New Study on Post-Pandemic Church Finances with Warren Bird

Modern Church Leader feat. Warren Bird
What Church Leaders Need to Know about Financial Accountability feat. Warren Bird on Modern Church Leader

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What Church Leaders Need to Know about Financial Accountability

The nature of the church is changing. The days of a small group of leaders making all the decisions, and doing it without much or any outside input, are over. 

Today's churches require a more dynamic approach to decision-making and leadership, one that touches on both financial accountability and transparency.

A crisis like the pandemic has forced many churches to reevaluate their financial policies, financial transparency, and accountability. It has not only required the church and local leaders to shift gears and be more responsive to the needs of the church and local communities but has also helped them see that financial management is a priority that needs to be given the attention it deserves. 

This requires church leaders to establish a transparent financial management system built on strong ethical and strategic practices. With the rise of technology and automation, the church must be able to shift its priorities, scale-up, and become financially agile. This will be challenging but the key to the church's long-term sustainability.

In this podcast, we will introduce you to research, best practices, and the necessary tools for helping your church keep its financial integrity and accountability.

We are honored to have Dr. Warren Bird, Director of Research and Intellectual Capital Support for Leadership Network and the Vice President of Research and Equipping at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) to share some of his expertise and provide practical solutions to help you keep a close eye on the financial health of your church. 

“I can tell you from other studies, the more involved you are in your church, the more you give well, and it makes sense. If I'm a greeter, if I'm part of a small group, if I'm very involved, my heart is absolutely there, and so is my wallet. ”
-Dr. Warren Bird

Warren Bird, Ph.D., researches cutting-edge churches and works with their leaders to multiply their evangelistic and disciple-making impact. He is widely recognized among the nation’s leading students, researchers, and writers about megachurches. 

This is a must-listen for church leaders and it is guaranteed to help you set up a healthy budget and financial plan for the future of your church!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • The overview of ECFA church giving reports for 2019 (pre-pandemic), 2020 (pandemic), and 2021 (lingering pandemic)
  • ECFA resources and tools to help improve financial integrity and accountability
  • Digital giving options
  • How to encourage faithful giving in your church

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[12:53] The first three quarters of 2020, compared to the first three quarters of 2021 was better. To me, this is just such a testimony of God's people, saying, “No, this comes first. This is a priority. We're not cutting back unless circumstances demand, and even then, we're gonna do what we can because we love our church and we love our Lord.”

[17:44] Fundamentally,  there's a commitment to putting God first in finances and that has stayed for so many people.

[18:02] I can tell you from other studies, the more involved you are in your church, the more you give well, and it makes sense. If I'm a greeter, if I'm part of a small group, if I'm very involved, my heart is absolutely there, and so is my wallet. 

[21:58] ECFA just recently did a webinar on cryptocurrency. And we started with a story of granny invested in Bitcoin, and now wants to give some of it to the church. So it's not just the millennials who are putting their 401 K's in crypto more than 25 million US adults have something in cryptocurrency, and they want to figure out how to give it to their church. 

[26:20] If you're one of those handfuls of churches that's really struggling, ask for help. You know, whether it's a merger or any other way to reach out - we've got some months yet to go in recovering from the pandemic.

[28:18] The Bible says a lot about integrity and being above reproach. Let's set high standards. Let's say anybody who wants to agree to these standards, and have someone look over their shoulder just to affirm that they're really practicing them.

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Tithely provides the tools you need to engage with your church online, stay connected, increase generosity, and simplify the lives of your staff.

With tools like text and email messaging, custom church apps and websites, church management software, digital giving, and so much more… it’s no wonder over 37,000 churches in 50 countries trust Tithely to help run their church.

Learn more at https://tithely.com

podcast transcript

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Warren Bird (00:00):
ECFA, they just recently did a webinar on cryptocurrency, and we started with a story of granny invested in Bitcoin and now wants to give some of it to the church. So, it's not just the millennials who are putting their 401ks in crypto. More than 25 million U.S. adults have something in cryptocurrency and they want to figure out how to give it to their church. So, that's going to become an increasing pathway, and I'm sure there'll be a Tithe.ly way to help that happen somewhere down the line.

Narrator (00:45):
Welcome to the Modern Church Leader, where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the Kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Barry.

