I will never take fresh air for granted again. It was glorious last Friday to be able to take a walk after ten long days and to take deep breaths from our smoke-free western Oregon skies.
Of course – given that it’s 2020 – all the air went right out of my lungs when I heard that afternoon’s news that RBG, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had passed away. It’s hard to overstate the impact of Justice Ginsburg. Remember in 1974 (that’s not ancient history), women couldn’t get a credit card, bank account, or a mortgage without a male co-signer. In 1979, jury duty was considered “optional” for women. And as late as 1996, state-funded schools could bar women from certain educational institutions because of their sex. Because of the tenacity of RBG, we now have all these things available to us. Consider me grateful. Trevor Noah did a lovely visual remembrance of her; see it here. RIP, RBG. “May her memory be for a blessing.”
I am also thankful to the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving for its recently released COVID-19 Congregational Study. Lake Institute surveyed 555 congregations in July about the impact the pandemic was having on their congregations – particularly as it related to giving. Here are the highlights:
- Total congregational financial giving declined 4.4% between February through June of 2020, compared to the same time period in 2019.
- 41% of congregations reported a decline in giving; 28% said giving increased.
- 52% of congregations reported an increase in participation (but oddly, 41% said giving decreased).
- 14% reported making cuts, layoffs, or furloughs to staff – which is surprising that they weren’t higher given our current realities.
- More than any other group, small congregations (50 or fewer in worship) along with Catholic parishes reported a decline in giving and in participation.
- None of the surveyed congregations planned to increase their 2021 budgets. 48% anticipate reducing their budgets by 5% to 10%.
Read the full study here.
What can you glean from it? I know I sound like Muzak on an endless loop but it bears repeating:
- Make giving easy (it’s time to get electronic giving)
- Tell people how to give (be clear – don’t obfuscate)
- Let people know what their gifts are doing to make the world better (when no one is meeting face-to-face, this can seem like a mystery)
- Thank people (I know you didn’t need to be reminded)
- Encourage them that with God at the center of all things, “God is the owner, I am the ower.”
You are the leaders who can impact change – whether it’s around stewardship or in society. Inform yourself with this Study and then make a plan for the future using it as a reference. And while you’re at it, let Justice Ginsburg give you a little pep talk:
"Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."
You’re not alone. You can do this. We’re in this together.