Mar 222020 0 Responses

How Will Churches Survive the Economic Crisis

How quickly can things change? Eleven days ago I was sitting in an executive team staff meeting discussing financing options for an upcoming million dollar renovation to our church campus when I received a notification on my phone. The stock market failed to open because the futures had dropped so low it tripped a breaker to prevent a massive selloff. Less than two weeks later, I spent today looking over budgets for possible game plans in case we need to make massive cuts in order to keep functioning.

11 days.

Our church isn’t in trouble today. We are debt-free, have money in the bank, and we haven’t even seen what the new norm of weekly offerings will be. However, we know things are bad. The stock market has plummeted 30%, 2.5 million people filed for unemployment this week, and at least 10% of the workforce in our city has been sent home because of social distancing.

Two truths are apparent:

The needs of our people (and the community) are going to be great.

The income for our church is going to greatly decrease.

It would decrease just because of the economic downturn but add to that the inability of churches to publicly gather, we are in truly unknown territory. For our church, 55% of the giving is done online/mailed compared to 45% which is given in person during a worship service. So even without the economic downturn, our giving would decrease 45% if nothing changed just because we aren’t allowed to gather on a Sunday morning.

Add to that what will happen with the economy, I would imagine most churches will have an income decrease of 60% in April this year over last year. If everything returned in May, nearly every church would be fine. However, if the virus lingers well into the summer and things get worse than they already are, many churches may not make it. (Consider The Economic Impact of One Church)

How Churches Will Make It

So what needs to happen for churches to survive in the months ahead. At least three things:

1. Online giving will have to increase. Many do not like electronic giving and that’s understandable. But it will be necessary for the weeks to come. If you are a church member who normally writes a check or gives cash during the worship service, you will need to make plans to give in another way. Go online and set up automatic giving through your bank (the church won’t experience fees). Go to your church’s website and set up automatic giving through your church (fees will be experienced by your church, but that’s okay). Or call your church office and ask them about setting up an automatic withdrawal from your account (the church won’t experience fees). Jenny and I do the latter. Every week a set amount is withdrawn from our accounts and sent to the church. Whatever your format, give in this way.

2. Those who aren’t suffering will have to give sacrificially. While all will be affected in some ways during this economic downturn, some will suffer far less. While many are losing their weekly paychecks, others will keep their normal salaries while losing their shirt in the stock market. Those that don’t lose weekly income will need to continue to give even while those who lose their job or have their hours drastically cut back will need to stop giving for a season. If you have been financially blessed, keep giving during this season.

3. Churches will have to find ways to cut costs. Some of this will happen naturally. Because of social distancing, events are canceled, buildings are closed, and many bills will naturally decrease. However, some things won’t change.  Apart from employees, only about 20% of the average church budget is flexible. Some of those expenses will decrease. However, the last time to lose insurance coverage is during a possible pandemic. The churches I know will do everything in their power not to lay off staff or employees. But at some point cutting salaries may be necessary.

The church is as needed today as she ever has been. Just in the weeks to come, we will need to serve the sick, the isolated, the grieving, and the lonely. We will be on the frontlines of identifying those in need while also connecting them to people who can meet those needs. Even while the medical community will work overtime to assist the sick, the church will be the ones to walk with the families if the outcome for the patient isn’t good.

We need the church. And the church will be present with or without money because the church is something far greater than an institution with a 501c3. However, money does play a part in modern ministry. The months to come will require the church to get creative in receiving those funds.

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