Like any family, the church needs money to take care of its members and to do its job. Most church staffs agree with that, but beyond that, there is often disagreement about how and when to share financial information with the rest of the church to get those jobs done. My ministry, Effective Church Communications, recently received an email where the pastor asked if, when, and how it was appropriate to put financial information in the bulletin. I know he wasn’t the only one with this question and following are some thoughts that might be useful.
First let’s define the church bulletin
The exact form of the bulletin isn’t what’s important. Bulletins today come in a variety of print formats and many are online or in digital format. Many aren’t even called “bulletins” but something that fits in with the particular culture of a particular church. Though we’ll call this communication “the bulletin” for the sake of this article, what matters is whatever you call the communication piece that you use to regularly communicate with your church, that it does contain financial information.
Why put financial information in the bulletin
There are some churches that don’t do this for a variety of reasons, but this is a mistake. Here are some of the reasons why it’s important:
- Churches need money to function; this is not something to be ashamed of, but to be treated honestly.
- The church is a family and every family needs to know its financial status.
- If you don’t share, the finances can be seen as a staff secret and not a shared responsibility. The staff does not have time to individually discuss the financial situation with each person in the congregation.
- People need to know where the church is financially so they can give and pray.
What to include in the bulletin, in print, online or both, about finances
On a weekly basis include:
- What was given for the past few weeks AND what was budgeted. It’s also nice to include the sum over and under (saves people trying to figure it out).
- The reason both numbers are important is that if you only give what comes in people have no idea if that meets the budget or if it falls short. Numbers without context don’t mean anything and don’t provide either cause for praise or concern.
- If you conducted a special offering, also include the results of that.
- If you have a special offering coming up, let people know and what your goals are for it.
- Have a link to your website where you have year-to-date totals and other information that might be useful, which I’ll explain more below.
Periodically communicate this financial information:
Additional information on Biblical giving overall and the specifics of how it is practiced in your church can be shared in shortened form in the bulletin, in longer formats on your website, and in the church newsletter. This will help grow your people in biblical giving practices and wise money management. Here are some suggested topics:
- Provide church giving information, for example, if you use envelopes, how people can get them. For unchurched visitors this can seem very confusing.
- Church budgeting process—how the church decides how much money is needed each year.
- Designated fund giving rules—many churches have rules about what goes into the general fund and what qualifies as designated funds. If this isn’t clear to the congregation, it can cause confusion as happened when a church I was working with published in their newsletter a lengthy plea for people to give more to the church because of a serious budget shortfall. In the same newsletter there was an article about a huge memorial donation given to the music department for organ repair. Needless to say, the church office got a number of very confused and a few angry inquires the following week. The church contacted me and asked if they should put out an article explaining the difference between the general fund (which was seriously low) and designated giving (which was the source of the memorial donation). My answer: “YES! Do it immediately and explain the difference in detail!”
- Biblical teaching on the commands and benefits of generous giving.
- Sound financial family resources.
Design of your communication
The key characteristics of church financial communication are that it should be:
A simple chart in the same place every week works well. A simple, clear headline, something like “Church Financial Report” is all that is needed. I’ve seen many well-done ones in the bottom corner of a page of the bulletin. However, don’t make it the last page—you don’t want financial needs to be the last thing people see when they are reading information about your church.
One more thing
The church bulletin is not the place to share lengthy pleas for money or to post dramatic appeals.
I will never forget a church bulletin that said in huge letters across the front:
Bridge to the future is taking place!
XXX amount given so far; XXX to go….
Have you made a pledge yet?
I doubt if anyone visiting the church for the first time that Sunday would be highly motivated to return. A message like this confirms a fear many people have about churches that all they want is your money.
Critical giving needs and similar information is better communicated in a letter or emails to committed members of the congregation. Again, remember the church is family and we don’t share our entire financial situation with everyone who visits our homes.
As with many things in the church, ask for the Lord’s wisdom and share your financial information “decently and in order” so that He will be pleased and your church will be a good witness to the world of financial integrity.
For more information and training in church communications from Yvon Prehn and Effective Church Communications, go to: http://www.effectivechurchcom.com