Amid COVID-19, churches take financial hit, look to future when they can reopen

Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 10:44 AM CDT
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Many local churches have been dealing with the effects of the coronavirus for the past several weeks.

Doors have been closed as many congregations have held services online.

Among their challenges has been bringing in funds to keep the churches running.

A number of congregations and church-sponsored organizations report sharp declines in giving during the COVID-19 crisis, while others say donations have held nearly steady in spite of church doors being closed since the middle of March.

Churches that already had online giving platforms in place had a jump-start on helping members continue to donate. Other congregations that relied on passing the plate at Sunday services had to play catch-up and are only recently offering online platforms for donations.

Though many churches haven't set a date to reopen, many congregations are looking ahead at what they're going to do once they begin holding in-person services again, and if people will come back.

The Rev. Clarence Newton, pastor of New Life Baptist Church, 3601 S.W. 10th Ave., says he's concerned about the impact COVID-19 may have on smaller congregations.

However, he maintains churches will survive this crisis.

"I believe that, no doubt, there will be many smaller churches that will struggle even getting the doors back open,” Newton says. “However, the whole, I believe, it will be just like a revival. We just had Holy Week a week ago. I believe that when we come back, it'll be a true holy week."

Church finances, always a concern, have become more prominent during the crisis.

"The giving -- the giving," Newton says with a chuckle. "I think at first, many pastors were like, 'Wow -- we need to have church.' Some were kind of going like, 'What will we do? We need to have church.' Because you're talking about faith. It's really faith when you say you're not going to have church, and you know that the church is going to take a hit financially."

Newton said in spite of offering only online services during the coronavirus crisis at New Life Baptist Church, giving has taken only a slight dip. The church had been averaging between 100 and 120 people on Sundays, Newton said.

"Our giving has decreased -- slightly," Newton said. "However, we're still right around the mark to where we were when we were still meeting. It just blows my mind."

The Rev. Keith Koch, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1275 S.W. Boswell, says members of his congregation have risen to the occasion during the coronavirus pandemic by serving each other and their neighbors.

"The COVID-19 virus has affected us like it has many, many other congregations, " Koch says. "This is a small, scrappy, very highly dedicated church, and they are determined to move into the future."

Koch said he's been at the church -- which averages around 60 people at its Sunday services -- as its interim pastor for about a year.

"They have really put their resources on the line in order to ensure their future," he said, "and they are not being deterred by this crisis.

"With humility, we're trying our best to stay in touch with all of our members. Our elders and deacons have stepped up their game. They're emailing, they're sending notes, they're delivering flowers."

He says the church's members also have been reaching out to their neighbors to check on how they are doing during the crisis.

"This is a time for us all to pull together," Koch said, "and to really understand that united we stand, and divided, we will fall."

Though no timetable has been set for the church to reopen its doors, Koch says he and his congregaton are excited for when they can gather together again.

"We're going to pull out every whistle and bell and stop and we're going to dance down the aisles celebrating," he says. "We're going to see this as a great opportunity to stretch ourselves and our faith as we move into the future."