With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, an estimated 40 percent of churches in Oklahoma have experienced a decline in giving.
The reasons for the decline are attributed to the inability for churches to gather for in-person worship services to take up offerings, church members who are not accustomed to online giving and members experiencing their own decline in income due to businesses being shut down during the pandemic.
Willie McLaurin, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization, was a recent guest on the Messenger Insight podcast and suggested a few things churches can do to counteract the impact of lower giving.
Communicate current realities
“One size really doesn’t fit all, as every church has a different set of circumstances,” McLaurin said. “One thing I’m sensing, even in the church we are members of, we discovered our church was communicating, but they were not communicating as clearly as they could. So upping your efforts in communicating your current reality will help. Don’t take it for granted that people understand the needs that your church has.”
McLaurin emphasized the importance of integrity when sharing the financial status with the church.
“Be honest with the congregation about, ‘here’s where we’re at,’” he said. “Because when people have good valid information, they are able to make good choices as it relates to how they will continue to contribute.”
In addition to communicating needs, McLaurin suggests leaders clarify the reasons for church members to give to their local church. The purpose for giving is not only for supporting the local church, but through the Cooperative Program, missionaries, church planters and future ministry leaders are resourced and equipped.
“Communicate your church’s Great Commission vision,” he said. “The Scripture says, ‘Where there is no vision the people perish’” (Prov. 29:18).
Consult with trusted leaders within the church
McLaurin explained there is value in having more heads working together in problem solving. Input from key leaders could better contextualize the response of the local church that is facing a financial decline.
“If you are a pastor,” he explained, “get some of your most trusted church members to be around you and receive wisdom and advice from them. When you have them around you, get their input into what the next steps ought to be.”
Tap into creativity
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced churches to reconsider how to do a lot of things they normally would have taken for granted. Church leaders have had to rethink how to gather for worship, how to have small group Bible studies, prayer meetings and more. McLaurin explained a crisis isn’t always a bad thing for the church.
“Crisis is the bump that moves us from our comfort zone to our creative zone,” he said. “Use this as a season to move beyond your comfort zone and be creative in how you do things.”
McLaurin suggested one way for churches to be creative is to create immediate cash flow for the congregation by working with mortgage lenders, seeking a deferment of payments. Reduce costs to the church for lawn care, maintenance and cleaning by pausing contracts with vendors. Instead, recruit volunteers in the church who can temporarily take on these responsibilities while the church recovers financially.
McLaurin also suggested churches look for ways to make it easier for church members to give. Consider adding the practice of allowing church members to drop off their tithes and offerings in the church mailbox or stationing a person to collect offerings at a popular location of the church building, like the foyer.
To hear the complete interview with McLaurin on the Messenger Insight podcast visit baptistmessenger.com/mclaurin.