Frank Barry (00:58):
Hey guys, Frank here with another episode of Modern Church Leader. Really excited today, talking with Dr. Warren Bird from ECFA. I have to slow down when I say that one. But from ECFA, Warren, it's great to have you on the show today.

Warren Bird (01:14):
Thanks, and you passed the test. I had to get the tattoo of ECFA, and fortunately they just used the letters, but it stands for the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, but really it's more than finances because when something happens, the first question is, "And where was the board, and where was this?" So, it's a whole package, but it's umbrella'd under the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. See how fast I said it?

Frank Barry (01:43):
I'm glad it's just ECFA. And for whatever reason, my brain wants to say EFCA. I don't know why, but it's just what... so I have to slow it down every time.

Warren Bird (01:52):
Well, we love the evangelical free folks. They're our friends, too.

Frank Barry (01:57):
Oh. Well, it's good to have you on. This is your second time on the show. So, you might be the very first second-time appearance, second time on the show guest. So, congratulations.

Warren Bird (02:11):
All right. No pressure. Great, thank you.

Frank Barry (02:14):
But I love what you guys do, I know you do a lot of things. One of the things you do is you do research into the space, and you guys just published a new report on what, the state of giving in 2021? And you talked to a lot of churches and surveyed churches and have your own data and all this stuff. So, I'm pretty excited to talk about your findings.

Warren Bird (02:34):
Yeah, well, everybody wanted to know, "What happened during the pandemic with giving?" And actually, I was very busy during the pandemic. As soon as it kicked in, our boss and president said, "Everybody's going to want to know what's happening. So, how about if every quarter you do a survey to get the pulse of things like cash giving and things like cash reserves? Are people raiding their cash reserves? Is this the time that, "Hey, we've saved for a rainy day." Is a global pandemic a rainy day?" And so forth. So, we asked a lot of questions like that. "What'd you do with your staff? Has that worked? Has the PPP...?" And we followed the pandemic.

Warren Bird (03:19):
And then this was the latest where we said, "Okay, it's towards the end of 2021. How'd 2021 end for you, or how's it compare to 2020, and what's your outlook for 2022?"

Frank Barry (03:35):
Right, and it's called the ECFA State of Giving 2021. So, people can Google it and find the research online, I assume.

Warren Bird (03:43):
You can. And if you want the shortcut, it's ECFA.org/stateofgiving. One word.

Frank Barry (03:50):
Love it. Yeah. Perfect. Okay. Give us some of the highlights. What were some of the core things that you learned in this latest round of research?

Warren Bird (04:00):
All right. First, before I get into what happened 2021 and let's look into 2022, let's bring us up to date through 2020, because that was traumatic enough.

Frank Barry (04:12):
Yeah. Yeah.

Warren Bird (04:12):
And the big news is 2.5%, which means that across the board for all of ECFA's 2600 plus members, cash giving ... now, we don't mean, "I'm donating a truck." We don't mean, "I'm charging registration fee." We're talking about green stuff whether given by Tithe.ly or any other means. Cash giving went up from 1919 to 2020.

Frank Barry (04:45):
Wow.

Warren Bird (04:47):
So, the first year of the pandemic overall giving went up, and we actually historied it out 10 years. For nine of the last 10 years, the average ECFA member's giving has crept up just a little bit; 1%, 2%, some years, 3%.

Warren Bird (05:09):
American evangelicals are some of the most generous people in the world, and whether it was the '08 financial collapse or bringing us up into the last decade, people have given. And frankly with your online tithing stuff, they tend to give more and more consistently, which is great for God's Kingdom and for whatever local church or ministry there is.

Warren Bird (05:38):
So, the first part of the report tracks history of what happened and we break it down by size and region and type of ministry and all that kind of stuff, and there's just pages and pages of fun graphs because everybody wants to know, "Oh, I'm a church that's about this size, tell me what happened with other churches like me."

Frank Barry (06:06):
Yeah. My cohort of churches.

Warren Bird (06:08):
Yeah. "I want to know, am I normal? And if we aren't, help me understand why." And just to give you the nickel tour in one minute of what happened during the pandemic for churches and I'll spill into 2022 on this is, okay, 2020 started as a great year. Remember, 2019 was a strong year. Stock market did well, churches entered well. It was a good year.

