How to weather financial hardship at your house of worship
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to economic shutdowns across the country, those shutdowns have had a ripple effect on houses of worship. You depend on voluntary giving to help pay your bills, and when you can’t meet in person, you don’t have the opportunity to pass the offering plate. Even if you do have a robust online giving program, many members are not working and, thus, do not have money to give.
So, how do you stay afloat during this uncertain time? The solution is a balance between continuing to provide support for members and, at the same time, asking for extra help from those who can afford to give it.
First and foremost, remember to do what you have always done best — care for your members’ spiritual needs. Check in via phone calls to establish a connection in the midst of isolation. For those who are comfortable with technology, consider praying together during a Zoom meeting. Now more than ever, spiritual leaders are an important presence in their members’ lives.
Be honest with those who have supported your house of worship through thick and thin. If you can’t pay the bills, send a letter or email saying so. Assure members that you know many of them are going through tough times themselves, and that they don’t need to contribute any more than they are able. But remember — you may have members who are financially comfortable and willing to answer a call for help.
Be aware of your members’ financial situations. Many Americans have been receiving federal economic impact payments over the past few weeks. While some desperately need those checks to pay their own bills, others may consider donating some of that amount to charitable organizations, including their house of worship.
Assemble your leaders in a virtual meeting to discuss one topic: the budget. Your budget for the coming year likely looks very different than it did when you first approved it. Yes, giving may have decreased, but some expenses—such as utilities and worship supplies—may be much less than you anticipated. Revisit your congregation’s needs and priorities. Be careful about cutting staff, however—only make personnel changes as a last resort.
Offer easy ways to support your congregation. While many religious organizations already use direct deposit or online giving, others still rely on checks and cash. While Church Mutual does not endorse any specific online giving platforms, some of the most highly rated include Tithe.ly, EasyTithe and Givelify. Learn more about how online giving and direct deposit works.
Stay in close contact with your religion’s governing body. You may be able to find additional relief resources for congregations in serious financial trouble.
Stay in touch
Your congregation members depend on you as much as you do on them. Keep in touch, reminding them on a weekly basis (or more often) how much their faith life means to them. Once you have established the connection, the funding will come.