Whether or not your church has enough money can be measured in a couple of ways. At the end of the year did you take in more than you spent? Were you able to fund your ministry vision or just pay the bills? But in the next few weeks the most important measure is whether or not when a bill is due, you have the money in your checking account to pay it. That’s cash flow.
And because cash in a church usually flows into the offering plate on Sunday morning this can be a tough time to get those bills paid. I’ve talked with several pastors who report in the last two weeks they’ve had incomes equal to “lousy” Sunday offerings. You know what they mean. Perhaps the first Sunday of the month when the children’s choir sings is a really good offering week. Later in the month, when the weather is tough isn’t as good. But it still isn’t as bad as it could be.
So as a first step, figure out where you are. This isn’t complicated. How do the last two virtual Sundays compare to where you would expect the third and fourth Sundays of the month? Are you where you usually are? Were they just lousy offerings? Are you in serious trouble? You need to know this.
Once you do that, I have a few suggestions for moving ahead.
Make you sure you still call for the offering. Whether you’re live streaming a full-blown worship service or are recording a message and emailing it out, remind your congregation about the offering. It can be as simple as suggesting they mail a check to the church, or lift up online giving. If you don’t have online giving at your church, we discussed it last week. You can read that here.
Be in tune with your context. If most of your flock are restaurant servers and retail workers that’s one thing. If most are still getting paid while working from home that’s something else. As we hear the news of layoffs, closing and rising unemployment it’s easy to fall into a scarcity mode where we’re afraid to ask for money. While this is absolutely a reality for some, there’s a good chance not everyone is in the same position.
I suggest you make some calls. Those folks who are still getting paid may actually be in a good place financially as they don’t have commuting expenses, aren’t going to movies and vacations may have been cancelled. Reach out to them, explain what you learned in your analysis of the last two Sundays and respectfully ask if they could increase their giving in the next two months. Could they give three months’ worth of their annual pledge in the next two months, then take December off? Could they commit a portion of their tax refund?
Consider your reserves. What funds are out there, like endowments, savings accounts, that planned gift you received but haven’t quite figured out what to do with? All of these can help, providing there are no restrictions preventing it. If you want to borrow from these, I would hope that you would do it with great transparency. If at all possible, go in with the understanding that this is a loan and will need to be paid back when things get better.
Your financial situation should be discussed with Administrative Board and an overall strategy should be developed which probably involves to some degree all of the above. This is a time for leaders to be leaders.