Overcoming the Summer Slump: Flexibility is Key for Year-Round Church Financial Health

by | Church Communication, Engagement, Leadership

Each summer, churches encounter the well-known “Summer Slump,” a seasonal downturn in attendance that, coupled with a broader decline in church attendance—especially among individuals under 30—adds to the financial uncertainty faced by many congregations. This trend is accelerating closures of both Protestant and Catholic churches, impacting their financial health and the sustainability of their ministries.

In response to these challenges, church leaders are increasingly adopting strategic measures, such as turning to advanced giving tools and digital engagement strategies, to maintain community involvement. These initiatives are essential in meeting the expectations of modern congregants who are accustomed to digital convenience.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical for churchgoers to have access to flexible, digital giving options. By implementing effective giving strategies, churches can transform seasonal attendance fluctuations into opportunities for growth and engagement, rather than periods of financial concern.

The Power of Digital Giving
In today’s digital-first landscape, convenience is king, especially when it comes to financial transactions. For faith-based organizations, which depend heavily on the generosity of their communities to fulfill their missions, enhancing accessibility to giving options is a crucial strategy for overcoming the seasonal “Summer Slump.”

Digital giving tools empower churches and parishes to secure a sustainable flow of income through automatic contributions. These tools provide versatile giving solutions that allow members to uphold their financial stewardship even when they cannot attend services in person. Options such as in-church giving kiosks, mobile giving apps, online giving portals equipped with both traditional giving methods like credit cards and newer services such as Google PayTM or Apple Pay®, and even text-to-give services ensure that contributing to the church is as easy and seamless as possible, aligning with the modern donor’s expectations for quick and effortless transactions.

While digital giving offers clear financial benefits for churches and convenience for members, it also plays a surprising role in boosting church attendance. Here’s how:

  • Stability Breeds Growth: Recurring donations provide a steady income stream, accounting for 43% of all transactions and 34% of giving dollars in 2023. This allows churches to plan strategically for the long term. Financial security empowers them to invest in programs that attract and engage a wider audience, such as youth ministries, local missions, outreach programs, or community events. A thriving church community naturally becomes more attractive to potential attendees.
  • Engagement Through Connection: Digital giving simplifies the act of contributing, encouraging people to move from occasional donations to consistent support. This fosters a more profound sense of connection between church and congregation. People who give regularly feel more invested in the church’s mission, increasing their understanding of ownership and potentially motivating them to attend services more frequently.
  • A Culture of Generosity: Analyzing donor data on recurring contributions can give churches valuable insights into donor behavior and preferences. This allows churches to personalize their outreach efforts and tailor communications to resonate more effectively with each donor, potentially leading to a 3.5% increase in total donations. Another significant benefit is that when recurring giving becomes the norm, it inspires others to join in. Seeing consistent support from their peers can motivate people who haven’t been to church in a while to consider attending again. This creates a ripple effect, fostering a generosity culture that benefits the church’s finances and attendance numbers.

Beyond Transactions: Engagement is Key

While flexible giving tools are a powerful asset, they are just one piece of the puzzle. To truly thrive during the summer, churches must cultivate a sense of community and engagement that transcends physical attendance. Churches can achieve this through a variety of strategies:

  1. The Power of Word-of-Mouth (and Digital Connections)
    There’s a powerful impact when members extend personal invitations to their acquaintances, both in person and online. Often, individuals are receptive to attending church when directly invited, even if they hadn’t considered it before. The digital world has transformed word-of-mouth into a megaphone. Equip your members with digital invites and content they can easily share across their social media platforms. This can spark conversations and introduce your church to a whole new network of people.

Consider this: 75% of digital church leaders reported that people attended online services first, then showed up in person. Offering a high-quality, engaging online stream is your church’s digital front door. By highlighting your online service and equipping members with digital invites, you’re making that first step as easy as possible – a simple “watch us online” invitation can be the spark that ignites a lifelong connection with your church family.

