Health and Growth

The Ultimate Church Planner: Eternal Principles for Kingdom Efficiency

Church planning can get really confusing (and weighed down by subscription services). Use this simple 8-step strategy to get your entire team on the same page. Every day.

The Ultimate Church Planner: Eternal Principles for Kingdom Efficiency
by

Paul Maxwell

The church planner is difficult to master.

Everyone has a different productivity system.

Every staff member has a different scheduling philosophy.

Every team member has different “optimal workflow” conditions.

It matters not.

There are key principles that can guide the creation and implementation of your church planner so that everybody can get on the same page without forcing everybody to yield to a single management or productivity style.

If you implement these principles in your church planner strategy, you will succeed in streamlining a workflow for the entire church.

Let’s not wait any longer.

Here are 8 principles to streamline your church planning strategy that will both help you to create a uniform workflow experience for your church staff and volunteer and help guide you to make the right church planning software decision.

1. Focus on creating consistency and reliability, not complex features

It’s easy to get distracted, when creating a system, by the potential to capture every complex possibility that could come your way as a church.

The result of front-loading this concern is that you create a planning system that is far too big, convoluted, and bloated with “what if” contingency plans that learning the system becomes a task that is itself too big to plan or schedule.

Your church planner should be a tool that can be introduced and taught to your team in a single meeting.

If you have a larger church that requires more complex features, this meeting could be a 3 hour lunch meeting that breaks down into smaller teams so that team leads can instruct their teams on features and how their team will be utilizing the tool.

Nevertheless—the important aspects of a church planner should boil down to 3-4 core tasks that it can perform that staff and volunteers can utilize to manage and schedule events, administer meetings, and track progress on key internal and team-relevant projects.

Anything more is like placing too many birthday candles on the cake—at some point, putting the candles “5” and “0” works better than putting 50 individual candles on the small circular surface.

So too with church planning features.

In the philosophy of Steve Jobs, a tool should be measured by how much we don’t think about it, not how cool and distracting its features are.

Your tool should fit in your church hand-in-glove.

As you implement a church planning strategy or software, keep that in mind—the cash value of the software should be significant for the fluid and flexible functionality of your church.

2. Reduce your intake points as much as possible

This is controversial, but should be a core value of your church planning strategy:

Reduce your intake points to as close to 1 as possible.

What does this mean?

An intake point is a place where you store queued tasks, information, and requests.

Think about how many intake points you currently have.

Where do you have books and papers lying around?

Where do you have thousands of unread email messages?

Text messages?

Social media messages?

Sticky notes?

A secretary?

A to-do list?

Every single “intake point” is a vacuum for clutter and forgotten tasks.

Reduce all of these points to a single processing point, if possible, and dedicate a certain amount of time each day to processing all of the accumulated queries into a single batch and process them in a single sitting.

It’s not always possible to reduce all intake points to one point and all batch processing sessions to one session. Sometimes the best you can manage is two—text message and email; or email and secretary. Whatever your system, put pressure on it to be as small as possible so that it can handle as much as possible.

The more intake points you have, the more overwhelming the chaos of your church will feel to each person.

Intake point minimalism should be a core value of your church’s task management philosophy.

3. Outsource calendar management to a separate staff

There should be a point person for calendar management.

This person should be administratively gifted and detail oriented.

This calendar point person is in charge of resolving technical issues surrounding the calendar and administering calendar support for team leads.

The calendar point person should not be the gatekeeper for every scheduling request. Whatever software you use should have the capacity to give scheduling power to team leads. But this person should be able to resolve critical problems that arise, including scheduling conflicts, IT errors, schedule sharing, and scheduling request notifications.

It is crucial to have this person so that church staff can focus on using the tool, not troubleshooting it. This also makes it possible for church staff to have a positive experience of your church planning strategy, and aggregates all negative experience into a single user experience—that is, the point person for the church calendar.

4. Invest in a worthwhile planning software

The planning software you use shouldn’t be free.

The money you save using a free scheduling or planning software will be spent ten times over in energy and frustration on the other end.

