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5 Financial Lessons Churches Learned During the Pandemic
While 2020 felt like a never-ending March with stay-at-home orders and social distancing, 2021 has come with its own set of challenges. Churches were forced to see ministry with new eyes and simultaneously figure out how to fund it.
This wasn’t an easy task as attendance and giving went down in the midst of a global pandemic. Churches and pastors, however, proved to be resilient, finding ways to make things work and even improve. Three veteran pastors offer some financial lessons they learned during the past year to help others find sturdy footing:
Yes, that’s a standard all believers should know, but as experienced pastors emphasize, “it’s the mostimportant step.” They urge churches to trust God with finances and follow His leading.
2. Seek wise counsel.
Another biblical truth often forgotten in times of crisis is seeking wise counsel. Jim Gann, pastor of Faith Pointe Baptist Church in Norman, Oklahoma, says using the wise and godly people on your finance committee is a must; but also, don’t be afraid to go outside of your circle to get professional help. His church reached out to WatersEdge when their giving went down 40-50 percent at the beginning of the pandemic. They suggested the church take advantage of a limited-time COVID relief interest-only loan payment.
“We can’t continue doing church like the 1950s. … The challenge now is to keep moving ahead …”
“We have two loans with WatersEdge,” Gann says. “Paying only the interest cut our payments in half and we were able to use that money to help balance the budget until attendance and giving was back.”
Seeking out experts can also help congregations see that it is not just the pastor saying “we need to do this.”
3. Be authentic and transparent.
Let the congregation know exactly what’s going on — even if it’s bad news. Pastor Gary Moritz and his wife, Janna, with City United Church in Boston, Massachusetts, know from experience that being transparent allows for tough decisions to be made. As they led the church through a revitalization financed by WatersEdge, the thing that helped them most was painting the true financial picture.
“We explained what the ramifications would be if we didn’t make certain decisions,” Janna, who serves as the church’s operations officer, says. “It came down to remembering what the true mission of the church was and fulfilling that vision.”
This meant programs that did not advance this vision were canceled or postponed. The Moritzes say seeing it all laid out made it easier for the congregation to handle the tough decisions on how to finance programs.
4. Offer multiple ways of giving.
Look beyond the traditional offering plate and establish different avenues for people to tithe. This can mean anything from estate planning to online giving. Zack Potts, senior pastor in Marlow, Oklahoma, says Eastside Baptist Church introduced online giving when WatersEdge offered to help churches set it up for free. The online option made it easy for those watching the streamed services to continue tithing without missing
“When the pandemic first started, people dropped their checks off at the door or mailed it in. When we worked with WatersEdge to implement online giving, the process became streamlined,” Potts says.
He added that it is best to roll out any new way of giving with a program or outreach. Eastside paired online giving with streaming services and the two went hand-in-hand. As those tuning in at home saw the offering plate, they could go to the website to give at the same time.
5. Always look to the future.
Some churches were thrust from the 1990s to 2024 when the pandemic burst on the scene. Gary Moritz stressed the importance of being forward thinking and staying up with the times and technology.
“COVID revealed what we concealed and broke down the facades. We had to realign quickly,” he says. “We can’t continue doing church like the 1950s. What will we need in 2024? The challenge now is to keep moving ahead and hear what God wants to do through your ministry.”