Warren Bird (06:35):
And 2020 began with a great roll forward and there's optimism. And then, the shutdown occurred and panic occurred. And two weeks in, there was a big survey. Not us, but somebody else said, "So, how's it going?" And at that moment, giving had tanked because everybody was in panic mode and lots of people hadn't signed up for Tithe.ly. They were still doing the passing the plate on Sunday, which wasn't happening...

Frank Barry (07:06):
[crosstalk 00:07:06]... Standing up for Tithe.ly, right in that moment.

Warren Bird (07:08):
I can believe it well. And initially everybody thought, "Oh, this is just two weeks, three weeks." And so, "Well, maybe we don't need to go to online giving." Well as the weeks tipped by, they did.

Warren Bird (07:20):
But about May, we took our first quarterly survey and we said, "So, where are we?" There had been a dip and there had been already the re-catching up, but not equal. So in other words, April and May were much lower than January and February and March.

Warren Bird (07:38):
But then in June, the PPP, Paycheck Protection Program kicked in, and ECFA was one of the groups that said to the different congressional leaders, "You need to include nonprofits." Now, whether they take government money, that's a whole nother ethical theological issue, but you need to at least give nonprofit that option because frankly they are the backbone. And if this pandemic goes long, which it did... If your nonprofits falter, they are your front line of support.

Warren Bird (08:10):
And as we know, so many churches became distribution centers and the church that I'm part of did all kinds of outreach with mask and everything during the pandemic and it was just so wonderful, if you will, but also the PPP helped so many who at that time thought, "What's going to happen? Has the couple in our church that has a lot of money said, "Honey, we were going to give at the end of the year, but I think we should do are giving now," or, "Honey, we've set aside money for the rainy day, and the DAF, the Donor Advised Fund, I think it's time to tap it. Our church or our nonprofit needs it.""

Warren Bird (08:52):
So, it was boosted, and actually by the end of the summer, churches were.... In 2020 now still, were in good shape. Then as the year went on, everybody's like, "Well, are they giving out? Are there jobs going to hold up?"

Frank Barry (09:07):
Right, yeah.

Warren Bird (09:08):
So, there was a lot of uncertainty, and yet and yet and yet, 2020 ended with people saying, with churches among other nonprofits saying, "Actually, we ended almost as well, or as well as we did in 2019." And the almost as well was okay for a lot of them, because they had trimmed back. If you're not meeting in person, you're not using your building as much. There were lesser expenses, and they did tend to be able to keep their staff fully employed, in part thanks to the PPP, in part then God's people continued and picked up and the assurances came there. And so, that's how 2020 ended, and that was the first part of our report chronicling, "All right, where did 2020 end?"

Frank Barry (09:58):
Yeah.

Warren Bird (09:59):
But wait.

Frank Barry (10:00):
Just a quick note from a Tithe.ly perspective with people giving online and we had a lot of customers before the pandemic and it went crazy when the pandemic hit, lots more churches had to go online. But what we saw just as a macro trend is giving actually spiked right at the beginning.

Frank Barry (10:19):
Within the first month or so, giving went way, way up for a lot of churches. And then, it tailed back down a little bit normal. So, there was this crazy spike. And then there was the PPP stuff and different moments where there was these smaller spikes, but it went up and then just slowly came back down to a more normal place.

Frank Barry (10:41):
And that's mostly the looking at all the data for all the churches, and that can be skewed by larger churches and whatnot. But yeah, even anecdotally talking to churches, a lot of people saw giving up in the first few months, and then come back down as it dragged on, because people were worried about jobs and just all kinds of people losing jobs and whatever going on. But then, finished the year going, "Ah, we're about at budget. Maybe a little more..." I've heard those stories. "Maybe a little less," not completely devastated.

Warren Bird (11:20):
So, it sounds like Tithe.ly's monitoring pretty much parallels what we were tracking as well.

Frank Barry (11:26):
Yeah, I think it sounds fairly... Maybe if we had them charted, we'd see a similar chart.

Warren Bird (11:33):
Well, we should do some tracking together in the future.

Frank Barry (11:38):
Absolutely.

Warren Bird (11:39):
So, should we go into 2021 now?

Frank Barry (11:42):
Yeah. Yeah, please.

