Ideas for Church Financial Leaders Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

Ideas for Church Financial Leaders Amid the COVID-19 Crisis


Ross Williams

3/21/2020

Dear Treasurers, Finance Chairs and Pastors,

Please see some tips below to help sustain the church and its ministries in the face of interruptions caused by the COVID-19 virus.  Some of this content is from Ken Sloane of Discipleship Ministries.  During this time of great uncertainty and hardship, we walk along side you, exploring ways that the Conference can assist in any and all ways possible.   

Sincerly,  Ross

1. Electronic Giving

If you have not already set the church up for people to give electronically, now is the time.  Start comparing providers, talk to other churches about their experiences, and read reviews online.  

PayPal, just one example, offers charitable organizations an online donation service with a fee of 2.2% and .30 per transaction. Some of your members may already have PayPal accounts. 

Another option is Vanco, a partner of the General Council of Finance & Administration:  See their website at: https://www.vancopayments.com/egiving/umc

One of our churches has set up on-line giving using Square.  You can view their page, which was set up fairly quickly at:  https://my-site-108699-101868.square.site/.  The creation and hosting is free but there is a per transaction fee (2.9% + $.30).  

For more options on giving platforms please see the article at the following link:  https://outreach.com/blog/best-church-online-giving-platforms/?fbclid=IwAR2uQIXdRs2b-F9xFMKXsWnxS-g1IAQ9W4OWiIWjvfN3hus36iWsORmFWew

2. Encourage members to look into "bill-pay".

Almost all major banks and many smaller ones offer a "Bill-Pay” option.  By logging on to the bank's website, parishioners can set up the church as a vendor and establish the frequency of recurring giving.  The bank will then generate checks and send them via U.S. mail.  Most banks don't charge for this service and they even cover the postage.

3. Give passing the plates a break and position baskets in convenient places (when in person worship service are again permitted).

Because of the outbreak, people need to be conscious of what they touch that has been touched by others; and in churches, that includes offering plates.  When in-person worship is again permitted you may want to consider placing boxes or baskets (or the offering plates themselves) in convenient places, so people can leave their offerings without handling an offering plate that others have handled.

4. Take precautions with offerings

Unfortunately, offering envelopes and cash provide an effective vehicle for transmitting the virus.  Even checks sent in the mail can potentially transmit it.   Those that handle funds should wear gloves and take other precautions as they do their work of counting and recording.  

5. Schedule giving reminders for Sunday delivery.

If you are already using email for the delivery of newsletters and other church communications, you might consider establishing a scheduled email to go out Saturday night or early Sunday morning to remind people that the need for their giving and support continues, even if the church has had to cancel gatherings and in-person worship services.

6. Be conscious of the income impact on members.

For some of your members, the virus will not affect their incomes.  Some will be offered the opportunity to work at home, which may actually be a savings in expense.  Many will not be in that situation and will see their income seriously affected by the social distancing that is in place to slow the spread of the virus.  Job losses, reduced hours, or overtime all carry potential hardships for people, many of whom were just getting by in the first place.  Make sure your church is conveying this sensitivity in all its communications.

7. Consider a Coronavirus assistance fund.

In a time of hardship, people look for a place to give.  Consider offering your congregation (or the community as a whole) an opportunity to provide designated giving to a Coronavirus Assistance Fund.  A scarcity mindset may tell you that people will divert money they would give to your church operating budget, but this is rarely the case.  Setting up such a fund will require a meeting of your finance committee to organize and set guidelines and your church council should approve it.  Both meetings could be done by phone or video conference.  You will be impressed with the generosity of people, and you will remind your members and community that you care and are ready to be in ministry no matter what comes your way!

8. Send messages of hope, encouragement, and impact.

It seems clear that church life is going to be affected by this crisis. As you communicate with your congregation, be a voice of hope and encouragement – we will get through this.  Knowing that one of the main reasons people give to any charitable organization is “belief in the mission,” try to celebrate in your communications that the church continues to make an impact.  Tell stories of people your congregation has helped, of lives that they have nurtured and shaped by their giving.