By Todd McMichen
To say these are interesting times for pastors and other church leaders is an understatement. This current season is a heart-wrenching time to shepherd people.
First of all, let me encourage you: Jesus Christ died for His church. He has more at stake in her success than you do, so don’t take more on yourself than you should.
As I watch social media accounts from pastors and churches, I’m encouraged by how they’re leading people well spiritually and emotionally.
Things are quickly shifting to practical matters. Let me help you navigate both the opportunities and challenges that will inevitably come—challenges that may present worry about sustainability.
At the same time, this public health situation creates financial gaps for the people in your church and your community.
Here are seven preparatory steps that foster two-way generosity between the church and her people.
1. Pray the most generous prayers you’ve ever prayed over your life, people, and city.
God’s kingdom is still at work during COVID-19. During this unique season things will be asked of you that aren’t normal. You will be given the opportunity to speak to people and share messages to new people in unusual ways.
Spend time praying and fasting during this season of quarantine so you will be ready both in season and out of season. God’s kingdom will be expanded even while we’re practicing social distancing. Eternity will change for people because of COVID-19.
Some churches may never be the same again in terms of their ministry position in their cities. What the enemy intends for evil will be turn for kingdom good and God’s glory. Be confident in this.
2. Sharpen your pencil on your expenses.
As of today, we don’t know the long-term financial impact of COVID-19 on our people or church. Reduce all unnecessary expenses immediately and begin storing up cash reserves for the new ministry season right around the corner.
Interest rates are very low right now, so you may even investigate negotiating your debt or establishing a line of credit while money is cheap.
3. Care for the most vulnerable.
Engage your small groups, missions, and outreach teams to set up a phone-calling system to reach out to those who are in the most danger.
Consider creating the opportunity to partner with local agencies that may be inundated with requests and may have active strategies your church can support.
Let’s run errands, pray, and serve the hurting better than we ever have.
4. Invest in your benevolence ministry.
Emotions of fear and anxiety may shortly turn to impatience and anger. Personal income may be affected. Long-term security could be a real concern for retirees.
Small business owners could be dramatically affected. Commission-based sales staff and those required to travel for business could be greatly affected.
Begin now to designate a process as well as funds to care for those in your church and ministry. Locate multiple local based nonprofits that would make great partners or referral agencies.
5. Explore unique giving channels like crowdfunding.
This is one of the most modern forms of giving today. Billions of dollars are being donated by turning personal networks into giving channels.
GoFundMe and Facebook fundraisers are examples of crowdfunding. Your people are most likely already turning to these platforms.
Your church can lead the way in this endeavor. Crowdfunding expands generosity beyond the resource limits of your people to those they know via social media around the globe.
Generosity by Lifeway unleashes this form of giving for churches. It will relieve your current resource pressure while serving your people well.
You are also able to craft the message of hope and the gospel. Your church will receive all contact information for givers for follow-up care.
A great resource is Helping Hands Ministries, which offers discretionary assistance to individuals in need and other 501c3’s who do not currently have donor support or where support falls short of immediate need.
6. Go digital.
Digital ministry was formerly thought to be a ministry for large churches with expansive budgets and staff expertise. Today, that’s not the case. Most churches can create Facebook Live feeds, communicate via live chat, and offer digital giving.
If your church is new to these ministries now is definitely the time to get acquainted with them. If your church hasn’t been active in social media, streaming, and digital giving, reach out to a local church that is active in these areas. They can help.
Even if internet bandwidth is a challenge, other churches can help get your message communicated.
Many digital-giving providers, including Generosity by Lifeway provide no-cost or low-cost options. We serve a large amount of small churches—even those without websites.
Finally, social media is free, and it goes everywhere. People will be on social media all day during this season. Leverage this tool to encourage, inspire, and comfort people in your community.
7. Care for church plants and small churches.
This is a time for the church to shine.
While your church is facing its own challenges, please be mindful that some pastors may be honestly confronted with no salaries for a season or real concern of their church not being able to financially sustain itself without offerings.
Your biggest ministry might be to serve the local church. Make a list of those in your area as well as in parts of the country who are being the hardest hit. Reach out to them this week to learn ways you may be able to uniquely serve them today and in the future.
You never know what new and long-term ministries might be birthed during a season like COVID-19.
Every week I conduct live generosity coaching sessions and will be especially in tune to the current opportunities.
I invite you to join my Facebook Group “Church Giving and Stewardship” now, ask your questions, and stay tuned for the most current help we can provide.
TODD MCMICHEN (@ToddMcMichen) is Director of Generosity & Digital Giving at Lifeway and author of Leading a Generous Church: Making Disciples without Chasing Money.