The letter was disappointing, but not unexpected. It was from a bank regarding a church we helped to finance. Because of COVID-19 and its impact on the church membership, the church has fallen behind in making its monthly mortgage payment. This is the seventh letter we have received in the past six weeks, and we believe more will come. Many churches are struggling to make ends meet and more are falling behind in making their mortgage payments. In this particular case the bank is informing the church that it does not intend to begin foreclosure proceedings and is willing to work out a plan with the church to help them stay in the building.
If your church has suffered financially during this pandemic, here is some advice we are giving our churches who call and ask for help.
Be honest with everyone concerning your situation.
Make sure you let your church membership know that you are having a problem paying the church bills. There may be some members who are capable of stepping up to help, certainly everyone can pray and ask God to intervene and provide the resources to keep the church doors open. Also, be honest with your bank if you cannot make the monthly payment. Make sure you call the bank. Don’t wait for them to call you and don’t avoid talking to the bank. They do not want to take your property. They would rather maintain a good relationship and work out a solution over time than to have to begin the foreclosure process.
Make sure you provide a mobile app to help people give more easily.
One particular church that we helped finance just successfully refinanced their loan to a lower interest rate. Even though they were closed for several weeks during the early stages of the pandemic, and even though their current attendance is less than 70% of what it was last year, their income has actually increased slightly. They cited two reasons this happened: Their people understand church expenses are ongoing and most of their folks have converted their giving to a mobile app. Although the church is far from the norm, it does show their church members will continue to give if given the opportunity.
Have lunch with some of your major donors.
It is a known fact that 30% of your folks will give 70% of your offerings, so it makes sense that during difficult times you let these folks know that their help is needed more than ever. Some may be able to give generously a one-time gift that can help the church during these difficult times.
Preach stewardship at least quarterly.
Topics of stewardship and generosity are vital discipleship topics. Let’s face the facts, attendance patterns are changing and not everyone is there every Sunday. A pastor who only preaches once or twice a year on stewardship may miss a significant number of his members, so preach it more often and hopefully more people will hear.
Don’t forget the vision.
Most successful churches have a vision of what God wants them to be and plans to accomplish that vision. God is not surprised by any of this. The struggle that this pandemic has caused simply provides us as Christians the opportunity to be strengthened by God and continue accomplishing the vision that God has set before us. Our God is able, even during the most difficult of times, to help us accomplish His will. Most of your church members support the vision of the church and understand that they have a responsibility to give to accomplish that vision.
Implement offering talks.
In most churches when it comes time for the offering, we just do it. Studies show that taking a few minutes to remind folks of what the offering is and what it accomplishes actually helps to increase the per capital giving. So, take a few minutes and have someone encourage folks to give and remind them of how important it is.
Do a capital fundraising campaign.
Most people agree that during normal times, end of the year capital campaigns are not a good idea, but here are two examples where capital campaigns accomplished their intended goal.
- Last winter we were contacted by a church in Boston who was wanting to refinance out of a hard money loan in the spring. In order to accomplish that goal, they needed to raise money to pay off some debts and increase giving by years end. The campaign ran through Thanksgiving and ended just before Christmas and accomplished the goal. In March the church was able to finance with a bank loan and lowered their interest rate from 13.5% to 4.5%.
- We just recently saw a church in North Carolina run a capital campaign even though they are meeting outside. Their folks responded generously and the church was able to accomplish their goals.
Pastors, don’t give up, God is still in control and can make great things happen!