'Be Not Afraid' About Church Finances During This Time

'Be Not Afraid' About Church Finances During This Time

In the Bible, Angels, God’s messengers, often arrive saying, “Be not afraid!”
Some people may be anxious about the financial viability of their church as economic activity shrinks in response to the global pandemic.  “Be not afraid!” Let’s respond to fear with empathy.  Let’s be prudent without panicking.
If you share responsibility for managing your congregation’s financial affairs, you should be reviewing your budget – your financial “road map” – and considering how things will change.
Review your revenue sources.  Will some members have less capacity to give?  Will others step up to help offset any reductions in giving?  We learned after the terrorist attack in 2001 and the market meltdown in 2008 that giving to churches is one of the last things that people cut back.  Make sure you are encouraging people to give by mail and online.  Don’t remind people that there are bills to be paid.  Do remind people that the mission of the church to incarnate God’s love and work for a more compassionate, just and peaceful world is as important as ever.  Tell stories about how your church is responding to the pandemic.
Consider other sources of revenue.  Will rent and other facility-based revenue decline?  Do you depend on program fees from programs that will not be held?
Will any expenses change?  Are there steps you can take to reduce or defer spending?
If you anticipate a gap between revenue and expense, or a larger gap, what options do you have for funding the gap?  Do not be afraid to approach financial angels – people that have the means to make major gifts – and ask for help.  Many, perhaps most, churches have financial angels in their midst, even if churches are often unaware.  I suspect (actually, I believe in my bones) that there are financial angels that will give to help sustain the church’s staff during this economic downturn.  Not in every congregation, but in many.  If you need encouragement to boldly ask financial angels (or anyone else) for support, start with Henri Nouwen’s book, A Spirituality of Fundraising.
It is possible that you will be offered a loan on favorable terms.  Be very, very careful.  If your budget was tight before the current crisis, where will you find the funds to repay the debt?  Many churches are living into a future that will necessitate smaller facilities, smaller staffs, or both.  This was true before the pandemic and will be just as true after the health crisis has passed.  Taking on debt may limit your future options.  Debt may accelerate the transition to smaller facilities and smaller staffs.
Most churches invest for the long-term.  If you have a diversified investment portfolio, you’ll want to stick to the strategy.  The way you maximize investment gains is to buy low and sell high.  If you panic and sell low, you will lock in losses. During the substantial market decline in the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009, the Consolidated Trust Fund of the historic Connecticut Conference rebalanced assets twice to buy stocks to maintain our Investment Policy’s asset allocation targets.  This meant we were positioned to take full advantage of the market’s rebound.  Equity Markets were up by more than 500% between the low in March of 2009 and the recent record highs – not that long ago.  It is impossible to know when the market will reach bottom and turn.  When it does turn, it may turn very quickly and you could miss the opportunity to gain ground.  No one can predict what the market will do in the short-term. (Some people are lucky, but do not confuse a lucky guess with skill!). Everyone can predict what the market will do in the long run (decades.) In the long run, the market has always gone up.
Our church history is filled with both good and bad examples of how to respond to a challenge.  I suspect we do better when we keep our focus on God and do worse when we focus on ourselves and the institutions we have created. Let’s add more good examples!  Be not afraid!
Photo by Gavin Allanwood on Unsplash


img_2915 2.jpg
Charlie Kuchenbrod

Charlie is Legacy Church Specialist for the Southern New England Conference.

Subscribe to our emails
Framingham, MA Office

1 Badger Road
Framingham, MA 01702

Hartford, CT Office

125 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105

Toll Free Phone: 866-367-2822
Fax: 866-367-0860
General Email: friends@sneucc.org