Regional President & District Executive Minister, Converge MidAtlantic
But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 2 Corinthians 8:7
Giving, A Challenge for Churches Right Now
The current health crisis is also turning out to be a major financial crisis. I live in a community where tourism is the primary industry. Many people are afraid for their lives, especially if they have health issues that make them vulnerable. Other people are afraid for their livelihoods, as many local businesses have been forced to shut down. I’m sure your community is similar.
A burning question has been this: How can our churches best serve people during this time? In the last few weeks, pastors have adapted quickly to continue ministries of weekend worship, preaching, disciple-making, and serving those in need. The situation has forced us to get out of our routines and do things differently. I feel proud whenever I hear stories about what Converge MidAtlantic churches are doing to serve people in the name of Jesus. Keep up the Good Work!
As pastors, we are hardwired to give ourselves selflessly to the needs of others in crisis. It is part of the calling to pick up our crosses daily and follow Jesus. In doing so, however, we often downplay the ministry of collecting tithes and offerings. The Bible teaches that giving is a spiritual act of worship that also has a practical outcome. The Hebrews gave offerings and sacrifices to God, and it sustained the ministry of the Temple. In the New Testament, Paul urged Christians to do the “gracious work” of supporting pastors, missionaries like himself, and ministries to those in need. Jesus famously taught on the subject of money, saying “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The late author Henri Nouwen wrote, “Fund-raising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.” Giving is good for the soul.
I’m sure that you have been thinking about this in practical terms. As in a snowstorm, whenever a church doesn’t gather in-person for corporate worship, there is usually a decrease in giving. Currently, we are facing the reality of not meeting in-person for several weeks including Easter Sunday. Many churches operate like a small business. The week-to-week margins are small, and there is only cash for a few months available in the bank. The federal government is currently taking drastic measures to save small businesses in the next few months. I think some religious non-profits will be eligible but not most churches. Assuming that in-person worship may not occur until May or later, what innovative measures are you taking right now to continue the ministry of collecting tithes and offerings?
Include Giving in Weekly Worship
It’s important that church leaders continue to include offerings during your online worship every week. Write down a few short phrases that make you feel most comfortable talking about giving right now in your context. We can follow the example of Jesus. Jesus seemed very comfortable talking about money. He even boldly told one man, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor.” I admit that I don’t quite have that much courage! One Converge church is saying it this way, “If you have a need right now, please let us know. If you have the means, please continue to give.” It’s also wise to emphasize your mission as a church more than your need. Henri Nouwen encourages pastors to “proclaim what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.” Read If You Want to Get Over Your Fear of Talking about Money, Here’s How.
Have a Strategy for Collecting Offerings
Some churches have utilized online giving for years. That’s great! Now is a good time to increase the percentage of your congregation that gives online. You can send churchwide emails or social media posts, asking people to start giving online for the first time and set up recurring gifts. Read Nine Proven Strategies to Increase Online Giving in Your Church.
Do you still need an online giving platform? Converge MidAtlantic can set up a custom giving page for your church on our website. We’ll offer it free of charge through the end of May. After that time, we’ll add a small charge to cover the normal credit card processing fees, or we will help you transition to another long-term solution. If interested, please email Liz Heavener at email@example.com
Also, don’t forget about your faithful donors who write checks. Of course, you should ask people during your online service to mail checks to the church office, but you’ll likely need to do more. Another idea is to send a letter to your regular check givers and include a return envelope. Whenever you receive a check by mail, send a thank you letter with another return envelope. In other words, make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church, and let them know you appreciate them.
Tighten You Budget
The economic forecast for the next few months is troubling, and some experts are predicting a steep recession. Now is a good time to make some hard revisions to your budget. Scrutinize every area where you can decrease expenses in the next twelve months and start spending less right away. Read 52 Ways Churches Can Save Money This Year.
As best as you can, try to take care of your staff, missionaries and ministries your church supports. However, it’s possible that the next few months will be extremely difficult for some churches. In a recent webinar, Shawn Lovejoy from couragetolead.com offered sound advice. Leaders should not present a false “all is well” picture to church staff who are concerned about losing their jobs. It is better to be honest with them, even if the truth is, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, and we may need to make some hard decisions.” Be wise with your words.
Understand Your Sick Leave Obligations
The federal government recently signed the Families First Corona Virus Act that expands workers benefits for the rest of the calendar year. For circumstances related to COVID-19, employees are eligible for up to two weeks additional sick leave, full pay, for illness or quarantine, or 2/3 pay for family care due to illness or school/childcare closures. If you don’t provide an option to work from home, church employees are also eligible for up to 12 weeks leave through an expanded FMLA program. Churches as employers are obligated to pay for this leave, but churches can be reimbursed through a dollar-for-dollar pay roll tax credit. HR Ministry Solutions has a free webinar online that explains the details.
Consider Camp Burton
Many churches are postponing mission trips and summer camps for kids. Perhaps you need to consider a less expensive option that can deliver the same spiritual impact. Did you know that Converge MidAtlantic operates a Christian camp? At Camp Burton, Director David Scull can provide an affordable program for your next kids or youth camp or fall retreat. The camp is closed right now, but there’s plenty available space for late summer and fall weekends. If you’re in driving distance to northeast Ohio, this could be a great option for you. Contact Dave Scull at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Investigate Your Loss of Income Coverage
The consensus of most insurance experts is that most policies do not cover shutdowns due to a viral pandemic. It’s worthwhile to talk with your insurance company anyway to see if you qualify. Or, if you have the unfortunate event that a staff member becomes infected with the virus, you may be eligible to submit a claim.
We’re Here for You!
We at Converge MidAtlantic understand that this is a challenging time. We are a movement of gospel-centered churches who are truly committed to care for each other. If you have a question or need help, please reach out to your Regional Director or the Executive Minister’s office. There is a Converge church nearby that can offer sound advice or lend a hand. Also, please be ready to help another church in need. Because we have a great Savior, and because we are in this together, we can endure through this trial in a way that honors God.
Sincerely in Christ,
Brian Weber, Regional President & District Executive Minister, Converge MidAtlantic
Brian served as a pastor in the Converge MidAtlantic district for more than 15 years. Originally from the Philadelphia area, he mobilized efforts to start new churches in the Greater Delaware Valley and to send missionaries around the world. Brian is a graduate of Wheaton College and earned his Master of Divinity degree at Bethel Seminary of the East. Before his appointment as district executive minister in 2018, Brian worked for three years with Compassion International.