Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bell Curves and Giving

Here's an interesting stat: the most generous age bracket in any church are 50-somethings.
  • College for the kids is done and paid for
  • The kids' weddings are over
  • The mortgage is low because they got it several decades ago (if they even have a first mortgage)
  • They are in middle to upper management at work making really good money
  • In short, their expenses are low and their income is high which means they've got more disposable income than other age brackets.
What about the other decade age brackets regarding their charitable gifts? Here's my analysis of them:
  • 20-somethings are just getting started financially. Many have serious college debt, most are not ready to settle down with a spouse (much less kids), and their income is on the low side since they are just beginning their careers.
  • 30-somethings have begun to settle down with families and careers but they are financially strapped because of the mortgage, cars, retirement planning, new furniture for the home and kids, etc. They'll give, but it will be usually from their financial leftovers. A few are giving more and more but they are the exceptions.
  • 40-somethings are well into their careers and an impressive number have even risen to upper management already. Many have figured out a financial strategy and are able to give surprising amounts. Others want to give but can't, right now.
  • 50-somethings are the main givers to every church. Not every 50-something is a big giver but the preponderance of them give more than at any other time in their lives. They've reached the age when they want to live for significance, not success.
  • 60-somethings have retirement looming over them and their giving begins to decrease, sometimes rather sharply. Some 60-somethings have to keep working while others are planning comfortable retirements. However, in every case, they are beginning to ask the question that 70-somethings ask every day.
  • 70-somethings wonder "Am I going to outlive my money?" and that causes their charitable giving to drop off a cliff. Those with ample resources continue to give, but the ones with "just enough" cut their giving back significantly.
  • 80-somethings and beyond do not form a large giving base for two reasons: their numbers are smaller than other age brackets (and shrinking daily) and their financial resources are smaller than the other age brackets. An occasional 80-something will be a high-capacity giver, but most are hanging on by their financial fingernails.
How does this translate to a church?
  • At either end are the 20-somethings and 80-somethings: the goal is for the 20-somethings to be giving, per person, more than the 80-somethings. "More" is probably about 1.5 times.
  • Next are the 30-somethings and 70-somethings. In a healthy-giving church, the 30-somethings will be giving about twice what the average 70-something is giving, because giving by 70-somethings is plummeting.
  • The 40-somethings should be the second strongest age bracket in a church, and the third strongest should be 60-somethings. 40-somethings are the "left shoulder" of the bell curve and 60-somethings are the "right shoulder." Strengthen that right shoulder as much as you can because in 10 years, they'll be 50-somethings.
  • The peak of the bell curve is the 50-something crowd. Who are your 50-somethings today? Who coached them to give? What was their giving like 10 and even 20 years ago?  But wait, look at your church 10 and even 20 from now. Is estimated future giving by your current 30- and 40-somethings enough to replace what your current 50-somethings are doing? What are you doing long term to ensure that generosity becomes part of your church's culture?
A church must be cultivating and encouraging generous giving with the 40- and 50-somethings. That should be the church's main focus. Next should be the 30- and 60-somethings. Lastly, the 20-, 70- and 80-somethings should get the least financial emphasis focus, because they are in the weakest position to contribute to a church. By "cultivating and encouraging generous giving," I mean that there should be a stewardship education plan for all groups but that those age brackets should get a bigger dose than other age brackets. Give them a second helping of generosity teaching; it will do them and you some good.

By the way, this analysis is true of annual giving (giving from your checkbook or income statement) but also of planned giving (giving from your estate or balance sheet). A church should encourage 40- and 50-somethings to put the church in their will. The 60-something and older crowd have typically already created a will (although the percentage of people without wills is shockingly high). Get some estate planning for 40-somethings and 50-somethings ASAP!

Lead On!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Strategic Budgeting for a Young Marrieds' Ministry

