Inspiring Generosity


Pandemic Update: Are You 4 Out of 5 Who Will Survive?

       You're going to make it! I know you can!   Mike Brice @Pixabay

On Monday, I received an urgent text from my friend Kathy:

“‘Here and Now’ is doing a piece on church giving right now.”
You know you’re a Stewardship Geek when you get texts like this. I proudly accept the title.
I couldn’t get to the radio immediately and so a few minutes later she wrote, “The OPB piece was short and not very optimistic.” My reply, “But our church is different, right?!” Right?!
Last night I listened to the “Hear and Now” piece ominously titled, “1 In 5 Churches May Not Survive the Pandemic.”

Here’s the bad news: David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group which studies the intersection of faith and culture, made the depressing headline-grabber, “1 in 5 churches might close in the next 18 months.” When the pandemic hit, more than 70% of the pastors surveyed said that their congregations were likely to survive. That number has now dipped to 58%.
You know it. I know it. Because of coronavirus, the disruption in giving (from fewer tithes or loss of rental income) has had a negative impact on the bottom line.
Kinnaman finishes his piece by saying that once people are able to fully return to church, digital worship attendance and giving is here to stay. And, there will be a “change in the donation relationship. Churches will have to provide even greater demonstration of the value the church brings – not just to those who attend – but to those who are part of its community.”
The good news:
Four out of five churches will survive. But is that really all you want to do… merely survive?
Heck. No.
How can you make this a time to thrive?

1. Focus on relationships. Reach out via phone, note writing, emailing to people in your congregation. There’s nothing like the personal touch (COVID pun intended). Let your people know that you care and that you haven’t forgotten them.
2. Focus on gratitude. During worship, thank people for their gifts. During Zoom committee meetings, thank people. Ye olde, “Attitude of Gratitude” will make you feel better and it will raise the spirits of others as well. And while you’re thanking…
3. Focus on storytelling. People are starved for connection and stories do just that. What is happening in the life of the church? How is the church reaching out beyond its walls? The doors may be closed but the work continues. Tell people about that work in your enews, during worship, and during meetings.
4. Focus on asking. This is not a time to be shy. You need operating expenses to keep the church moving forward. Tell your story in a compelling way and ask people to support the important ministries that can only happen because they – your congregation – say “yes.”
5. Focus on making it easy to give. If you haven’t done it now, it’s time to invest in on-line giving. There will be no better time.
6. Focus on vision. Many of you have been overwhelmed by the breakneck speed of change that you’ve been experiencing. We are now well into week 24 of the pandemic. Where do you see your church going in the near future? As Kinnaman challenged, “How are you demonstrating the value the church brings – not just to those who attend – but to those who are part of its community?” The vision doesn’t die because of a virus. Keep thinking of and planning for the future.
Friends, this is a tough time. I don’t want to hear me sing in front of a computer any more than you do. But I still believe vital ministry – even during a pandemic – can be happening beyond the hour-long worship on Sunday mornings. It can be done. Focus on what’s important.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She thinks you might need a coronavirus joke that you can relate to: “After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, this week I discovered that wasn’t the reason.” She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.

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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.