Are there lessons the Church can learn from recent holiday sales? Christmas is over and retailers and shippers are trying to pick up the pieces. While it is still too early to know for sure how the holiday sales went we do have some indicators already.
American consumers shopping habits are changing.
The way in which Americans shop is drastically changing. The Wall Street Journal reported that, “During the last shopping weekend before Christmas, Web sales jumped 37% from the year before, according to IBM Digital Analytics. Market research firm Forrester Research expects online sales to increase 15% this holiday season amid slow mall traffic and weak sales at brick-and-mortar retailers.”
Not only are Americans shopping more online but they appear to think that online shopping allows them more time to purchase presents AND expect them to be delivered. That expectation whether based upon retail promises or simply unrealistic hopes for many created disappointment.
American companies are struggling to adjust to the changes.
The rise in online buying means increased shipping and the volume became too much for many delivery systems. The day before Christmas United Parcel Service, UPS, announced that it would not be able to deliver some packages in time for Christmas. FedEx also was reported to have missed getting packages to consumers in time. Major retailers like Wal-Mart and others had difficulty meeting the promises they had made to consumers.
The Wall Street Journal told the story of one frustrated consumer by writing, “By Christmas Eve, it was too late for customers like Terence Kavanaugh in Louisville, Ky. After losing hope on getting the $98 Emerson television he bought his 9-year-old daughter at Wal-Mart over Thanksgiving weekend, he went to Best Buy and bought a TV set for $179. “It’s more expensive but I’m not going to let Wal-Mart ruin my daughter’s Christmas,” he said.
While some consumers were disappointed companies had worked hard to ramp up for the expected surge in online purchases. The Wall Street Journal reported, “Retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart have been building more fulfillment centers and other infrastructure to handle surging online orders. This year, Amazon hired 70,000 seasonal workers for its U.S. warehouses, a 40% increase from the year before.” Clearly there is more work to be done but it is evident the businesses are adjusting to meet the new demands. This year’s failures will translate into future changes for next year.
Are there lessons from this for the Church? Yes, and we had better learn them quickly if we are to turn around the steady decline in giving we have been seeing. Here are at least two things we must learn…
Online commerce will continue to steadily grow which in turn impacts giving. We have moved away from checks and even cash to using digital means for transactions. Yet the vast majority of churches still utilize 18th century technology, the offering plate, in an attempt to collect funds for missions and ministry. The last major study of online giving was done in 2011 but it discovered only 14% of churches offered online giving. That number in my opinion and through our studies, has risen yet most churches still do not offer a means to give that Americans are demanding. With fewer Americans carrying around cash and fewer still carrying around a check book, without an online platform churches will continue to see their giving decline.
The Church MUST adjust or giving will continue to decline. This is easier said than done. Change comes slow to the Church. The unwillingness to adapt to changing commerce demands will mean many churches in 2014 will not be fully funded. empty tomb, inc. reports that by 2050 Americans will give only 1% of their incomes to the church. Not only must we adapt and change how members and attendees can give we have to work on our message of WHY they should give. Here is a truth…
If you continue to do what you have always done you will NOT always get what you always got! That statement might not be grammatically correct but it is true none the less. Yet too many churches dig their heals in and have no plans for seeing giving fully funding their missions and ministry initiatives for 2014.
I have a plan do you? As The Stewardship Coach I have helped scores of churches fully fund their causes. One such church was Hope UMC in Dayton, OH. They had a goal of raising $15,000 during December to support a maternity center in Africa. I helped craft a plan for giving and on Christmas Eve the pastor sent me this email from his Smartphone,
Going into tonight’s service, we had raised over 15,500 for the maternity center. Thanks for all your help.
Let me help you fully fund your missions and ministries for 2014!
Mark Brooks- The Stewardship Coach
Founder and President, The Charis Group and Charis Giving Solutions
If you need to set up online giving see my company Charis Giving Solutions at http://charisgivingsolutions.com/
For more information about holiday sales see http://www.statista.com/topics/1103/holiday-season-e-commerce/chart/1666/holiday-season-e-commerce-sales/