LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Even with 40% of Kentuckians filing for unemployment, the financial health of Kentucky Baptist churches appears to remain on solid ground.
Churches from east to west are reporting good numbers when it comes to church finances since the coronavirus started, according to reports from throughout the state.
“I have talked with church leaders, pastors, and associational mission strategists (directors of mission) across the western region, as well as several that are friends from outside my region,” said Larry Purcell, the West Region consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “I consistently hear that financially they are doing better than expected. Antidotally, because I have not taken a poll, I am hearing most are around 80% of their budgets.”
Don Spencer, the financial consultant for the KBC, said pastors have told them that finances are holding up “better than expected two months ago.”
“Generally, they have indicated there has been some drop in giving, but not nearly as severe as anticipated,” he said.
Spencer said many have reported rough estimates of giving equal to 80 to 90% of their normal amounts.
“A few have even indicated their giving was actually up as some of their people have increased their giving to help the church through this period.”
The church’s use of online services and online giving has made a difference in how they have survived since the middle of March when the coronavirus paralyzed everything.
“The churches who used tech are seeking to improve with better equipment and others with no previous use of tech are stating they will continue its use,” Purcell said. “They have all expressed excitement in how many are viewing the services. This has allowed them to reach more and see more coming to salvation.”
Churches have been creative in using social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube and their own website portals. Some have also had drive-in services that have been successful as they try to bridge the gap between being unable to have services and returning to in-person services in the coming weeks.
Some have already started going back in a limited capacity with several dozen coming back on Sunday.
But the hurdles remain because services will be anything but normal even in the weeks and months ahead. Most will continue online services and some with improved equipment to deliver a better product.
“The quality of services is wide-ranging,” Spencer said. “I sampled several churches on a recent Sunday morning. Some really do it well and it’s obvious they have thought through making the online service better. Some have just done their regular thing and set up a camera.”
Some, he said, have gone low-tech with only a smartphone broadcasting on Facebook. “Even though they may not have had the technical resources, at least they were doing something to provide the message for their folks,” he said.
Purcell said some churches have delayed replacing staff and some of the hourly support staff may face reduced hours in the days ahead.
“Those that I talk with say they have reduced budgets to better secure salary for the ministry staff,” he said. “The limited use of the facilities is hopefully a budget-saver. I have not had anyone say to me they are reducing CP (Cooperative Program).”
The custodial staffs have been hit hard because the church facilities aren’t being used as normal.
Spencer said one pastor said three staff members were let go, but he was quick to say that staff costs for the church was already out of line even for good times. “The current situation has incentivized them to go ahead and address that issue.”
A few churches requested the (government) Paycheck Protection Program (loan) with the losses in salary and staff.
It hasn’t been easy for anyone and churches with daycares have had a most difficult time, Spencer said. “With no income there, they have had to furlough those workers. Putting a freeze on new hiring is often mentioned as well – this even applies to calling a new pastor.”
Spencer said he has been helping one church determine a compensation package where they have called a pastor who started recently.
Pastor David Wilson of Annville Baptist Church said giving has been incredibly strong through the pandemic.
“I praise the Lord that our church has been financially stable during this time of pandemic, and we are financially at a similar place as we were when we stopped in-person gatherings two months ago,” he said. “I have been very proud of our members because they have continued to faithfully give. Several members have even given above and beyond their regular giving to support benevolent needs and mission offerings, including support for a NAMB church planter we have partnered with.”
Wilson said their primary mode of giving was passing the offering plates on Sunday mornings, but other methods obviously had to be used. Along with mailing in envelopes and dropping off gifts in person, the church worked with Generosity by Lifeway to help with online giving on the church website, the pastor said.
“Our church is scheduled to resume in-person worship services on May 31,” he said. “There is an excitement about meeting together once again, but I also know there will be a certain level of disappointment for members until we return to a more ‘normal’ way of worship and ministry,” Wilson said. “On a similar note, I think it has been and will continue to be, difficult for people to discern how to show love to one another and faithfully share the gospel in a social distancing world.”