The church has left the building.
This saying in faith-based circles has increased in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic when social-distancing guidelines have recommended that churches throughout the world close their physical doors. The result in not gathering for usual worship services has, in some instances, caused anxiety among church leaders who fear declines in giving.
The good news is that those fears, in the majority of churches, are unrealized. Despite the challenges associated with pandemic-era church, United Methodists continue to financially support their local congregations. In new research conducted by United Methodist Communications of 1,000 U.S. United Methodist churches, giving continues to strengthen. In the most current study from March, 20 percent of churches reported declines in giving. That number is significantly less than data from March, when 66 percent of churches reported declines.
Although the news has improved, it's still important to remember that there are no offering plates making their way down the pews these days. United Methodists are encouraged to continue contributing to their local congregations in the same way they did pre-coronavirus.
“It’s important to remember that just because the building is closed doesn’t mean that the church is closed,” says Ken Sloane, director of Stewardship and Generosity, Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
“Ministry is led by leaders, clergy and lay leaders,” he notes, adding that “the need for the church’s ministry has gone up dramatically” in recent weeks.
“Because people are staying in their houses, there’s a growing concern (among church leaders) about anxiety and a concern about people feeling discouraged,” he says. “A message of hope is more important this year than any year in recent memory.”
With this in mind, many pastors are working to connect with church members throughout the week with phone calls, texts, cards and other outreach methods. Church services are happening online.
“There is ministry that goes on just because the church is locked up,” Sloane points out.
As church leaders seek to do church differently these days, members may need to handle giving differently.
For those whose giving routine is to drop the check in the plate, consider dropping it in the mail instead.
If churches offer electronic giving, now is the time to sign up, if that hasn’t already happened. Church staff members can offer step-by-step tutorials, if needed. Some newcomers to online giving may be concerned about security. Giving websites, like banks, are encrypted with security measures to keep financial information safe.
In the same way that a church’s income may have been negatively affected, there are many whose financial situations have changed significantly.
“One of the realities of this is that some people may have no income at all,” Sloane says. “But some people have not been financially hurt and may be in a position to do more. We’re really asking people to do what they can, but, if they can’t, we understand.”
*Crystal Caviness works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email or at 615-742-5138.
This story was updated on July 13, 2020, from a story originally published on April 7, 2020.