This welcoming online environment, coupled with the warm welcome of a familiar face in person, creates a powerful combination for attracting newcomers. 

  1. Stay Connected Online
    Leverage technology to stay connected with your congregation. By live streaming services, offering online giving options, and staying active on social media, churches can engage with their congregation no matter where they are. Adopt a church app or digital engagement platform to send regular updates and inspirational messages and even live-stream your services for those who cannot attend in person. This allows people to stay engaged with sermons and prayers and contribute financially, all from the convenience of their mobile devices.
  2. Welcome Newcomers and Families
    As summer brings a wave of new residents searching for a place to belong, your church can stand out by being welcoming and establishing your congregation as a sort of visitor center to attract new members. This may include partnering with local businesses to offer welcome packets, equip friendly greeters with visitor bags for first-time guests, and reserve a special parking area for newcomers. Personalized follow-up emails and texts will further show them they’re valued, making them feel welcome and encouraged to return. Utilizing automation tools and workflows integrated into your church operations systems for emails and texts ensures timely engagement without the increase of administrative burden to church staffs.
  3. Attract New Families Through Summer Programming
    While traditional schools take a break in the summer, the need for childcare and engaging activities for children doesn’t disappear. This presents an opportunity for churches to showcase the supportive and enriching environment offered by the church through summer programs. This may include the following:
  • Support Systems: Provide resources for busy parents like childcare during church services, and organize workshops on topics relevant to parents, like navigating screen time, fostering faith in children, or summer learning activities.
  • Family-Friendly Atmosphere: Create a welcoming environment where families can worship and socialize together. This could involve family brunches, game nights, or intergenerational service projects.
  • Church Daycare and Mother’s Day Out Programs: Offer a nurturing and stimulating summer program for children. This could be a full-day or part-day daycare option that integrates age-appropriate Bible stories, songs, and crafts alongside play and social development activities. Also, offering a Mother’s Day Out program that meets weekly is a great way to introduce families to the church and meet the needs of community members.
  1. Embrace the Season
    Summer is a time for connection and fellowship. Plan outreach initiatives that serve your local community. Organize a volunteer day at a homeless shelter or a food bank. These activities strengthen your congregation’s bond and demonstrate the power of faith in action, potentially attracting new members looking for a church that is actively involved in the community. This is also a great opportunity to share photos and videos from the activity via social media to engage with those who couldn’t attend and motivate them to attend future activities.

Hosting these summer activities is also a great opportunity to showcase how your church prioritizes transparency about how the congregation’s generous contributions are used. This can include providing a general budget breakdown showing how summer programs fit into the overall picture with each program’s cost presented alongside the positive impact it has, like the number of children a program serves or the people a mission trip helps. 

It’ll also be beneficial to share success stories from past participants, demonstrating the life- changing experiences these activities offer. To further connect with the congregation, you can feature volunteers in your church bulletin and on the website to prove how church giving directly translates to program success. 

By following these steps, your church can effectively leverage summer activities to promote transparency, build trust with the congregation, and attract newcomers who resonate with the church’s mission and values.

In short, digital giving isn’t just about collecting money – it’s about building a stronger, more vibrant church community that naturally attracts and retains members.

Stewardship All Year Round

The Summer Slump doesn’t have to define your church’s financial health. While maintaining a thriving church during the summer requires strategic planning, it’s equally important to remember that the responsibility of stewardship goes beyond these few months. Churches can be vital in reminding their members that financial commitments are ongoing, regardless of the season. By embracing digital giving solutions, engaging your congregation strategically, and fostering a culture of generosity, churches can create a more stable financial foundation and weather the ups and downs of church attendance.

About the Author
Robert Blair is Ministry Brands’ EVP, Giving and Payments and joined the company in November 2022. He is a seasoned payments and transformation executive with a keen focus on driving revenue growth by delighting clients and building high-performing teams. Throughout his career, Robert has held a variety of executive roles delivering leading payments software and solutions for clients of all sizes.  

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