Do these belong in the Bulletin? W. Wender@Pixabay.com
Many moons ago I went to a church that posted – in the Bulletin – the attendance statistics from the previous year against the previous Sunday’s attendance. Every week.
It looked something like this:
September 15, 2018 –110
September 10, 2019 –95
In the same vein, I’ve seen this done with budget information. Maybe you have too.
It looks something like this:
Weekly amount needed: $12,000
How much received last week: $6,525
What do you think? Should this information be in the Bulletin? You probably know where I’m going with this.
I used to think this was a not just a good idea, it was a great idea. I was so interested in what was happening in the church, I wanted to be in the know, up on all the latest news. And then it struck me.
1. Attendance and budget stats are totally for insiders.
2. There is no context to these numbers.
3. The numbers don’t tell a story (at least not the one you probably want told).
Consider how these numbers look to first-time visitors. What must they think? Here’s what they may be saying:
Hmmm…attendance is down. Is this normal? Am I sitting in a place where others want to be? I see that there are way fewer people here this Sunday than over a year ago. That’s not a great sign. Oh! And look at those budget numbers. Yikes – they need that much every week to stay afloat? I could never give that much. It looks like no one else can either.
Is this a sinking ship?
Posting statistics in your Bulletin does not provide any context for the numbers. Maybe there’s a really good reason that attendance numbers were down from the previous year. But you don’t have the time or space to go into detail about it. Your budget numbers may be down because of a major unintended expense. But you don’t have time or space to elaborate. It also doesn’t explain that you know giving goes down in the summer but goes way up in November and December.
These statistics don’t let you tell any story. They don’t say what those people sitting in the pews last week were doing to make amazing things happen in the world. They don’t let first-time visitors know how the budget funds fantastic ministries. The stats unfortunately allow people to go straight to analyzing “the problem.”
Please don’t think I’m saying that you should hide your numbers.
Transparency is critical.
Anyone who wants to see the budget and the financial state of the church should have easy access to those documents. In addition, every month, your church’s leadership should be reviewing and analyzing church attendance, noticing trends, and making changes as needed. They, with the Finance Committee, should also be reviewing the budget, noticing trends, and making changes as needed. It’s extremely important to keep up with statistics.
But they don’t need to be in the Bulletin.
You want to inspire generosity, not squash it with statistics that no one but (maybe) insiders understand. Study those stats but please, leave them out of the Bulletin.
P.S. Do any of you out there have a narrative budget you’d like to share with me? I’m looking for a wide array of samples. Email them to me at InspiringGenerosity@gmail.com