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For a Time Such as This: Your Parish and the COVID-19 Crisis Week 4 – Fiscal Leadership

April 11, 2020

This post is the fourth in a series of resources dedicated to providing a potential road-map through the current COVID-19 crisis for your parish.  We’ll be sharing with you what we’re doing, what’s working, and what isn’t. But honestly, we’re making it up as we go along, just like you.  As always, our only credential is that, like you, we’re in the trenches figuring it out in real-time.

  • For Week 1 “Priorities” – click here
  • For Week 2 “Digital Communication” – click here
  • For Week 3 “Small Groups” – click here

The current COVID-19 crisis is proving to be a true ‘I’ve never been through this before’ moment for church leaders.  For many I’ve heard from, this crisis has actually manifested itself as two smaller crises: loss of relevance and loss of income. 

The first crisis is the loss of the literal and proverbial pulpit that comes with being a pastor, religious educator, or youth minister.  The audience which we relied on for validation of our ministry has disappeared overnight.  These are real problems that require solutions including digital services and online community, which I have discussed in previous blog posts (link).

The second crisis is money.  With the collection baskets sitting idle, most parishes have been left with dwindling revenue streams.  For pastors with lay staff members, the stress of avoiding furloughs and layoffs is especially acute.  The problem is compounded by the fact that many church leaders, myself included, received little to no formal education in finances or development, so we come at the crisis ill equipped.

Here are a few ideas on how to approach raising money during this time:

1) Cast a Vision

It’s tempting to look at your shrinking bottom line and resort to the tired old approach of nagging.   But people don’t give to neediness, they give to vision.  Spend less time asking for money this Easter season and more time instilling a vision for your parish.  Make sure people know your mission and the impact their giving can have on their community. 

If you are a pastor and you’re live streaming or broadcasting, your homilies during this time are more important than ever.  Use any free-time you might have to prepare for your weekend messages. 

In your on line Mass, some request for giving is prudent.  But make sure that it is during the proper time – the offertory portion of Mass or before Mass– and presented only once.

2) Cut Expenses for Physical Buildings/ Invest in Online

By now, you probably know where your parish stands financially.  There are likely many places to save on expenses while your building is closed such as HVAC, electrical, and cleaning services.

But don’t forget that this is also a time for investment.   While your building is closed, all of your ministry has shifted online – and your budget should reflect that.  Invest in online streaming technology, software for staff communication, and social media graphics packages.  

3) Ask a Select Few for a Few Select Projects

Rather than doing blanket appeals for funds, it might be more effective to design specific appeals for a select few of your top givers.  Leverage your knowledge of the interests of your top givers to design appeals just for them.  For example, someone might be very excited to help your church purchase video equipment for your transition to online services or to help cover the cost of online streaming providers.  If you can instill a vision for where your parish is going during this time of uncertainty, people will see the impact and want to invest in the future of the church.

Make it your goal to stay financially healthy through the crisis and you will emerge stronger on the other side of it.

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