Nine numbers you need to know

As you continue to plan your campaign, it is important to know where you want the campaign to get you.  And to know that you need to know where you are.

There are some figures you need to have a handle on to figure that out.

Group 1:  Congregation numbers

These are the basics and while key leaders sometimes have a handle on them, your entire stewardship crew should as well.

  1.  Average attendance in worship.  This remains the standard measurement in church vitality and one that is readily available for your congregation on the UM Data website.  The website goes back 10 years and is readily available.  Present that entire time period.  If attendance has significant drops or gains, consider what may have prompted it, a pastoral change, divisiveness in the church, a strong discipling program, etc.
  2. Number of identified givers.  I believe that while the average worship attendance shows fewer people coming to church it does not factor in that fewer active members of your church are coming 52 Sundays each year.  If you track the number of IDed givers each year this will give you a better feel for how many families are still active in your congregation even if they’re coming less often.  You’ll find this in column 61 of the statistical tables in the Conference Journal.


Group 2:  Money numbers

To the extent that you can, go back 3-5 years, 10 is even better on these trends.  Hopefully the church office has a file of all of those year-end reports you have to submit.

  1.  Your bottom line last year.  Did income exceed expenses?  How much was covered by giving?  Did you take more than 5% out of any of your endowment or reserve funds?  Did you finish in the black but only because you didn’t pay apportionments?  Did you have a one-time cash infusion that saved your bacon?  Or was it a one-time expense that put your in the red?
  2. Total amount received from identified givers.  This is the core of your stewardship program.  Forget the day care rent, the wedding rentals, income from the Swiss Steak Supper, just giving.  Add columns 62a and 62b in the Conference Journal.
  3. What you have in the bank.  Beyond your checking account, what do you have?  Endowment funds?  Reserve funds?  Savings accounts?  CDs making less than 1%?  What has that trend been over the years?  You’ll find this in column 32 in the Conference Journal.
  4. Giving by decades.  This one is pretty tricky, will make your Financial Secretary nervous, and will be more of an art than a science.  But to the best of your ability group your donors into age groups, people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, all the way up to 90+.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you found a tither or two in the younger groups but I would not expect each age group to “pay their fair share.”  Empty nesters will likely pay more than a young family with day care and a mortgage.  But while these numbers will skew to the older groups if you are receiving more than two-thirds of your income from folks are over age 80 that is predicting a huge problem for you five to ten years down the road.


Group 3:  Your calculations

Do the math and dig a bit deeper in these figures.

  1.  Average giving per identified giver.  Nationally this trend is going up, a smaller group of donors is giving larger per capita gifts.  This is unsustainable.  Just for fun divide your total giving by the number of attendees as well.  Any interesting trends show up?
  2. When you figured your bottom line were there endowment withdrawals factored in?  Take a look at all that you have in the bank and divide that by the amount you used last year.  How long does that project out?  Will you run out of money in the foreseeable future?  If so, you need both an income and an expense strategy.
  3. Consider the two numbers above against the giving by decade number.  Is the consumption of assets likely to remain steady or will you be likely to lose some income and accelerate raiding your reserves?


Context for your numbers

Numbers like we have discussed are worthless without a context.  The first context is your trend.  Is giving up or down over the last five years?  How about average giving and the rate at which we raid our funds?

But another context is how your numbers compare to others.  Ask others in your Compass Group to do the same math and compare your results (most are published in the Journal anyway, they’re no secret).  How do you compare with the other mainline churches in your community?

Take these numbers, see where you are and figure out how your campaign this fall and stewardship teaching and discipling all year need to address them.

As always, let me know how I can help.

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