Last week I shared this picture on our Facebook pages with the question “sunrise or sunset?” Both are a part of each day, one signifying the birth of possibility, the other the end of a chapter. As we face the uncharted territory that is ministry during the COVID-19 challenge, you may see this time of hardship as a “sunset” for the financial health of the church, but a little proactive planning can help you turn it around into a “sunrise” opportunity.
Many churches are facing real questions of paying bills, meeting payroll and serving the community. It can feel like an overwhelming challenge. But this is exactly the time to put a plan into place to cultivate a lasting generosity culture in the congregation you serve.
While we don’t know how long this crisis is going to last, we do know that it will end, and we will at some time in the future be able to get back to our sanctuaries to worship together and pick up with our mission and ministry. Your goal should be to stay connected with your church community in such a way that the vulnerable feel encouraged and those who feel moved to contribute are able to do so in meaningful ways.
Consider these actions:
- Connect with key donors
Your top givers are already committed to the financial health of the church. They understand the challenges in funding and are likely to be able to respond. But they need a personal ask.
- Call your top donors personally.
- Thank them for their faithfulness and generosity.
- Share your plans about maintaining the mission and ministry of your church during the crisis.
- Ask them if they have ideas about ways to connect with the congregation.
- Ask them if they are able to provide additional financial support. Perhaps they can donate a larger gift now instead of waiting until the end of the year, or maybe they would be willing to pay for a specific ministry that will struggle because of the church closure.
- Reach out to the middle givers.
These folks are faithful and may be wondering how they can help in the community with the additional down time they have on their hands. Calling on them to step up for the benefit of the church reminds them that the work of the church continues even when we are not in the building.
- Send an email blast asking how God is calling them to increase time, share talent, or consider a slight increase in giving.
- Thank them for their faithfulness and generosity
- Share the ways in which the church is continuing to BE the church (email devotions, FB page updates, remote Sunday School classes and small groups, prayer chains, online worship options etc)
- Maybe they can help with your worship activities.
- Maybe they can be part of a phone outreach (see 3 below) or a meals ministry for your community.
- Maybe they can fund outreach ministries that you are supporting during the crisis (meals for vulnerable school children etc.)
- Reach out to the members on the margins and the elderly. For many of these people, church has been the one constant in their lives, giving them purpose each week. They may be feeling completely adrift.
- Make sure they are not food insecure.
- Help them stay connected through phone chains and emails.
- Let them know they can reach out to the church family.
How is God asking you to lead your congregation? From an attitude of scarcity and fear or from an attitude of abundance and trust? In times of crisis, the people look to strong leaders to guide them through the storm. You have the perfect opportunity to project an aura of confidence and encourage your congregation into a season of generosity. The church was built for such a time as this, because we know that “everything is possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23)
I encourage you to lead on as the sun rises. Please look at the big picture. It’s not a sunset except from your perspective. It just may be a sunrise with a new day ahead to shine. Shine on superstar!