Warren Bird (11:43):
Okay. So then after the first three quarters of 2021, meaning the end of September, we asked people, "So, how did 2021 go compared to 2020?" Now remember 2020, as you pointed out, ended up being pretty good, all things considered. And of course, that donor fatigue, compassion fatigue, the nervousness as you say. "What's going to happen, is my job going to be there? Can we keep giving, will people keep giving? They're not coming to church in person, is they're is their heart still with us that, that we're a priority in their lives?" And all those uncertainties.

Warren Bird (12:29):
And yet, 2021, the majority... And again, we've got all kinds of graphs and details where you can look at it and we broke it down by different increments, but the majority said 2021 ended almost as well or better than 2020 for the same...

Frank Barry (12:52):
Oh, wow.

Warren Bird (12:53):
The first three quarters of 2020 compared to the first three quarters of 2021, 2021 was better.

Frank Barry (13:00):
Yeah.

Warren Bird (13:00):
Wow. To me, this is just such a testimony of God's people saying, "Oh, no, no, no. This comes first. This is a priority that. We're not cutting back unless circumstances demand it. And even then, we're going to do what we can. We love our church. We love our Lord."

Frank Barry (13:21):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you don't know specifically because you can't talk to every person that gives or doesn't give or anything like that, but you know people's jobs were affected and families were affected and all kinds of stuff happened. Som of course there's people that were giving less or not able to give or whatever, but then you have this balancing by people that were able to give more and be more generous through this time. And somehow, it balanced out, right, and God's church sort of prevailed through all of this. From a financial perspective, was able to weather that. And I'm sure that's not true for every single church on the planet, but by and large people were able to get through it, which is very encouraging.

Warren Bird (14:09):
Now some did struggle, and sadly, or reality-wise, what the pandemic did is as I understand it is, it accelerated whatever was there. So, if a church was fragile going into the pandemic, if it wasn't let's say very outreach-minded, it didn't reach out during the pandemic. If it was fragile financially before the pandemic, that they weren't maintaining their facilities, they weren't able to keep up, they were just barely always behind; the pandemic just accelerated that. They're coming out of the pandemic saying, "Well, God, what's ahead for us? Should we merge with another church? What should we do? We can't make it."

Warren Bird (14:58):
There has been an acceleration of, let's say mergers from another study, and I can affirm that there will be going forward. But in the long run, God's people have done their best to stay faithful, and that's very encouraging.

Frank Barry (15:17):
Yeah, yeah. In 2021 or in the research, did you guys ask churches to give any reasons why giving did well or stayed steady or declined? Was there any reasoning behind church's thoughts, or any thoughts that they had around why giving stayed stable?

Warren Bird (15:41):
I wish I had an answer to that.

Frank Barry (15:43):
Yeah.

Warren Bird (15:45):
All the feedback is anecdotal. I mean, there are a lot of outside data points. For example, for better or worse, giving is in direct proportion to the Standard and Poor 500, that's a research finding. Meaning if the stock market gains 100 points donations to all charities combined go up $1 billion.

Frank Barry (16:13):
Wow.

Warren Bird (16:15):
And likewise if the stock market tanks, then the giving goes down. So, we have...

Frank Barry (16:23):
The last couple days have not been good.

Warren Bird (16:25):
Yes. And don't look at just one or two days, we're talking about the whole year. But speaking the last couple of days and in recent days, in news is inflation. And that's a whole nother bubble where people are going to say, "Well, does that mean my paycheck has less buying power?"

Warren Bird (16:41):
The report, again, ECFA.org/stateofgiving. We look at a bunch of outside comparisons such as the stock market, but we also look at consumer debt. Hmm. I only can slice the family pie paycheck up into so many slices of a pie. And if I'm paying off debt, then it's harder to give. I'm not saying you can't.

Warren Bird (17:14):
And if I have less debt, if I'm more financially free, then I got more resources that I can use to give. And so we monitor, "How has household debt?" And that's gone down, but the latest wrinkle is the question of inflation because that's going to impact giving if it continues.

