Leadership

5 Must-Know Church Management Tips

If you’re a church administrator, here are five church management tips to help you get started or improve on how you’re serving your church.

5 Must-Know Church Management Tips
by

Jesse Wisnewski

When it comes to leading a church, it’s easy to focus on the biggies: preaching, worship, and making disciples. What we may not consider initially are the support systems that help make those core elements of leading your church possible.

Here’s just some of what goes into your worship service every week:

  • Cleaning your worship space
  • Making sure you have working central heat and air
  • Getting enough seats for people
  • Arranging for volunteers to take care of children
  • Having greeters in place to meet people
  • Coordinating volunteers
  • Preparing volunteers for your offering

These behind-the-scenes activities support the ministry that happens at the altar.

Providing a safe and welcoming environment makes it easier for people to listen closely to the message the pastor preaches and hopefully make a decision to follow Christ. Church management involves making those behind-the-scenes tasks happen on a consistent basis.

What does church management include?

Church management involves everything from managing church finances to facility maintenance, human resources, volunteer management, event planning, risk management, and more.

Depending on the size of your church, a church business administrator or Executive Pastor will fulfill or oversee these areas. While Senior Pastors need a basic understanding of these functions (particularly the financial aspect), it’s best to have staff dedicated to leading church management functions so the Senior Pastor can focus on preaching, teaching, and overall leading of the church.

If you’re a church administrator or possess a similar role, here are five church management tips to help you get started or improve on how you’re serving your church.

#1. Finances

Part of church management is stewarding the financial resources entrusted to the church.

People tithe and give to the church, trusting leadership to use that money well. To earn and maintain that trust, you’ll need to put safeguards in place to prevent misuse or fraud and to ensure you spend church dollars wisely.

Here are three areas of your church’s finances you’ll need to manage:

Internal Controls:

Unfortunately, a quick Google search yields several examples of church leaders who’ve broken trust with their church through mismanagement or fraud. One way to significantly reduce the risk of that happening is through internal controls and segregation of duties.

Related: 6 Ways to Stop People From Stealing at Your Church (Plus How to Solve the Problem)

For starters, to avoid the mismanagement of the church’s money, you’ll need to have multiple people involved in financial processes to ensure no single person has the authority to do too much with the church’s money.

  • At least 2-3 people should be in the room at all times while counting the offering.
  • The person who takes the offering to the bank for deposit should not also be the same person who reconciles the church’s bank account.
  • The individual who enters vendor invoices into the church’s accounting software should not have the ability or authorization to sign checks.

Expense Reports:

If your church provides credit cards to staff members to use when traveling on church business or for smaller expenses, you’ll need them to submit an expense report along with their receipts. You need this information to document what they spent.

  • Consider using an app or online tool for expense reporting. These tools enable individuals to scan and code a receipt using a smartphone. This reduces paperwork and reduces the risk of lost receipts.

Budgeting:

Being a good steward of financial resources involves developing (and following as much as possible) a plan for how to use those resources. That’s where a budget comes into play.

  • Each department of the church (Adults, Children, Youth, Outreach, Facilities, Communications, etc.) should develop a proposed budget annually.
  • Church leadership should review and either approve or require adjustments to these proposed budgets.
  • Once a budget is approved, each department head should work to ensure his/her department stays within budget.
  • The church administrator should provide each department and church leadership with financial reports each month that show budget vs. actual by department. Department heads should explain any variances from budget.

#2. Technology

Imagine coming into work and not having a computer or access to the Internet.

Nightmare, right?

We’ve become very dependent on technology to help us track church finances, create sermon graphics, and research text for a sermon. Selecting, purchasing, and maintaining the technology needed to run your church is also part of church management. This can include desktop computers, laptops, wireless network, audio/visual equipment, software, and online giving tools.

Software:

  • Take inventory on a regular basis to ensure you have licenses for each installation of a piece of software (Microsoft, Photoshop, etc.).
  • Install and continually update antivirus software on all church computers.
  • When you determine your church needs to purchase new software, work with those who will use that tool to document their requirements, evaluate potential vendors, and select which software to purchase. Don’t just choose a tool that a megachurch leader mentioned at a conference. Review several options and choose the one that’s the best fit for your church.
  • Make sure your accounting software is still a good fit for your church and its financial reporting needs. Some churches have church management software (ChMS) that includes general ledger accounting plus database management while many others have those tools separate. Either approach can work, so you’ll need to review several options to determine which will work best for your church.
  • As you evaluate vendors, ask about whether they integrate with third-party systems. If you offer an online giving option, such as Tithe.ly, their ability to integrate will reduce your time spent doing data entry.
  • Church management software can make the church administrator’s job much easier. ChMS tools enable you to have guest and member information in a single, easy to search, location online. You can organize small group rosters, allow people to register for events, reserve rooms in the church facility for a Bible Study, communicate with volunteers en masse, and check-in children on Sunday morning.

