How is the Church Doing Financially through COVID-19?
In addition to the obvious health impacts, individuals and organizations have been rocked financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. The church is no exception. Contributions dropped noticeably in March as we moved from on-campus gatherings to live stream worship. But covenant partners have quickly adapted to new rhythms, and our contributions rebounded in April. Folks have clearly made transitions to online giving and to mailing in their financial support. Thank you for your generosity and thoughtful stewardship, recognizing that the mission of the church has not changed while we do many things in different ways.
Our Session made the decision early on to make no staff cutbacks due to the pandemic, while acknowledging that staff duties have changed and even curtailed in many cases as the stay-at-home orders were issued. The church has continued to pay our staff on a “normalized” basis. And staff members have found creative ways to work from home and on a changed schedule.
The church applied for, and received, a loan provided through the CARES Act Payroll Protection Program. This program is designed to encourage organizations to retain their employees, maintaining compensation and not adding to the unemployment wave. It is forgivable, depending on the application of the funds to payroll and some other qualified expenses, such as utilities. We are currently assessing whether the church will actually need this forgivable loan, and if it does not, we will joyfully return it.
While we have not seen a dramatic drop in contributions, the church is prudently managing its expenses. Some expenses have naturally decreased, as church programs have been cancelled. In addition, we have suspended discretionary facilities projects, as well as the approved capital facilities and missions plan that we have been working on the last few years. In normal times we set aside some of our budget for ministry and facility maintenance reserves, but those have been suspended for now. Ministry leaders have been directed to thoughtfully manage discretionary expenses. We continue to fulfill commitments to our mission partners as well as our vendors and suppliers.
In some cases, we have redirected resources as the church adjusts to our new reality. This has meant investing in more digital capabilities, for example, for videoconferencing and facilitating live stream of our worship and other events.
We are fortunate that through the years the church has been able to set aside some funds from our operating budget into reserves. We use these reserves for large or unusual needs, such as a major facilities issue. We are grateful in times like these that we have such reserves on which to rely, if needed, to maintain necessary church activities and commitments even when we experience income shortfalls.
Covenant partners have been very generous in giving to the COVID-19 relief fund. We have made several reports on the use of this fund over the weeks of the pandemic, and we will continue to do so. Our gifts have gone to neighborhood restaurants, to churches, encouraged local healthcare workers, helped transition homeless individuals to alternative housing, and facilitated distance learning for local students. It is a joy to partner with others in our community and around the world to help those in need in the name of Christ.