Warren Bird (17:38):
So, while there's always something that can help explain it, fundamentally there's a commitment to putting God first in finances, and that has stayed for so many people, even when they couldn't be part... As a researcher, I can tell you from other studies, the more involved you are in your church, the more you give. Well, it makes sense. If I'm greeter, if I'm part of a small group, if I'm very involved, well then; my heart is absolutely there and so is my wallet. So, then the question is, "Well, wait a minute. If people are still at home having the donut in their pajamas and tuning on the service," which in some sections of the country, that's still happening.

Frank Barry (18:29):
Well, thank you. I mean, I actually think regardless of sections of the country, I mean I just think churches in this hybrid church thing is, it's here to stay. And it might be at different levels depending on the church, the actual local church and the community, but globally and church at large, hybrid church and church online and all that has only got pulled forward to where it's a real thing. You've got folks like Life.Church having church in the Metaverse now, right?

Warren Bird (19:06):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (19:06):
So, all of that stuff is definitely here to stay in some form.

Warren Bird (19:13):
And by the way, I'm going to have news on that. On February 22nd, 2022 at 2:22 in the afternoon, ECFA is launching what will be the largest ever study of church planting, the starting of new churches. And it will include a compare to multi-site campuses because that's a church... I mean, they're both multiplication vehicles.

Frank Barry (19:37):
Right.

Warren Bird (19:39):
And in that we're asking, "How are you doing church today, and what are you exploring for tomorrow?" And I just modified the survey to include Metaverse...

Frank Barry (19:50):
Right, perfect.

Warren Bird (19:51):
... as one of the options, and hybrid and everything else, because really as newer churches, and to some extent multi-site campuses which have a little more flexibility than the main campus, if you want to use that word; as they explore and find ways to connect with people, then we're probably going to see new hybrid combinations come out and we'll do some reports and all, and maybe I'll be your third guest then to talk about the findings of the report...

Frank Barry (20:25):
Round three.

Warren Bird (20:26):
... Because that impacts giving and involvement and everything else. But I am absolutely convinced that the face, in fact that's what we're calling the survey, The New Faces of Church Planting, that the face is a very exciting future. As God's people use God's creativity to say, "All right, how do we take church to where people are? How do we speak the timeless gospel in a way that people today, it speaks to their needs?" So we will see, and Tithe.ly will be all along the way, because you have to fund the mission.

Frank Barry (21:06):
Absolutely, 100%. Did you ask in the report anything related to financial giving to churches and how the funds were coming in? Did you get any insight into cash and check versus digital, versus, I don't know, crypto? An understanding of the churches through the pandemic, and if how people are giving changed at all, or how churches are seeing funds come in? Did any of that change?

Warren Bird (21:35):
I did not, because so many other surveys have clearly documented the skyrocketing pace of online giving. So many churches that had it as a back door, now it's the primary way that so many churches, large and small, give.

Warren Bird (21:55):
However, you mentioned one other thing. ECFA just recently did a webinar on cryptocurrency, and the three best ways to set up cryptocurrency. We had an executive pastor from a church talk about his experience.

Frank Barry (22:11):
Yeah. Nice.

Warren Bird (22:11):
And by the way, you can download that. Go to ECFA.org/webinars, plural, and watch it for free. I think you have to give your email to do it.

Warren Bird (22:24):
And we started with a story of Granny invested in Bitcoin, and now wants to give some of it to the church. So, it's not just the millennials who are putting their 401ks in crypto, which they are disproportionately, but there are a lot of... I think at last count it was more than 25 million U.S. adults have something in cryptocurrency, and they want to figure out how to give it to their church. So, that's going to become an increasing pathway, and I'm sure there'll be a Tithe.ly way to help that happen somewhere down the line.

Frank Barry (23:05):
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean, absolutely. We actually have a great partner named Engiven who does crypto giving for churches.

Warren Bird (23:12):
Oh, okay. Yeah.

Frank Barry (23:13):
But yeah, it's definitely a growing thing. I've gotten more questions about it over the last 12 months by far than any period before that. So, as crypto's exploding and NFTs and Metaverse and just doing things digitally and using crypto, whether it's Ethereum or Bitcoin or some other coin to transact, it's a thing. And I think churches are starting to pay attention a little bit more. There's a little bit more interest every year. Not a lot of dollars coming in yet, best I can tell. I mean, I don't really know, but I think there's more and more interest in that. And obviously as people start having more and more money into these digital assets, if they have gains and they want to give, they're going to want to give straight out of their Coinbase account with Bitcoin to their church. So, churches are going to have to start to support that kind of stuff.

