Financial Decisions Pastors Need to Make During COVID-19 Shutdowns

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With the novel coronavirus shutting down nearly every church in the country, pastors are facing difficult financial challenges. Congregants may be giving less during this time. This could be due to personal financial difficulties, or they may simply forget to make their weekly contribution if they are used to giving in-person.

Here are some financial decisions pastors need to be making right now to adapt to these circumstances.

Implement Online Giving

Choosing a digital or online giving platform (if you haven’t already) should be at the top of every pastor’s to-do list. An online platform is a financial lifeline when members can’t give in-person.

There are many different options available, which can make the process overwhelming. It’s best to narrow the list down to 3-5 using criteria such as cost and company reputation. Once you have a platform set up, get the word out through all of your marketing channels. Announce it on the website, social media channels, and email newsletter. Let your members know that they can still give, even if they can’t meet in-person.

Adjust Your Church’s Financial Messaging

Pastors should change their messaging to acknowledge both sides of the situation: the church’s financial need and your members’ personal financial struggles.

First, let your congregation know that the church is still in need of their financial support even though you are no longer holding services in the building. There are still bills that need to be paid and employees that earn their living from the church. Then let your congregants know that you are aware of the economic impact of the pandemic. You understand that not everyone is able to give. All donations are appreciated, regardless of the amount.

You might even suggest that members think of the expenses they’ve cut, such as entertainment and dining out, and reallocate that money for the church. Be careful with this messaging, though; it can come across as insensitive or even greedy.

Create a Plan in Case Employees Get Sick

Have a plan in place if one or more employees get sick. Will they be able to work from home? Is there someone available to take over if people are hospitalized or unable to work? Having a plan will ensure things continue to run smoothly if someone gets the virus.

Consider Whether Some Employees Should Be Let Go

This is a very difficult decision, but many businesses are faced with it right now. Take a careful look at the church’s financial situation and determine whether you are able to keep all of the current employees during this crisis. If your church is in a very bad place financially, you may have no choice but to cut the staff down, at least temporarily. This is a decision that should be made with much prayer and careful consideration.

Revise the Church Budget

Many individuals are taking a look at their finances right now to see what can be cut and what bills must get paid. You can do the same for your church to help it survive this difficult time. Community assistance should be prioritized since a lot of people are hurting from the shutdown, but there are other expenses you can save on. For example, you won’t need to spend as much on heating and electricity since members aren’t physically meeting in the church building.

Contact Creditors to Work Out a Modified Payment Plan

If there are any debts you won’t be able to pay right now, reach out to your church’s creditors immediately. Most will understand and modify your payment plan accordingly. They might allow for a lower monthly payment amount, or deferred payments with no interest.

A church is not a business, yet at times it must be run like one. Now is the time to make decisions for the church’s financial future. Your call as a pastor is primarily spiritual. However, you must also tend to the financial side of the role at times. As with all matters, take these decisions to God in prayer.

About the Author:

Dr. Tom McElheny has served as an elder and director of Christian education for three Sarasota, Florida, churches, holds advanced degrees in business and education, and is CEO of his company, ChurchPlaza (

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