Home Equipping Leaders Stewardship 6 Tips for Improving Your Church’s Cash Flow

6 Tips for Improving Your Church’s Cash Flow

By Ken Sloane

I S Cashflow

I’ve never spoken to a church leader who wouldn’t like to grow generosity in the congregation and increase the church’s income. I would be shocked if I did. More money means more ministry. If you don’t have a vision for what more your church could do in ministry in your community with greater giving, it’s probably time to reexamine why your church exists.

Sometimes the immediate problem is managing cash flow and having funds on hand when you need them. Included in that challenge is having funds available when the unexpected expense shows up: the HVAC stops working in July or there are extra calls for snow removal in a particularly brutal January.

Here are six ideas, many of which may already be on your radar. All these will not fit every local church context, but if one or two are helpful, I hope they will be worth the reading.


Most churches, regardless of size, have a variety of funds that are holding donated money: memorial funds, building funds, emergency funds, pastor’s discretionary funds, and so on. In some cases, funds may even be in their own account (which is better than being in the bottom drawer or in a coffee can in the church freezer). If they are in a savings account, they might be earning one-tenth of a percent in interest. That’s lazy money -- it’s not doing much for you.

Other options can make your church funds work a little harder. Pooling some of these funds together (particularly ones that are not drawn from often) may open possibilities for them to work harder for the church. Consider purchasing CDs that mature at staggered intervals. If the funds need to be accessed more quickly, look for savings accounts that earn four to five percent (possibly fifty times better than what your bank may be offering). You can find savings accounts that are FDIC-insured as well. There may be requirements about the amount of the initial deposit, so again, pooling funds together can help.


Many churches have space in their buildings that goes unused through much of the week. Through creativity and some engagement with your community, you may find ways in which opening your doors to outside groups will bring not only more income but more exposure to your community. Is there a community theater group looking for a place to rehearse and stage their plays? Is a music or dance school in need of a place for recitals? Are there senior groups or a weekday adult day-out program with needs that your church facility can accommodate? If programs like these don’t already exist in your community, are there ways your congregation can collaborate with other groups in the community to help make them happen? For a great book on exploring how your congregation and property might meet these needs. check out We Aren’t Broke: Uncovering Hidden Resources for Mission and Ministry by Mark Elsdon.


I’m not thinking of a chest of pirate treasure (though if it is out there, now would be a great time to unearth it), but — as Mark Elsdon points out in the previously mentioned book— your church property itself may be an unrealized source of income.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven past a United Methodist Church – especially ones in the center of town -- and seen a chain across the driveway to keep folks from parking on church property. Usually, it’s right next to a church sign that says “All Are Welcome” or something to that effect. That chain may be necessary, but it sends a mixed message.

Our General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) partners with different organizations that have products or are willing to make special accommodations to help churches in the United Methodist Church. One of those is an organization called “Park Thrive.” Park Thrive is a customizable and flexible parking management solution that allows churches to monetize and manage their parking lots while maintaining full control. This system enables churches to receive payment from people parking in the lot when the lot is not being fully used for church functions.

There may be other ways that your property can help bring income to your church. There may be some tax implications for income streams that are not directly related to the work of ministry, but this shouldn’t discourage you from looking into these streams. Check out a video from GCFA on Unrelated Business Income.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven past a United Methodist Church ... and seen a chain across the driveway to keep folks from parking on church property. Usually, it’s right next to a church sign that says 'All Are Welcome' or something to that effect. That chain may be necessary, but it sends a mixed message.


When I started in ministry many years ago, we paid a lot of attention to the church’s front door. We made sure it looked nice, clean, and painted, and we tried to ensure that everyone understood how to get into the church. Today, you need to be attentive to your digital front door, which is your church website (and your social media presence). Your website needs to be engaging, easy to navigate, current (if there is clip art on your website, it is not current), and up-to-date. Are there stories on your pages that tell visitors how your church is making an impact on your members and your community? Be sure there is a clear and simple way for people to give on your website; otherwise, you are sending financial support away.


Hopefully, your church is offering folks the opportunity to give electronically through an online platform or by a direct pay process from their bank to yours. I’ve recently written an article, “12 Things to Consider When Choosing an Online Giving Platform,” which may be helpful if you are looking to add this important feature or change platforms. Just offering the platform may not be enough; encourage and help folks make the transition to electronic giving. Paper checks are going away, and the future of your congregation’s giving is digital.

The ultimate goal is to have as many people as possible set up electronic recurring giving. This will be the most dependable, cash-flow-friendly way for people to give. Get your finance team to buy into this form of giving and set the example; then challenge your church council to do the same. Finally, explain to folks how easy it is; make videos that can show folks how it’s done. With every person who sets up recurring giving, you will see an improvement in your cash flow.


This can make a significant difference. You may already have folks giving their annual contributions in one shot as a “qualified charitable distribution (QCD).” As folks move into their seventies, they deal with the reality that most of the money in their IRA was never taxed. When they are required at age seventy-two to take “required minimum distributions” (known as RMDs), they will be responsible for paying tax on the money that comes out unless they have that money sent directly to a qualified charity, such as your church. They will avoid paying tax on the distribution, and the church may have their full year’s contributions. We have a beautifully designed bulletin insert that can explain this to your older adult members.

Decide if any of these ideas will work in your context, and then set your goal to do what you can to increase income where you can so you can grow your mission and ministry and let people experience the joy of generosity!

Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

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