Warren Bird (24:17):
Yep. There are multiple ways that people want to give, and that's going to be an increasing challenge, which will create an ongoing need for groups like Tithe.ly.

Frank Barry (24:29):
Yeah, yeah. What other things... We talked about the macro, is there any other key data to report?

Warren Bird (24:35):
Well, I have to say, "But wait, there's more." We only got through the end of 2021. We also said...

Frank Barry (24:42):
Oh, we're going to go to this year.

Warren Bird (24:43):
So, what's your for 2022?

Frank Barry (24:45):
Okay, you asked them like how they're feeling about 2022.

Warren Bird (24:50):
Well, yeah. And I gave them three choices. "Looking at the first three months of 2022, how do you feel about cash giving? Are you optimistic, uncertain, or pessimistic?" And the majority were optimistic. The second group was uncertain, and the third group was pessimistic. And again, you get actual specific percentage numbers by getting the report, ECFA.org/stateofgiving.

Warren Bird (25:24):
But to me, that's been very encouraging. And so far this year, I mean, start with the Thanksgiving. Giving Day was the best by far, and end of year was strong. And the early indicators that I've seen about actual giving trends in 2022 across the charitable world and a few in the church world in particular, it's affirming. So, we'll see what happens.

Warren Bird (25:56):
But our word to so many churches is, "Okay, yeah. Maybe you need to do two budgets, an actual and a fallback if need, or faith budget or however you want to frame them. But this is a time for ministry. People need Jesus. Don't hunker down. Don't circle the wagons. You got funds. What funds you have, pursue. And if you're one of those handful of churches that's really struggling, ask for help, whether it's a merger or any other way to reach out." We've got some months yet to go in recovering from the pandemic.

Frank Barry (26:34):
Yeah. I mean, it's still going strong, right? I don't even know what year of the pandemic we're on anymore. It just keeps stacking up and it keeps morphing. So, churches have to navigate this ongoing thing. It's pretty challenging, but it's encouraging to hear that giving and generosity is still going strong, because churches being financially stable lets them do their work in the community, right, and stay open and help people. With lots of people going through some pretty tough times, right, being able to minister to folks in the community is a big deal.

Warren Bird (27:14):
So, ECFA has two doors to help churches and ministry leaders in that way. First is the free level, and we call that ChurchExcel.org. And basically, you want to download "How to prepare for an internal audit," or, "Three best ways to rebuild your cash reserves." There's a lot of church administration and management. "How do you set up the clergy housing allowance, legally and ethically?" It's all there for you for free. And this is our heart to serve churches of every size, whether you're officially connected with us or not.

Warren Bird (27:58):
The next level is the ECFA accredited member. And where that came from was 42 years ago, there was a televangelist scandal at a church. And some senators went to Billy Graham and said, "Look, either you guys police yourselves, or we will." Meaning, we'll pass laws. And Billy Graham got together World Vision's Ted Engstrom and bunch of other evangelical leaders and said, "Well, the Bible says about integrity and being above reproach. Let's set high standards, and let's say anybody who wants to agree to these standards and have someone look over their shoulder to affirm that they're really practicing them," they can be part of what became ECFA, Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability, and then you get the good housekeeping seal and all.

Warren Bird (28:48):
And what that will do is build confidence in trust in donors to say, "Yes, I feel great about giving to this church, this Christian ministry, because where they say my money's going, that's where it's going." They have a board that's a board of integrity, it's not the pastor's family members all deciding that they're doing things the right way. We love pastor's families, but that's not the right way to set up a board.

Frank Barry (29:22):
Yeah.

Warren Bird (29:22):
"Let's vote on dad's salary." "Yeah, I think he should get a raise. What about you, sister?"

Frank Barry (29:28):
Yeah.

Warren Bird (29:28):
Sorry about that.

Frank Barry (29:29):
That's going to cause some drama. So, are you guys going to continue this trend? Do the report quarterly? So at the end of the year you'll...

Warren Bird (29:39):
Yeah, well, we won't do the quarterly how things are going, but at the end of 2022, we'll do the same thing. We'll do State of Giving 2022. We'll look back, "How have two years of the pandemic impacted?" And we'll do a forecast to 2023.

