Church finances are never easy but after a couple years of decreased attendance and an economy where a dozen eggs are more expensive than a gallon of gas, making ends meet this year could be even harder. If you lead a church that is outreach-oriented yet needs to function on a small budget, then we have some tips for how to promote your church and reach the community for less money!
To begin, it’s easy to look at your budget and think that cutting promotional and outreach expenses is an easy way to “save money”. But in reality, this is where your church needs to think more like a business; If you want to grow, you need to look at marketing or promotion not as an expense, but as an investment. And as a ministry whose job is to go out in the world to reach the lost, dollars spent on outreach programs and growing your church are an investment in God’s Kingdom.
So step one in any effort to set up a budget for outreach and promotion should always be prayer. The God who turned five loaves and two fish into a meal for 5000 will provide for your church too!
Then as leaders in a church, it’s part of our jobs to be good stewards and use the funds we do have to make the most impact. So here are a few tips on making your outreach dollars to go further:
1) Focus on the Main Thing. When you are juggling lots of priorities it’s hard to concentrate and focus. Now is the time to go back to your church’s mission and vision statements. What has God called you to do in your community? What is the foundation of your church – or what is the Main Thing. Pull your ministry leaders together, talk about your foundational beliefs, review the calling God has given you and make sure everyone is on the same page. When everyone is approaching each decision with that in mind, then there is less chance for wasted efforts or expenses.
2) Re-evaluate and Re-deploy. Inertia is powerful. It’s easy to do something because it’s how you have always done it. Every church has legacy programs and traditions that are hard to give up. But a financial downturn can also be an opportunity to reexamine where your funds are going and evaluate if the ministries set up 10 (or even 3) years ago are still effective today. Now, some traditions are important and provide a sense of community so no one is suggesting you ruthlessly slash everything, instead prayerfully look at everything through these lenses:
- Is it Necessary – Does it still meet a need or a goal for your church or community?
- Is it Effective – Are people growing spiritually and actively involved or just filling a seat?
- Is it Efficient – Is there a better, more cost-effective way to do something?
3) Shop Smarter. Spending wisely involves more than looking at the cost, it also involves evaluating the value and quality of an item. Sometimes the cheapest item is not the best item. So become a smarter shopper and take advantage of special offers and sales.
- Do Your Own Research – Don’t just assume that you can’t send a postcard to your community or purchase ads on social media when money is tight. There is a lot of misinformation out there and you may just find that the results are worth the expense. For example, did you know that studies show adding just ONE tithing family to your church will pay for a postcard mailing?
- Build Relationships – Support local businesses and the businesses of those in your congregation. In the long run, it may be worth spending a few extra pennies to build community with local business owners.
- Ask for Discounts – Don’t be shy about asking for a small discount to support your church’s efforts. But also be careful about asking for too much or having an entitled attitude.
- Don’t Forget Convenience -Time is money so even think through the time and effort involved in the “savings” you are looking for. Is it worth driving 20 miles out of your way to save $5 when you can order the same item online and have it delivered? Maybe…but maybe not.
- Look for Deals & Discounts – Subscribe to email updates, watch social media pages and pay attention to suppliers you value. Then take advantage of sales when they come up – even if it’s not for the current season.
Savings tip: Here are a few deals you can take advantage of right now:
50% off Stock Banners
$50 off a Sermon Series Kit Subscription
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4) Scale Down. Depending on your situation, it may be necessary to forego some less-impactful events or ministries so you can have better financial flexibility or so you can spend additional funds on ministries with a better impact. This doesn’t mean you have to cancel Christmas, but maybe get creative and create activities for the Fall Festival instead of renting jump booths? As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” so get your team together and brainstorm new ideas for stretching your dollars.
Finally, be open with your congregation about the finances of your church and the focus you are putting on growth. If you have to cut or reduce activities, be upfront so that everyone understands and then ask them to help be part of the solution.
Do you have ideas for how to reach out and grow your church with a tight budget? We would love to have you share them with us on our Facebook page.