This post is shared as a COVID-19 resource on our resource page at www.abc-usa.org/coronavirus. Visit this page to find helpful resources and information, and see regular updates from American Baptist regions and national partners.
April 6, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating immediate financial stress for many churches. I’m sure your church is already feeling the pinch. As businesses close and workers are being laid off paychecks are disappearing. Some who are on the threshold of retiring have watched their 401(k)s shrink and their capacity to give has been reduced. Still others are in a solid financial position and will continue to give faithfully even during a recession, if it comes to that. It’s truly a challenging time for the church on many fronts, including the financial. In light of the pandemic and its effects I have been gleaning good advice from various webinars, podcasts and blogs.Here’s a list of ideas for strengthening church finances during these trying times.
1. Do not be fearful about challenging your church members to remain faithful in their financial support of your congregation and its ministries. In doing so acknowledge that some folks have lost their job, small businesses are feeling the squeeze. These folks will not be able to give at their previous levels. Let them off the hook. However, there are others who are able to continue giving. Encourage them to do so. Still others will be able to increase their level of giving for such a time as this. Challenge people in this category to increase their giving in light of the fact that other sources of support for the church are drying up.
Bottom line: Do not hold back from reminding your people to give. Be up front about the financial realities that many are facing. Invite people to give generously as they can. The church needs to stay strong in this time; it’s not a time to pull back from being the church, including the church as a people of generous giving.
2. Such times as these provide a golden opportunity to clearly articulate your church’s God-given mission as you address giving. Help people make the connection between your church’s collective, God-given mission and their financial support. Help people re-think their assumptions about the purpose of the church. Too many people in today’s consumer driven world look at the church as one more place where consumers benefit from goods offered. In this view giving is a function of money tendered for services rendered. This may be the way a gym membership works, but its not the way the church works. The church is not a normal, business organization. Yes the church has a business dimension to it. It does have bills to pay and personnel on its payroll. However, the church is first God’s people in community, serving together in mission. Investing in the church is an important part of our commitment to Christ and His mission as
The church is a community of faith on mission with Jesus as its head, and together it gives witness to the Gospel, makes disciples, seeks to bless the world, and care for one another. The God-given mission of the church continues even when the church is temporarily unable to be together in a building. The church needs the financial support of its people to carry out this mission even when it cannot gather physically in one location.
Bottom line: When encouraging giving always connect your words about giving to the church as a community of faith engaging in mission together.
3. One of the best things I’ve heard recently about encouraging giving in this time is to go “old school” and mail a letter to every church attender and member. Insert in the mailing a supply of self-addressed envelopes (with stamps). Include a letter from the pastor lifting up your church, your story and your mission. Explain what you are currently doing to connect, to reach out and engage in ministry. Ask them to write a check and send it in. Don’t stop this practice after this season. Consider doing this on a monthly basis.
4. Add online giving to your Web site and Facebook page. Churches that have added online giving report anywhere from 10% to 30% of their giving comes to the church in this way. There are numerous programs available. Some churches use Paypal. There are ways to give by texting or using an app. Some use a combination of various online pay methods. Choose the application, or a combination of applications, that work best for your situation.
It’s extremely important to make online giving obvious on your web site, FB page or Instagram page. Position it in a prominent place on your home page. Regularly remind people they have the option of giving online.
Here’s a quick list of what some Mission Northwest people are using. Consider contacting these folks for more information about their experience using these particular products:
- Tim Hughes – Breeze CHMS for both online giving and managing church data.
- Devin Wolters (and many others) – Tithe.ly
- David Graham – Sharefaith
- Dave Griewe – Cash.app (free as long as you hold funds for two days)
- Alan Felts – Using a variety of apps: Stripe embedded in their Squarespace Website, as well as PayPal, Venmo
Another good resource: Lifewaygenerosity.com
5. Be sure to balance faith with wisdom by carving out some time with your board (or finance team) and run financial scenarios anticipating various drops in income. Look at your budget and run three scenarios: A drop in income of 10%, of 20% and 30%. In some cases you may need to go with 50%. Explore these issues in light of the scenarios:
Look for any fat in the budget that could be trimmed.
Consider how salaries might be adjusted, who, when. and where?
Is there a ministry you’ve been wanting to pull the plug on?
Can you do it now rather than waiting? What funds can be shifted to beef up your benevolence fund? You will certainly be receiving more requests in the coming weeks from those who will be struggling to make ends meet.
Please note: If your church receives a Paycheck Protection Program loan under the CARES Act you will need to hold on to all employees and maintain your present levels of compensation. That’s the point of the program. If you lay off people during the 8-week period after receiving the funds you will not be able to qualify for loan forgiveness. Carefully consult the CARES Act PPP guidelines before making any changes.
6. Consider the ways you are helping your folks make the connection between discipleship and generosity. Faithful giving is a spiritual process and is a spiritual discipline.
Categorize the different kinds of givers in your church: 1) Non-givers. 2) Occasional givers (usually the largest givers) 3) Regular givers 4) Tithers 5) Lead givers 6) Not able to give (people have lost their jobs).
Look through the lens of these categories and motivate your folks to take the next step of generosity.
7. Personally connect with your most generous people who have the means to give more during this time. Challenge them to help make up the slack in your budget deficit, if you find yourself there. Also, consider connecting some of these generous givers with people in your church who are severely cash strapped. Ask how they can help carry these folks over until the pandemic eases up and people return to work.
If you have advice you would like to share with the churches in Mission Northwest please send an email to me at email@example.com. I hope your church is able to remain strong in the Lord, his provision and his grace in these trying days. God bless. ~ Charles Revis