Warren Bird (29:56):
And again, free download. Our way of helping. Because see, people want to know, "Is what I'm experiencing normal?" We saw that especially early in the pandemic in June and July, when as you said, it initially dipped and then it started picking back up, and pastors were almost embarrassed. It's like, "It's sad, but we've really picked back up. Should I say that too loud, because how hurting are my friends?" And we said, "No, no, no, that's happening for a lot of people. it's a good thing. You can talk about it."

Frank Barry (30:29):
Yeah, yeah. Normalize some of this.

Warren Bird (30:29):
That was a big help to them.

Frank Barry (30:31):
Yep, absolutely. Well, it'll be exciting to see the next report. 2022 is going to be I'm sure another crazy year, but it's good just to see the research you guys are doing and spread the word. So, say it one more time. Where can folks go to download the report?

Warren Bird (30:52):
ECFA.org/stateofgiving.

Frank Barry (30:54):
State of Giving.

Warren Bird (30:58):
STATE of Giving.

Frank Barry (31:01):
And I'm sure if you forget that, just Google ECFA.

Warren Bird (31:04):
Just Google it. Yeah.

Frank Barry (31:05):
ECFA State of Giving, and I'm sure it'll be result number one.

Warren Bird (31:09):
Google it, Google me.

Frank Barry (31:10):
Yeah.

Warren Bird (31:13):
I probably shouldn't say this on air, but my wife and I are leading a Bible study at our church and we were recruiting. We got to do an announcement, and I thought, "How can I..." I said, "Just Google Warren Bird phone, and the first thing listed will be my phone number." And it's like, "Oh, is nothing private anymore?"

Frank Barry (31:28):
Yeah, it's all out there.

Warren Bird (31:30):
So, it's all out there. You can find whatever you need. ECFA wants to help you. We've got almost 1000 free documents and webinars and all that.

Frank Barry (31:40):
Love that.

Warren Bird (31:40):
So, don't reinvent the wheel. Let us help train you to do integrity well and build trust with your people.

Frank Barry (31:51):
Yeah. Love that. Well, Warren, it's great to have you on today.

Warren Bird (31:54):
Thank you, Frank. Appreciate you, appreciate Tithe.ly. And Tithe.ly has grown a bit during the pandemic. Do you mind saying how much its grown?

Frank Barry (32:05):
No, no. Not at all. I mean, if you go all the way back to when it hit in, what was that, March of...

Warren Bird (32:12):
2020.

Frank Barry (32:13):
2020, yeah. We were adding about 1000 new churches a day on the platform.

Warren Bird (32:23):
Wow.

Frank Barry (32:23):
So, we saw churches that were cash and check, and offering plate was the way they'd collected donations and people were giving and that's just been how it's happened for... I don't even know, 50, 100 years, right? That's just what's been happening. And the pandemic, all of a sudden people are at home, they can't come in the building so they can't give. And those churches that were maybe a little bit on the fence are reluctant to have digital giving said, "Man, now it's mission critical to raising money to fund the church and the work we're doing in the community and all that."

Frank Barry (33:03):
So man, we saw thousands and thousands. Within a few weeks, we added well over 10,000 new churches on the platform. It slowed off from that craziness. But even to this day, we still get churches signing up.

Frank Barry (33:21):
And we send a welcome email out and we ask them, "Hey, how'd you hear about Tithe.ly and why'd you decide to add on in giving?" And we still get churches to this day saying, "Oh, we're needing to add online giving because people want to give that way during this time." And I'm like, "We're two years into this thing, and you're just now..."

Warren Bird (33:41):
"Where have you been? How have you paid the bills?"

Frank Barry (33:44):
Yeah. So, Tithe.ly, we well over doubled. We serve now close to 36,000 churches in 50 some odd countries and have a few hundred staff. So, it's been a crazy time as a company. We feel really grateful that God just put on our hearts to build something that's been very useful to the church during this period, and hopefully we keep building great products that serve churches well into the future. Crazy times.

Warren Bird (34:15):
Well, we worship a God who owns the cattle on 1000 hills, and whatever enables God's people to bring those gifts to the altar.

Frank Barry (34:27):
Yeah.

Warren Bird (34:27):
That's great.

Frank Barry (34:28):
Yeah, yeah. Amen into that. Well, Warren, we will have you back. Thank you for coming on the show. Thanks everyone for watching or listening, whether you're tuning in on Apple Podcasts or watching the YouTube channel, grateful for you guys. We'll be back with another episode of Modern Church Leader next week. So, tune in a week from today. We'll see you guys.

Narrator (34:49):
If you enjoyed this episode of the Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to ModernChurchLeader.com, or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify so you never miss an episode, and we'll see you again next week with another conversation here on the Modern Church Leader.

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New Study on Post-Pandemic Church Finances with Warren Bird

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New Study on Post-Pandemic Church Finances with Warren Bird

This is a must-listen for church leaders and it is guaranteed to help you set up a healthy budget and financial plan for the future of your church!

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What Church Leaders Need to Know about Financial Accountability

The nature of the church is changing. The days of a small group of leaders making all the decisions, and doing it without much or any outside input, are over. 

Today's churches require a more dynamic approach to decision-making and leadership, one that touches on both financial accountability and transparency.

A crisis like the pandemic has forced many churches to reevaluate their financial policies, financial transparency, and accountability. It has not only required the church and local leaders to shift gears and be more responsive to the needs of the church and local communities but has also helped them see that financial management is a priority that needs to be given the attention it deserves. 

This requires church leaders to establish a transparent financial management system built on strong ethical and strategic practices. With the rise of technology and automation, the church must be able to shift its priorities, scale-up, and become financially agile. This will be challenging but the key to the church's long-term sustainability.

In this podcast, we will introduce you to research, best practices, and the necessary tools for helping your church keep its financial integrity and accountability.

We are honored to have Dr. Warren Bird, Director of Research and Intellectual Capital Support for Leadership Network and the Vice President of Research and Equipping at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) to share some of his expertise and provide practical solutions to help you keep a close eye on the financial health of your church. 

“I can tell you from other studies, the more involved you are in your church, the more you give well, and it makes sense. If I'm a greeter, if I'm part of a small group, if I'm very involved, my heart is absolutely there, and so is my wallet. ”
-Dr. Warren Bird

Warren Bird, Ph.D., researches cutting-edge churches and works with their leaders to multiply their evangelistic and disciple-making impact. He is widely recognized among the nation’s leading students, researchers, and writers about megachurches. 

This is a must-listen for church leaders and it is guaranteed to help you set up a healthy budget and financial plan for the future of your church!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • The overview of ECFA church giving reports for 2019 (pre-pandemic), 2020 (pandemic), and 2021 (lingering pandemic)
  • ECFA resources and tools to help improve financial integrity and accountability
  • Digital giving options
  • How to encourage faithful giving in your church

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[12:53] The first three quarters of 2020, compared to the first three quarters of 2021 was better. To me, this is just such a testimony of God's people, saying, “No, this comes first. This is a priority. We're not cutting back unless circumstances demand, and even then, we're gonna do what we can because we love our church and we love our Lord.”

[17:44] Fundamentally,  there's a commitment to putting God first in finances and that has stayed for so many people.

[18:02] I can tell you from other studies, the more involved you are in your church, the more you give well, and it makes sense. If I'm a greeter, if I'm part of a small group, if I'm very involved, my heart is absolutely there, and so is my wallet. 

[21:58] ECFA just recently did a webinar on cryptocurrency. And we started with a story of granny invested in Bitcoin, and now wants to give some of it to the church. So it's not just the millennials who are putting their 401 K's in crypto more than 25 million US adults have something in cryptocurrency, and they want to figure out how to give it to their church. 

[26:20] If you're one of those handfuls of churches that's really struggling, ask for help. You know, whether it's a merger or any other way to reach out - we've got some months yet to go in recovering from the pandemic.

[28:18] The Bible says a lot about integrity and being above reproach. Let's set high standards. Let's say anybody who wants to agree to these standards, and have someone look over their shoulder just to affirm that they're really practicing them.

=======

Tithely provides the tools you need to engage with your church online, stay connected, increase generosity, and simplify the lives of your staff.

With tools like text and email messaging, custom church apps and websites, church management software, digital giving, and so much more… it’s no wonder over 37,000 churches in 50 countries trust Tithely to help run their church.

Learn more at https://tithely.com

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