Last Christmas is a distant memory and this Christmas seems far away, especially given July’s heat and humidity. So why plan now for holiday attendance and giving? The same reason some people start buying their presents during the summer: to make sure you’re well-prepared when the season hits.
You’ve probably run the numbers yourself, but just to set the stage: many churches receive between one-quarter and one-third of their yearly contributions between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which means Advent is a critical financial time for them. Overall attendance and total dollars given increase. And, individual gifts themselves are typically larger on average, reflecting holiday generosity as well as some catch-up contributions.
The window to prepare for overflowing pews and increased giving is now, and we have some resources that can help you, along with suggestions for several areas you might want to visit to get ready for the flood of visitors and contributions.
Giving opportunities. If you’re thinking about establishing or enhancing electronic giving for the holidays, you still have plenty of time. Implementing e-Giving isn’t a major project. As a matter of fact, Vanco can have you up and running in just a few days. But as the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Setting aside a few days or weeks to develop a written plan is important to a successful launch. That small investment will make it more likely that your program starts smoothly and your members will adopt quickly.
Our latest infographic, Fulfilling Your Church’s Promise: A 6-Step Strategic Plan to Grow Your Ministry, offers tips and provides examples to help you put together a plan for any kind of project, including e-Giving— and it’s a very quick read.
Storytelling in messages. Advent is full of vivid stories about the birth of Jesus — a life-altering event for Christians then and now. What better time to tell stories about how your members’ generosity has changed the lives of others? Real stories from real people make stewardship tangible and offer the best concrete example of your mission. They put a name and a face on your members’ contributions. Whether they’re offered in your newsletter, on your website or during services, including such stories as you consider and develop your holiday messages can tap into emotions and build connections with both members and guests.
3 Tips to Connect Members to Your Mission includes storytelling and other ideas about helping people understand their impact on your church and those you serve.
Communications. Whether you’re reminding people of current giving options, establishing a new e-Giving program or adding to your existing program, constant communication in a variety of formats is key to acceptance and use. That’s even more important when you have visitors who are unfamiliar with your church and the ways in which they can contribute to it. In addition to plenty of collection envelopes, include e-Giving information in your bulletin and/or onscreen announcements so people can pull out their smartphones and easily give via the web or text. Make sure flyers and posters about e-Giving are up-to-date, too.
Our e-Giving Launch Timeline provides a variety of ideas to help you communicate to both staff and members about e-Giving and offers a sample communication plan.
Visitor outreach. With attendance peaking during both Advent and Christmas, they are particularly opportune times to welcome and inspire visitors, as well as follow up with compelling reasons for them to return. The more personally and quickly you do so, the higher the likelihood visitors will become long-standing members of and contributors to your church.
Nurturing a Sense of Belonging Among Your Visitors discusses ideas for visitor outreach that apply year-round.
We’ve included four sources of information here, but plenty more are posted in the Resources section of our website. If you have Christmas covered (and if so, tell me your secret!) but have other planning, communication, technology and e-Giving issues on your mind, check it out.