How is your church doing financially these days?
If the pandemic has hit your church, it's likely that your offerings are down, people are out of work, your budget is out of whack and the future looks uncertain.
Tight church budgets and downward-trending giving are worrisome, but you can lead your church through the financial challenges that COVID-19 brings. Such times were made for trusting the Lord, and leading with courage and clarity!
Pastor, your way through comes in three short words: wisdom, prayer, discipleship. These eight priorities can strengthen your church finances during the coronavirus crisis.
1. Get as clear as possible on where your church stands financially. Your way forward begins with a clear diagnosis of your current reality. Meet with your key financial players and be sure you all understand the church's balance sheet. Look at where you stand right now, and what it will take to finish the year in the black.
Looking at the hard truth can give you the clarity to find your financial way through the coronavirus crisis.
Before you leave that meeting, call out to God to provide for your church and show you how to lead through this challenge. A bit of collective time on your knees beseeching Jesus puts the problem back in His hands, where it belongs.
2. Resist making across the board cuts to the church budget. I can see the thinking behind asking every department to re-evaluate their spending and cut some fat. Sam Rainer recommends you cut across the board by 20%, and let the department heads work out how to make those cuts.
The downside of that plan is that not every department should make cuts right now.
We've had new expenses in our programming department for tech, and in our children's ministry for furnishings to hold our service outside. There have been expenses for COVID-19 safety, website development and our online services.
Joan Gerry, who runs a nonprofit consulting firms says,
"If you focus only on cutting expenses to make it through this crisis, you will hit an organizational muscle or vein, and your organization will become weaker, its impact diminished."
Plus, some departments can cut more than 20%. Spending is way down in many ministries because the events have been cancelled. We scratched the line items for our Kids Camp, our summer leadership conference, our fall church campaign and our city-wide marketing.
To fix the budget side of your finances:
—Cut what you can.
—Use this time to eliminate spending that's suboptimal.
—Spend more where it's needed to do ministry during COVID-19.
3. Ask your congregation to stay faithful in their giving. We continue to ask people to give as they are able, and we don't feel bad about it because we know that stewardship is discipleship.
It's good for the people in your church to be faithful with the resources God has given them. It's a physical manifestation of a heart that is surrendered to Jesus.
Here's how we regularly keep the need before the church:
—During the offering announcement, as we ask people to give, we share stories of what God is doing through our church.
—The usher collects the offering in a five-gallon bucket from the people in cars and chairs at our outdoor services. (The bucket's large size helps maintain social distance.)
—During the online service offering every week. we mention the donate button on their computer screen and list the church's address so they can mail in a check if they prefer.
—I am sending quarterly giving letters like I always have.
—When we've fallen significantly behind, I've mentioned it in my Friday email to the whole church.
—Last week, instead of me mentioning our deficit, our executive pastor made the announcement. A second voice sometimes gets more attention and strengthens the message.
Our life as the body of Christ in a pandemic includes how we support the ministry together.
4. Be compassion-minded. We love stories of compassion these days. Your church members will appreciate seeing their church being compassionate.
Express understanding for people who have lost jobs.
People may be struggling to make ends meet, and they're not giving as they had. We understand. In fact, it may be time for the church to help them.
Every month, following Communion, we take a small second offering called the hope offering. We use it to help people in our congregation who are facing an unusual financial need. The church doesn't hear exactly how the money is spent, but they know we all give a little extra to help each other out. It's surprising what this $1 to $5 extra offering can bring in, and how much it helps.
We encourage people who are struggling financially during the pandemic to still give a little something to the church. God sees their faithfulness and will reward them like the widow with the mite.
Help your city.
Continue the same things you were doing in your community before COVID-19 if you can, or rise up to meet a new need. We recently took prepackaged lunches to the police station down the street from the church. Protests haven't been too rough in our city, but we wanted to express our appreciation for our police force in light of the criticism they are taking all over the country.
If someone in your church comes up with an idea, give your blessing, make the opportunity available for others to join in and foster a mindset of service to your city during these difficult days.
Support your missionaries.
Guard the ministry partnerships you've developed over the years. Those missionaries are still out there serving Jesus through the pandemic. They need to know that you continue to stand with them prayerfully and financially.
5. Hold a Christmas offering. We've had a year-end special offering since I learned about it from some pastor friends at my annual Pastor's Roundtable Retreat.
We simply ask the congregation to give their best Christmas gift to Jesus. What will you spend on your wife? Give that much to Jesus too.
Every year, we prayerfully plan our Christmas offering campaign. We choose a theme, designate how we'll use the funds, create artwork and plan the timeline of letters, emails and announcements to present the opportunity to the church.
We raise about 5% of the annual budget through the Christmas offering.
We're not skipping it this year.
The Christmas offering is such an integral part of our financial plan that I included it in my learning program, ChurchEngines, and I made it available to all my PastorMentor friends.
6. Facilitate online and automated giving. Make online giving easy and encourage people to automate their giving.
It's normal to autopay our utility bills and insurance bills and our donations to Compassion. Those businesses understand the upside of autopay, and they know that it helps people when they make it easy to pay. Some people in your church will give more regularly if you make it easier for them to do so.
It's just a matter of choosing a donation software, connecting it to your bank and putting the buttons on your website.
7. Connect with your big donors. Your biggest donors have a different outlook and needs. They need to know that your financial practices are solid and that you have a plan for the future. They need your friendship and support to navigate the responsibility they feel to be generous with what God has given them. They may need you to disciple them in using their strengths in God's kingdom.
8. Develop a forward focus.
"We need to treat COVID-19 as an economic and cultural blizzard, winter and beginning of a "little ice age"—a once-in-a-lifetime change that is likely to affect our lives and organizations for years."
That's not what we want to hear, but it gets more disturbing:
"Due to the complex and interconnected nature of our society and economy, the majority of businesses and nonprofits are 'effectively out of business' as of today, in that the underlying assumptions that sustained their organization are no longer true."
They go on to encourage us that God has called us to a time such as this, and that our mission has not changed, but that we must be creative and forward thinking to adjust to this new age of ministry.
One way to adjust to ministry in the age of pandemic is to be intentional about your church finances. Lead your church with wisdom, prayer and discipleship, and you'll see God provide.
For the original article, visit pastormentor.com.
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