If you are like most of us leading ministry organizations, you are budgeting by faith for 2021. Illnesses, job losses, and the disconnection due to not gathering have all had negative impact on giving and have increased uncertainty about the future. You may have had to make hard staffing and ministry decisions as a result. Funding the church in 2021 will be different than in the past.

funding

Funding the church in 2021 will be different than in the past. Share on X

Why we need to budget differently for 2021

Funding Permanent changes

We are well past the timeframe in which it takes to build new habits: a sudden “return to normal” in 2021 isn’t realistic. Like it or not, Covid has changed the world forever. Your ministry needs to change in order to remain relevant and effective in living out the Great Commission.

A forced entry to the digital world

If you weren’t streaming or posting your sermons online before, you are now. And you’re likely realizing the importance of quality equipment and editing. Covid may have forced your church online, but it was heading there anyway. Younger generations were already looking online in their quest to form important relationships. There’s no way around it, the digital church is now essential to forwarding the gospel. Funding online ministry needs to be a serious budgeting consideration.

The digital church is now essential to forwarding the gospel—funding online ministry needs to be a serious budgeting consideration Share on X
Different staffing priorities

Effective ministry in 2021 may mean bringing on (or re-purposing) staff who can do this with excellence. This doesn’t mean out with old, on with the new. Pastoral care is still essential. But there is need to rethink how that care is initiated and delivered in an online environment. What needs to be adjusted or added in your staffing for 2021 to ensure that you reach and expand your audience effectively?

Making these changes means funding them. Trust is necessary when it comes to money. We build trust through relationships. And that may be proving difficult for you to do online. So, Let’s look a bit deeper into that last point.

Four keys to establishing trust online

1. Be authentic

People are looking for authenticity. In person, much of this would be read through nonverbal communication—we are more likely to relax and trust people who make eye contact and whose body language is relaxed and confident. These cues are lost online. So it is particularly important that people get to know you through your preaching. Preach what you understand from your own experiences, not just what you learned from seminary. Don’t try to imitate someone who seems to be doing this online church thing “right”, instead seek to be authentically you. Being real and sharing stories of personal growth will help people connect with and trust you.

Don't try to imitate someone who seems to be doing this online church thing 'right', instead seek to be authentically you. Share on X
2. Consider your audience

You can no longer look out at your audience to discern your demographic; you need demographic analytics on your online congregation. Study those demographics and determine how to best connect with and meet their actual needs. For instance, anxiety has been rising significantly among younger people, while older people are more likely to be dealing with loneliness and grief. Letting people know that their presence does not go unnoticed, that they are “seen”, is a big step in being found trustworthy.

Study your demographic analytics and determine how to best connect with and meet the actual needs of your audience. Share on X
3. Engage your audience

It is well known that online numbers aren’t accurate. Sure, your video might be streaming, but for how long? We don’t even know if people are actually in the room when your video is playing, let alone if they are paying attention. Make it your goal to engage with your audience. Consider posting a pastoral presence to chat with people during live streams and monitor and respond to people’s comments on sermon videos and social media posts. Real relationships are built in this way all the time.

It is also important to offer multiple points of connection and ensure that your online and in-person presence offers hope in tangible ways. It is essential that people have something to do during times of change and transition. Your people are likely looking for ways to be connected and involved but feel their hands are tied. Raise up teams for coaching, prayer, discipleship, and practical service—all of these can be done online or while social distancing. And all of them communicate genuine care.

It is essential that people have something to do during times of change and transition. Your people are likely looking for ways to be connected and involved but feel their hands are tied. Share on X
4. Earn their trust

Be transparent about where the money goes. Be sure to regularly post honest, accurate, and specific financial reports. When you ask people to give financially, connect it to the real initiatives that directly relate to the stated mission of the church. Tell them how their money is funding the work of the church—how it is going to make a difference and how it has in the past. People are more comfortable giving when they know where their money is going.

Be transparent about where the money goes. Share on X

Renew your trust and purpose

No matter what is going on here on earth, remember that God is still on his throne. We have been through dark times and significant struggles before and God has been faithful. He is still at work now and the church is still serving as his hands, feet and voice.

I believe Covid has exposed a ripe harvest. More people are more aware than they were a year ago of their desperate need for peace. Peace that we know to be found in the gospel and in the person of Jesus. There is work to be done. “Come and see” ministries will not be as effective moving forward. To reach the lost, we will need to invest in creating an online presence that is authentic and engaging. Partnering with what God is doing in 2021 means expanded and intentional online ministry. He will provide the funding for what he has called you to do—even though it may look quite different than it has in the past.

“Come and see” ministries will not be as effective moving forward. To reach the lost, we will need to invest in creating an online presence that is authentic and engaging. Share on X

Resources

Becoming Barnabas-  How can you disciple, develop, and support those around you? How can that relational investment lead to a powerful impact on the church and on the surrounding community? This book focuses on practical “how” questions like these. If you want to see ministry coaches activated in your community, Becoming Barnabas is the place to start. Available in paperback and Kindle and in English and Spanish.

Barnabas Ministry Training– This turnkey kit is a simple and reproducible system for local churches looking to provide basic coach training for their staff and lay leaders. Modeled after Barnabas and his biblical example of the power of encouragement, coaching is an invaluable tool to help your people and ministries flourish in their unique callings and functions within the church and the community.

Guide for Discipling- We created this resource to help people grow closer to God and to one another. Using short scriptural teachings coupled with good questions, this guide will help you and those you are discipling identify areas for growth and take the next best step on your journey with Jesus. Our guides can be used with any denomination, however, recognizing that it is helpful to work within the traditions and voice of the denomination you belong to, we have partnered with key denominational leaders to offer customized guides. Vineyard Discipleship GuidesA Discipleship Guide for Lutherans, and Discipleship for Episcopalians are available for download on our website or can be found in print on Amazon.com.

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash