One Answer To Prevent Church Waste

burning through moneyMinistries simply waste money because of quick and easy decision making. Whether it be the quick and easy decisions born of procrastination or ineptness, both burn through the money that God’s people expect to be spent wisely.

Some of that waste is caused by . . . .

  • not looking ahead for sales on paper, supplies, food, Bibles, etc. [1]
  • failing to use money-saving or benefit providing credit cards [2]
  • paying expedited shipping cost because of waiting too long
  • paying “top dollar” because of indifference — not my money
  • receiving personal benefits which ought to accrue to the church’s advantage
  • ordering promotional materials far too close to the date of the actual event
  • failing to think through promotional materials because of ineptness / inability

Let me focus on the last one of the above list.
Churches waste thousands of dollars because they believe that sending out a large, colorful, and attractive “Vista Print” postcard that includes the — “What, When, Where,” coupled with a beautiful full four-color processed picture — is going to motivate people to respond /attend / enroll!

These kinds of cards show up in our mailbox and on our door knob throughout the years. We do what most people do — Look at the picture and then throw them away. In almost every case, there is nothing that draws me into seriously considering “buying” what they are “selling.” They are one of many, and all too much the same.  They were created by someone in the office or the business owner who knows little-to-nothing about marketing.

Now, if the word “marketing” rattles you a little when it comes to ministry, then why send out a card at all, no less a full-color card, no less a large card with a beautiful picture on it.  Just print out a bland black and white postcard with the “W-W-W” on it?  In fact, why advertise at all?

That being said, this does not mean that promotional materials presenting VBS, a special service, Christmas, Easter, enrollment for a Christian education should not be sent out or distributed.  The point is that they say little other than the “W-W-W.”  They leave out the “WHY!”  Why should I be interested in what they are offering?

copywritingSome ministries need to take a class on “Copywriting.” Not “copyrighting,” but “writing copy.”  Two of the best established and mind-jogging books on “copywriting” are by Alastair Crompton [a classic] or Joseph Sugarman [of “Blue Blocker” fame].

To spend large sums of money on promotional materials which do not even have the potential of accomplishing its purpose is wasteful — at best. [3]  The hundreds and thousands of cards will likely be dropped in the garbage cans of the neighborhoods around us with little-to-no hope of yielding any meaningful response.

Oh yes — I know the mantra — “If just one person reads it and decides to attend.  And then that one gets saved.”  No one would run a business with this twisted ministry mentality — only the church thinks that way.  How about an approach which speaks of effectiveness — yielding the most from the time and money spent.  Can we have both — that one and the hope of drawing in many others — because we took the time to write copy that was more than W-W-W?

Educate yourself and/or find someone in the ministry who understands marketing enough to design and create promotional materials that have the potential of being read and even given serious consideration. [4]

1. It was common for me to walk into a business which stocked items we used in ministry (i.e. speciality paper shops) and ask . . . . “What do you have in quantity which you want to get rid of?” I walked into a full-service paper shop which we dealt with over the years. One day I walked in and asked that question — “What reams of paper do you have stacked up on your storage shelves which you want to get rid of.” They brought me to the back room where pallet shelving was loaded with mixed reams of paper. “I’ll take it all for $1000.00” He asked the store manager to join us. He said — “That works — . . . Sold.” Van load after van load was stacked on our shelves — from fine linen stock, to 11X17 ivory laid, to plain 20 lb. reams, to.. to … to… We used that paper for years for flyers, notes, bulletins, special invitations, etc. We have done that with food stores, donut shops at the end of the evening, and party supply stores as well.

2. We sponsored mission trips around the world through credit card points! We paid for and/or significantly offset air flight ticket cost for church members who wanted to take mission trips, for missionaries flying in to our church, and for pastors who visited missionaries! Merely by paying repeating and standard church bills through credit cards, at times we accumulated more points than we could use.

3. Pastors, deacons, or church and school business managers need to understand that they are  stewards.  They should handle ministry money as if it were our own.  Making quick and easy decision in spending the ministry”s money is unprincipled!  If you wouldn’t pay that or buy this if it were your funds,  why would you do that with the money of others?

Over time, burning through money because of procrastination, laziness, ineptness will be seen and noticed.  There needs to be a growing confidence in a ministry’s handling of God’s money!   You will find yourself having to coax and to lean on people because of a leadership-created-resistance by God’s people to give.  Ignore building that financial confidence at your own peril.  As I have been heard to say, “Ride that horse, I say it’s a nag! It won’t cross the finish line.”

4. Links On Copywriting:

The 3 Laws of Copywriting

13 Peculiar Examples of Creative Copywriting in Advertising

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