You should use a church planning software that is dynamic and powerful enough to process all your time management and task management requests.

Furthermore, your should use a planning software with a devoted customer service team that is able to help your point person easily and quickly troubleshoot any user errors that arise as you populate the service with your church’s schedule.

Finally, you should choose a church planning software that easily integrates with other digital features in your church—or, which ideally offers and supports those other features.

For example, if your church has a digital automated recurring giving feature to make tithing automatic through an app, your church planning software should synchronize and play well with the software you use for that. Again, ideally, the software you use for church planning will have a recurring giving feature built into the service so that you can manage your church’s financials and calendar from the same backend interface.

5. Take all variables into account—domains, projects, and people

When architecting the population of your church’s calendar, it’s important to categorize each domain of interest, major and minor project, and people group into the most effective grouping.

For example, when setting domains, you don’t want to break up preaching, worship, and volunteers into entirely separate domains—these are integrally related. Instead, your categorization should look more like this—Sunday Service, Accounting, Volunteer Management, etc.

Each of these domains carries various projects. For example, the Sunday Service domain houses preaching, worship, and volunteer projects. Even though the Volunteer Management domain will house projects that lend administrative support to the Sunday Service domain, it makes intuitive sense that the two domains be administered separately, whereas projects such as “Preaching” and “Worship” should be coordinated because they are so closely related, being features of a singular event on the church schedule.

6. Use your planner to ensure staff are putting the right hours into the right places

When you track who is where — and when they are there — your church schedule functions simultaneously as a logistical scaffolding for your church’s task management as well as an informal timecard for critical staff (and volunteers).

Through the regular review of these hours, you can easily identify if a staff or volunteer is putting too much time (or too little time) in the right places (or the wrong places).

Use this schedule as a litmus test for if your church’s delegated staffing budget is yielding the projected ROI in man hours devoted to particular projects, or whether those team members’ hours are being inappropriately routed to projects that distract from the purpose of their designated and budgeted salaries.

For example, if your youth pastor keeps getting roped in to provide prep for Sunday School, and is spending inadequate hours on preparing the youth ministry, then this is a red flag that the church can easily identify and fix based on a simple analysis of the scheduling data.

A good scheduling software will allow you to narrow in on one person and see exactly how they are spending their time so that you can complete tasks like this to make your church more efficient and effective.

7. Have a monthly meeting devoted strictly to scheduling

Part of keeping a tool efficient is performing regular maintenance.

A schedule is one of the easiest things in the world for half your department to use, and the other half to ignore.

This is why it is crucial for you to use the planning software exclusively in the church so that half the church isn’t using Google Calendar and the other half the planning software.

Your church planner should be uniformly used so that it is a reliable tool.

One of the ways to ensure this is to have a monthly calendar review which performs a deep-dive into the church’s calendar, using the church planner software your church has designated.

This will prompt church staff and volunteers to regularly use the tool to manage their church schedule, and therefore make the schedule a reliable source of information for the rest of the church.

8. Create and administer tiers of schedule access

A worthwhile church planner service will offer tiers of scheduling access.

This means that your church will have tiers of leadership, staff, and volunteers with varying access to scheduling data and features.

You don’t want every volunteer to be able to see the pastor’s personal schedule, including his counseling meetings.

Certain kinds of meetings should only be accessible by the secretary and those in the meeting.

Others are leadership-wide accessibility.

And other events will have team-specific accessibility.

Clearly delineating these tiers and groups, and choosing a church planning software that adequately equips you to deploy these tiers of scheduled events and invitations, is very important to the usefulness of your church planner strategy and tool.

Over to you

Read over these principles with your leadership team this week.

Review the best church planning software options.

Choose the option which best enables you to manifest these principles so that your church can fill up the schedule with valuable, kingdom work.

Following these principles will enable you to more effectively follow Jesus’s call to the church to reach the world with his kingdom.

Church planning is not insignificant to the kingdom.

Be diligent in strategizing and choosing your church planning tool.

This, too, is kingdom work.

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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The Ultimate Church Planner: Eternal Principles for Kingdom Efficiency