By Michael Crawford, James Choi, and Pam Gifford
The COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent government-sanctioned quarantine have caused significant challenges for our churches. In the months ahead, many churches can expect a considerable decrease in giving, which will result in a struggle for large churches, small churches and church plants to make ends meet. So, where can pastors and church planters find help? Here are five places to consider amid the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Your Own Household
The first place you should look for help is your own household. Before you ask others to help you, make sure you have done all that you can to help yourself. Here are some practical considerations. When looking to manage your spending, some steps you can take are:
- Look at your spending. If you don’t already have a budget, look at your expenses for the last two to three months and categorize your spending. Eliminate any “extra” costs, such as dining out and entertainment. Consider cutting unnecessary services such as cable and monthly streaming services.
- If you can’t pay your bills, don’t skip or ignore them. Make sure you contact the appropriate companies and ask them if they offer deferments or forgiveness programs. This includes utilities, credit cards, car payments, and mortgage payments and loans.
- The federal government is ordering mortgage companies to allow people who have lost their job or income to make reduced payments or to skip payments.
- Reach out to your landlord to see if there is a way to defer or lessen your payments.
- There is a special enrollment period for state healthcare. Research to discover whether you and your family qualify for healthcare expenses or contact your pharmacist about saving money on medication.
- Look for a flexible job to earn a little side income from places like grocery stores or Amazon.
- The early withdrawal penalty is waived from retirement withdrawal during this time. Look to see if this is something you can access.
2. Your Extended Family
1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” In this great time of need, don’t hesitate to ask your blood family for help. Think about how your extended family can help and how the Lord may use these times to draw you closer to your own blood relatives. Consider the following steps when asking for help.
Ask for advice first, money second.
Be honest about your situation and ask if there is any way your family can help you.
Be open and honest about your needs and your financial situation.
Make a plan for paying the money back, put it in writing, and respect the terms you have made.
3. Your Church
What an occasion to lean into and encourage your church family to give beyond their normal means as a way of trusting God for all your needs! Humbly, transparently, and wisely seek their aid. Make sure that you maintain integrity in your financial transactions. Church planters who have just begun their work should reach out to their sending churches for help. Furthermore, consider how to lead your church to utilize its benevolence fund to aid members in dire need. Compile a list of members who are facing unemployment or particular financial challenges in this season. Encourage generosity among members who can do more to assist others. Give special attention to elderly members, members with young children, and healthcare workers. What a time for the local church to shine and display the Gospel!
4. Your Network
After looking to your own household, reaching out to your blood family and leaning into your local church family, you may still be in a place of need. In God’s grace, our church family extends beyond our local congregation. We are all part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is comprised of state conventions, local associations and the Send Network. We would encourage you to reach out to your networks for help in time of need. Some of our local associations and state conventions are currently offering online equipping seminars, along with emergency assistance in these times.
5. Your Local State and Federal Government
We would also encourage you to look to your local, state and federal governments for help. In addition, look into the assistance from the CARES Act, the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill which Congress just passed, and the corresponding Payroll Protection Program which you and your church may be eligible for. For more information, look into the article which GuideStone has assembled.
Brothers, we want to remind you that you are not alone. We are all in this together and, as a family, we are here to help you.