What are the financial facts in your congregation? For example:
- What are the trends in giving and expenses?
- What is the giving pyramid – how many givers do you have at successive giving levels?
- What is the pace of income through the year – what percentage comes in during December each year?
- What percentage of income goes to ministries outside your congregation?
Who knows what the facts are? Leaders in churches of all sizes can find it a challenge to get a handle on the facts – and to handle their own and others’ anxiety about those facts. Whether your treasurer has a shoebox of papers or uses a sophisticated system to analyze the data, you may find information elusive.
One new church treasurer found that the outgoing treasurer never had time to explain the information in his confusing records. In another church, the finance committee was in a panic from January until December 31, when the end-of-year giving took care of the perceived deficit, every single year.
Facts and anxiety are in an inverse relationship. The higher the anxiety, the more difficult it can be to get good information. And the more leaders avoid, hide or waffle about facts, the higher anxiety can go.
The antidote: as always, work on your own anxiety. Stay calm and don’t panic. Work over time to get as many facts as possible. In highly anxious churches, this can be difficult.
Here are seven tips for dealing with financial facts:
- Be as open as possible.
- Even difficult facts, calmly presented by leadership with the message, “We can handle this,” help calm people down.
- Be patient – in some churches it may take several years to get good reports.
- Present financial information in visual and/or story form. Most people fade out when pages of numbers are presented.
- Don’t try to convince people things are better than they think (the cheerleader approach). Simply state your own view.
- Don’t try to convince people things are worse than they think (the Chicken Little approach).
- Overcommunicate. Remember that anxiety is like static – it makes it hard for people to receive information. This may be especially true of financial information.