One of my former churches has a strategic vision for reaching young and median married adults. They don't ignore senior adults, but they put a vast amount of resources to targeting 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings (and that overlaps a little to the 50-somethings). Since I was on staff there, let me give you their "secret" plan. Actually, I don't think it was strategically thought out except that God led them to develop a very good plan. The plan is actually buried in the detail of the budget which most people don't see, but they do see the results. Serious financial resources (staffing, buildings, and programming) are expended - the results are that this church is known as the church for young married in that city.
  1. Nearly/Newly married couples (20-somethings)
    1. The church wants to get in front of engaged couples or even couples who are going to be engaged. Female staff members informed the male staff members that future brides spend a lot of time reading local wedding magazines. So, the church now hosts bridal shows, advertises in wedding magazines, reaches out to local wedding photographers and caterers, etc. They want to be known in their local wedding industry as a wedding-friendly church.
    2. The church has two small group or Sunday School classes for nearly/newly married couples. The teachers for these classes are couples who've been married for over 20 years who can provide good role-models. The female teacher regularly meets with the young women in the class and the same for the guys. This provides outlets for the genders to share what is going on with them as they go through life.
    3. The church also supports this age group with seminars by bringing in speakers and/or sending them to a conference at another church. Also, about two times a year there are fellowship meals  at the church (with childcare provided if needed). The goal of these times together is for nearly and newly marrieds to get to know each other and eventually to become the support network for each other as they go through the various life-stages together.
  2. Families with young children (20- and 30-somethings)
    1. When a couple announces they are pregnant, the staff assign another young married couple to partner with the pregnant couple. The assigned couple helps the pregnant couple in any way possible such as accompanying the woman to the doctor if the husband is away, providing childcare for other children while mom is at the doc, having at least one supper together during the pregnancy, and even organizing a baby shower especially if this is the first child.
    2. After the baby is born, the assigned couple coordinates getting food to the new parents, informing the church staff of the new baby, and getting a sign from the church which they place in the front yard of the couple so that their neighbors will know about the new arrival. 
    3. The church has a bulletin board with 12 sections (one for each month) and pregnancies are made public by placing the couple's name on the bulletin board in the month that the baby is due. When the gender of the baby is known, a small blue or pink ribbon is pinned by the parent's name.
    4. At least once a year, the church hosts a nice supper for everyone that had a new child born in the past year. Childcare is provided and the parents get to enjoy a quiet dinner (maybe their first as a couple since the baby came) with a bunch of friends who are in the same life-stage as them.
    5. There are no "mass baby dedications" - only one baby is dedicated per worship service. The family is invited onto the platform, the pastor holds the baby, says a few nice words, has a prayer of dedication for the baby, parents and any siblings. BTW, the baby is kept in the nursery until the dedication time - then a volunteer brings the new baby from the nursery, hands the baby to the mom just before the parents go forward and after the dedication, the volunteer takes the baby back to the nursery so the parents can stay for worship.
    6. Each month there is a PNO (Parents Night Out) and a SNO (Social Night Out). PNO is meant for couples to drop their kids off at the church so mom and dad can have a date. SNO is for classes or small groups to have fellowship time together while kids are safely in a church nursery. The cost for three hours of childcare is minimal, about $7 or $8 per child in order to make this affordable for parents - yes, the church budgets money to subsidize this but not much since there is so much volume that a fair amount of income is provided by the parents.
    7. The children’s division had a priority for funding in the annual budget. If necessary, the pastor would solicit children's workers and also encourage them. Teaching the teachers was emphasized by bringing in education specialists from nearby colleges.
    8. Facilities improvement was constant. A list of needs was kept current and as items on the list were ticked off, other items would be added. The goals was to keep the facilities in very good condition because new parents want and expect the best for their children.
    9. Over the summer, there were day camps at the church for preschoolers ("popcicles and pools"), weeklong summer-day camps centered on recreation at a nearby campground. These kept the children busy and provided opportunities for the parents to talk and support each other.
    10. The goals are for the church to be a place children WANT to go to and a place where young parents are finding the support and training network for this brand-new stage of their lives.
  3. Marriage enrichment (30-, 40-, and 50-somethings)
    1. The church provides bi-annual marriage conferences with a very good outside speaker. The conference is often a two or three day event where the speaker is on several times speaking in formal settings (such as Sunday morning sermon time) and informal settings (such as a dinner with a Q&A time). The topic of the conference is about making marriages work and improving communication between spouses.
    2. There are other seminars on personal finances which is critical to new marriages. The church provides training for small group teachers regularly; it continually improves the facilities, and even has on-campus counselors (a local Christian counseling org uses church space rent-free but gives church members a discount).
    3. The goal is for the church to support couples during all the difficulties of marriages. Couples who've been married 10 to 30 years go through massive life-style changes and adapting to them requires constant re-focusing by both spouses. The church wants to help each partner understand his/her role in the new patterns and understand what the other parent is going through. Yes, there are divorces at this church, but fewer than I’d seen at other churches.
Okay, this is how one church (albeit with a lot of resources) does it. And I never said what this church does for children of these young marrieds. Frankly, the children get about the same as children in other churches but the difference is how much attention the parents are given in the church's budget and programming.

How are you living out the key components of your strategic plan and vision?

Lead On!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Walt & Roy

One of my favorite business books is Me, Myself and Bob. This hilarious book is the story of the rise and collapse of Veggie Tales as told by its founder, Phil Vischer. Throughout the book you learn that Phil's childhood hero was Walt Disney - to the point that Phil wanted to create a Veggie Tales theme park like Walt did. It was not to be and it all fell apart due to some bad business decisions. Toward the end of the book, Phil has a chapter called "Lessons" in which he very openly shares what he learned from the experience and that will help him in the future.

One of his critical lessons was that while Walt was the innovative genius, his brother Roy was a fiscal sage. Orignally it was called Disney Brothers' Studios before Walt bought out Roy. One of the advantages that Roy had over anyone else was that he was Walt's brother. As such, he had the ability and power to confront Walt and tell him, as no one else could, whether one of Walt's ideas was crazy or not. Roy could get in Walt's face and tell him the honest truth. Walt had to accept it - it was coming from his partner who had as much to lose as he did. Roy's motives were honest - he wanted success. Roy was responsible for counting the money (Roy's Boys were the Disney beancounters!) while Walt's guys were the creative thinkers. It took both of them to come up with the American success story that is the Disney empire. However, none of this could have happened if Walt didn't have a Roy and if Roy didn't have a Walt.

Phil continues in this chapter with a personal lesson that he learned the hard way - he was a Walt without a Roy. He never gave anyone the authority to confront him with the cold, hard financial facts. Instead, Phil figured he could "create" his way to financial success. I especially like how Phil ends the chapter. He tells the reader that if you are a Walt, find yourself a Roy and give him the responsibility, authority, and trust to tell you the hard financial picture. And if you are a Roy, then wait for your Walt and don't sell yourself short. Phil acknowledges that as a Walt or a Roy you may never find your counterpart, but always keep looking.

My take-away from this is to encourage pastors, CEOs, and other visionary leaders to intentionally find a Roy. Leaders absolutely need an equally visionary beancounter (that is not an oxymoron, they do exist!). And what's more, leaders need to very clearly tell the financial guru that the leader depends on getting good, accurate, and even scary financial figures. The financial status of the organization is not the fault of the CFO/messenger, but that if the CEO does not heed the financial advice, the fiscal failure of the organization will rest on the CEO.

Lead On!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Who is the Church's Risk Management Officer?

Every organization has a risk management officer - someone who is formally or informally charged with ensuring the safety and security of the church and its property, with knowing the church's personnel and financial policies and insurance limits, and working to reduce its legal liability to almost nothing. Unfortunately, many churches, if not most or perhaps even 99.999%, do not recognize the need to assign this responsibility to someone.

From a legal standpoint, the courts have assigned this responsibilty to someone, the senior pastor. Whether or not the senior pastor realizes this is another matter. If the senior pastor does not want this position, then the senior pastor must formally assign this to someone, whether it is a staff person or a lay person. However, the senior pastor must verify that this job responsibility is being carried out regularly.

Here are some things to check on:
  • Safety issues related to the phyiscal building and grounds regarding things such as tripping hazards, sharp edges, or other things that can harm people
  • Safety items related to the people including background checks on people working with minors, protecting people from known predators who prey on adults and children, removing (by force if necessary) people who come to the church in a threatening manner
  • Building security to make that unauthorized access or use of the building is not happening so that people don't hide in a building after it is closed to do something illegal or that they can't get locked inside a room
  • Emergency safety including evacuations and hunkering down depending on the type of emergency such as fire, bomb threats, severe weather, armed intruders, kidnapping, etc.
  • Personnel law to ensure that the church is complying with all laws pertaining to its personnel management to prevent legal action from current or former staff
  • Medical emergencies which require the intervention of trained professionals and what by-standers should do in such a situation
  • Financial policies to make sure that proper laws are being followed so that the church is not exposed to the mismanagement of funds including embezzlement and lawsuits or threats related fiscal management
  • Vehicle inspections and safety so that all church buses and other vehicles are safe, road-worthy, outfitted with good tires, and that brakes, seat-belts and other safety devices are in good working order.
  • Police interaction to keep a good relationship with local law enforcement so that when there is an emergency the police will take a personal, not just professional, interest in the situation and the location.
As I said, the courts have already assigned this responsibility to the senior pastor but most pastors have no idea of this legal burden. Pastors would be very, very wise to sit down with the church's personnel, finance, legal, and other wise counsel to draft a plan so that all aspects of risk management are covered. This will protect the organization and actually help the organziation be proactive in the instance of an event.

Lead On!