Copyright Compliance:

  • Before you use images, worship songs, or videos, you need to confirm you have the rights to use those works. Many churches purchase a copyright license from a company such as CCLI to ensure they’re compliant with copyright laws.

Electronic Files:

  • Establish and maintain an internal network (or use a cloud-based option) to save electronic files.
  • Make sure all files are backed up off-site on a daily basis.

#3. Human resources

Very few churches are run entirely by volunteers. Most have at least one full-time employee (usually the pastor), and many churches have 20+ staff members working full-time.

Related: 6 Ways You Can Increase the Number of Volunteers in Your Church

Part of having employees is making sure the church is compliant with applicable HR laws and regulations. Church administrators will also need to work with the senior pastor and department heads on how they handle hiring new employees, dealing with issues with current employees, and the process for terminating an individual’s employment.

Employee Policies:

  • Develop and maintain an Employee Handbook that includes employment-related policies such as time off, holidays, pay schedules, FMLA, acceptable use of church computers and other equipment, and social media policies. New employees need to read and sign that they understand and agree to these policies. This establishes a baseline understanding between church leadership (the employer) and the new staff member.

Job Expectations:

  • Develop a job description for each staff role. Taking the time to determine what you want someone in a specific role to do and the results the individual in that position needs to achieve helps in the hiring and evaluation processes. Staff members will appreciate the clarity this document provides.

#4. Volunteer management

Service times require heavy involvement from volunteers to handle the greeting, seating, childcare, security, and other activities that make the service run smoothly.

To establish and maintain a robust volunteer team, church administrators need to ensure they have a robust process in place for recruiting, training, and leading volunteers.

  • Develop job descriptions for each volunteer role to set expectations and ensure staff members are consistent in how they talk about each position.
  • Invite people to join the volunteer team in a variety of ways. One-on-one invitations, announcements from the stage, mentioning the need for volunteers during Sunday School or in small groups, putting an announcement in the bulletin or on the church website, having a special service where you promote serving in various areas, are all ways to invite people to serve.
  • Provide training for every volunteer. Training will need to be more in-depth for roles such as childcare or security, but every new volunteer should receive training. If you don’t provide volunteers with information on what the role entails and what success looks like, they’ll do their best to make it up. However, the result may not look like what you’d intended. To avoid that scenario, you need to provide clear instructions and vision for each role.

To manage your volunteers more effectively, a church volunteer management system is the one tool you need.

Facility Management:

If your church meets at a location it owns, you’ll need to ensure the building(s) and surrounding land is well-maintained.

  • Monitor who has keys to the building and consider installing an automated system where the facilities manager can lock or unlock certain doors remotely.
  • Establish a schedule for cleaning the building and surrounding areas (parking lot, etc.)
  • Make sure you have the appropriate number of fire extinguishers in key locations throughout the building and that staff and volunteers know how to use them
  • Develop and enforce a schedule for maintaining, repairing, and replacing the HVAC systems, roof, parking lot, flooring, sidewalks, paint, furniture, etc.

#5. Risk management

We don’t like to think of all the things that could go wrong at our church, but we need to consider the worst-case scenarios so we can make plans that help prevent or at least reduce the impact of those events.

Inclement weather:

  • Develop plans for weather events that are common to your part of the country (tornados, landslides, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, heavy snowfall, etc.). These should include what to do should such an event happen during a church service (do you have everyone take shelter in a particular part of the building or do you evacuate everyone and to where).
  • Decide on criteria for when to cancel services and how to communicate that to the congregation and community.

Childcare:

Parents entrust their most precious little ones into your care each week. They expect their children to receive excellent care and to be returned to them safely after each service. To make that happen, you need to have safeguards in place.

  • Require at least two trained and background checked adults to be in each nursery or childcare room at all times.
  • Clean each room and all toys, cribs, changing tables, and other items on a regular basis.
  • Install and monitor security cameras in each room and at the entrances/exits to the area.
  • Use a children’s check-in system to receive children and confirm you return the right child to the correct parent/guardian.

Insurance:

  • Work with the church’s insurance agent to ensure you have proper coverage. This includes general liability, loss, key man insurance (for if your senior pastor is suddenly unable to work), special event policies, etc.
  • Talk with the insurance agent anytime you make significant changes to the church building (remodel or addition).

Security:

Unfortunately, houses of worship aren’t immune to security issues. We’ve seen shootings and other horrific events happen during church services. To reduce the likelihood of this happening at your church, it makes sense to have a security team and policy in effect.

  • Consider working with local first responders and ask them to review your security plans, including what to do in the event of an active shooter situation.
  • Determine whether you’ll have paid security on-site during services (such as off-duty officers) or if you’ll have trained volunteers to provide protection

Over to you

As you can see, church management encompasses a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities (and what we’ve provided here certainly isn’t an exhaustive list).

The role of church administrator or Executive Pastor requires someone with an eye for detail, the ability to develop easy-to-follow systems, and of course, with a heart for ministry.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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5 Must-Know Church Management Tips