I recently got an excellent question via email about church communications and church finances and wanted to answer it here:
Do you have any suggestions on how to report church financials in the
First of all, let's establish the fact of whether or not to put financial information in the church bulletin at all. After we do that, we'll then look at what to include and then some tips on design and placement.
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:
- The staff does not have time to individually discuss the financial situation with each person in the congregation.
- 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.
- People need to know where the church is financially so they can give and pray.
What to include in the bulletin 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.
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. 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. A several years ago a church I was working with in the same church newsletter had 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. They 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 that 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. Something like that 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.