By Todd McMichen
With service industries and businesses losing steam or even temporarily closing due to the coronavirus outbreak, chances are you’ll have people in your congregation who have depleted income or altogether unemployed.
Churches are already beginning to feel the pinch of COVID-19 in their communities. And when church leaders formed their annual budgets no one saw this coming.
Yes, this brings economic challenges, but God could be opening the door to brand new ministry opportunities through our churches and in our communities.
One of the most frequently asked questions I am getting is, How do I get my church ready to minister to people who suffer the painful economic consequences of this worldwide crisis?
Here are a few thoughts:
1. Find and review your benevolence policies now.
If you don’t have policies they will need to be written quickly. Nonprofits can extend gifts within certain guidelines and limits.
Your church shouldn’t be found to show favoritism or discrepancies for to whom or how gifts are distributed. There are also tax laws that apply.
2. Decide the limits on how your church can help.
An individual church may receive more requests than in can possibly meet and there may be a wide variety of needs presented.
When a church can focus on what they can do or partner with others that need support, it helps reduce stress as well as keep a church from having to say no to a deep need.
3. Discover referral agencies.
There are many agencies and other churches that specialize in certain aspects of benevolence.
Depending upon these agencies will provide you a good answer when you cannot help someone. This also allows you to focus on what your church does best.
4. Contact for-profit companies for assistance.
We’re living in the most generous era of American history. More dollars are being given to charitable causes and more volunteer hours are being served than ever before.
Businesses can donate items, dollars, as well as provide volunteer hours. For instance, local restaurants are preparing free meals for children out of school who depend on the free lunch program.
5. Scrub your ministry budget of all nonessential expenses immediately.
As program and ministry activity schedules change you must re-allocate these dollars. If nothing else at least free them up in case you need them later.
6. Engage your best givers in above and beyond giving.
I wouldn’t advise creating a specific coronavirus fund. This may be great for now, but it could cause a problem once COVID-19 has passed and you have funds remaining.
A fund that is flexible for the future is best.
7. Begin casting vision now for everyone to be involved.
This is a time for our churches to shine. Everything is shutting down, but the light of the gospel is as bright as ever.
We need to start praying and preparing our people for the mission of a lifetime.
8. Contact relationships with city officials and other community leaders.
Many initiatives will be underway shortly. You might find it best to join in what others are doing.
Regardless of church size, we have a role to fill in the kingdom.
9. Reach out to small churches and church plants.
Some churches may be at risk of closing and pastor families going without pay.
Helping rescue another church might just be the most benevolent thing we do.
During this COVID-19 generosity season I am hosting multiple free online training events. You can join me and hundreds of church leaders across the country in the Facebook Group “Church Giving and Stewardship.”
All the videos are archived for you. The group is closed so you will need to answer three easy questions, like name, church, and what you would like to learn. I hope to see you soon.
TODD MCMICHEN (@ToddMcMichen) is Director of Generosity & Digital Giving at Lifeway and author of Leading a Generous Church: Making Disciples without Chasing Money.