks and saving the data to a desktop or private server?
- Are you posting kids pics from camp on social media? (see legal guidelines)
- Are you copying song lyrics into a camp songbook? (see church copyright guidelines)
Do you have an Emergency Action Plan? (see how to create an Emergency Action Plan)
When New Life Church in Colorado Springs experienced deadly force at their church–a pastor’s worst nightmare–their security team was critical in saving lives. Two girls died in the parking lot, but the gunman’s open fire in the children’s hallway with an assault-type rifle triggered the response team into action, preventing further injury. Since then, they’ve escalated their security plan to cover a variety of threats.
Application: From a business perspective, leaders can mitigate risk by:
Proactively seeking to stay informed about risk management (learn more about child and member security and sexual harrassment laws that apply to churches)
Transferring potential liability to others whose core competency puts them in a better position to prevent that risk. (
download our data security whitepaper)
Got Hacks? We’d love to hear your tips, tricks, and hacks for church management. Share with us?