CHURCH SURVIVABILITY PLANNING
Other than house churches, churches and other non-profits survive financially on the generosity of others. During times of
crisis (e.g. earthquake, tornado, etc.), generosity typically peaks fairly soon and then subsides. This pandemic is different in that the economic impacts will not just be local, but will be nationwide and even worldwide. There will be no geographic area or economic sector untouched by this crisis from which to receive significant financial support. In short, there may be no peak in generosity
EFCA West recommends that church leaders begin now to address their current and projected financial situations. The principle behind acting now is that it is much easier and less traumatic to address financial shortfalls very early than to watch and wait, hoping it will go away, and having to make much deeper cuts later. Here are some suggestions to consider.
- Do you know where the funding for your church comes from? Are there a couple of major donors upon whose gifts you are quite dependent? Have you talked with them about what financial issues they are facing and how that might impact the church’s finances?
- Upon what economic sectors are your congregants dependent? For example, if you are in a travel-dependent community, the loss of travel-related jobs and income will be a significant impact.
- Does the church have savings that could be used to help navigate a short- to moderate-term cash flow deficit? How long will it last if we don’t make curtailments now?
- If giving falls to 75-80% of normal for a period of three months or more, where would you need to make spending cuts? Note that I invented the 75-80% figure – there’s no science or prescience involved.
Consider creating spending curtailment plans such as the following:
- Curtail all non-essential spending immediately.
- Create a list of spending cuts required to meet a drop in giving of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 percent as soon as possible. It is better to make these plans today while we can think logically than waiting until the last minute when we are more likely to be impacted by emotions.
- If possible, set aside some funds to share with those in need.
CARING FOR LONG-TERM FINANCIAL NEEDS OF CONGREGANTS
It is anticipated that there will be severe economic damage resulting from the COVID-19 event and that many of our congregants will experience severe financial problems. How do we care for them?
Leaders may start by preparing them for the potential of a “new normal” in their lives. Economic recoveries tend to take time. People will find that their business doesn’t survive, their jobs don’t come back and they will need to make major adjustments from their previous standards of living. Some will lose homes. We can prepare people for these things through our teaching of scripture, providing training on handling personal finances, providing third-party mentoring or advice for those needing to make significant decisions and supporting them through prayer and trained counseling. We can also encourage those experiencing less loss to be sacrificially generous to those that have suffered more greatly.
Churches will likely find significant increases in requests for benevolence. Because this crisis will likely be prolonged, consider exercising even more discretion in distributing these funds so that you have funds to distribute in the future. Leaders may need to triage financial needs to differentiate between the most compelling needs and those that we might not be able to meet. We may need to help people find creative means for meeting needs that do not require spending funds we don’t have to spend.