The learning curve was steep. The pivot was sharp. Almost overnight, churches became experts on how to do ministry online during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Now they have settled into a new routine and rhythm that is providing the consistency people need.
But as the initial flurry of active transition slows down, churches are getting a better picture of how their ministry is doing. Chief among their various concerns is that of money. With churches no longer gathering in person, regular weekly giving has decreased. Even before COVID-19, 26% of surveyed protestant pastors said their churches had cash reserves for seven weeks or less.
Although the government and some denominations are providing financial support to churches at this time, it may still leave some churches vulnerable and unable to function healthily.
Even with some communities beginning to restart their economy, restrictions on mass gatherings will likely be in place for a while.
How can these churches encourage congregants to give at a time when they might be suffering personal financial hardships as well?
- Have an honest conversation.
Just like how a healthy family speaks candidly about issues, churches should be open about how they are doing financially at this time. Even with doors closed, bills still need to be paid and ministries that assist the needy must continue. If leaders don’t share, people don’t know how to help.
Create a special video message to be embedded into your website or to be given during the announcement portion of your live worship stream. Afterwards, be sure to provide a weekly reminder. It can be as simple as providing a link or scannable QR code to the giving portal. Even easier is a Text to Give number for your church. Providing this information in the outro after the sermon message is a way for people to respond in thanksgiving and continued worship.
- Focus on generosity, not guilt.
People are motivated to give by different reasons including guilt or to be rewarded, but God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:6-7). Inspire members to focus on generosity springing from faith. Even research suggests that making the attitude of generosity a regular habit “may influence long-term wellbeing and happiness”. It didn’t even matter how much money was given. Whether a little or a lot, the act of giving had the same effects on both groups.
This generosity of spirit and outward focus on others will help all of us weather the pandemic.
- Inspire with examples from church history.
The church has lived through many difficult events in history including the Plague of Cyprian (third century CE) that helped set off a crisis in the Roman world. St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, encouraged Christians to care for others. This period of Christian charity during a frightening time triggered an explosive growth of Christianity.
Not long before this event, the Apostle Paul took up a collection to help Judean believers who suffered economic stress as a result of a famine (mid-late 40s). He emphasized the importance of a joyful attitude and not dollar amounts. He knew that members of the community of Corinth must have had little money to spare. Interestingly, he instructed them to set aside whatever money they could afford on a weekly basis. In this way, they would be able to raise more money than by doing a one–time collection (1 Cor 16:2). It looks like recurring donations is not such a new invention after all.
- Make giving convenient.
According to a Global Trends in Giving Report, 52% of Christian donors prefer to give online. Other giving statistics show that accepting tithing online increases overall donations by 32%. In 2018, mobile giving donations increased 205%.
These numbers will undoubtedly grow as a result of concerns over the role that cash bills and cheques may play in transmitting disease. Be sure your church has online giving options as well as Text to Give. If possible, encourage people to set up recurring donations. They tend to give 42% more annually, compared to one-time donations. All these options are available through Sunergo.
God has been active and faithful throughout the history of the church. He has promised to build His church and care for His people no matter the external circumstances. Looking upwards in faith and outwards in generosity will help us get through this current pandemic together.