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Churches feel economic pinch
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Church services throughout Warren County have been canceled due to coronavirus concerns. Without church members in the pews, it’s made it more of a struggle to fill collection plates. - photo by Jennifer Woods

Paying electricity, maintenance, salaries and more doesn’t stop for churches because they aren’t open to their congregations at the moment. 

How much is the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses and orders to stay home going to hurt churches financially?

Central Church of Christ preacher Ben Bailey says, “These are definitely unprecedented times when both Gov. Lee and President Trump are urging everyone to stay at home if all possible. I hope people realize this virus isn’t powerful enough to stop the work and function of God’s church. As to the effects on our contribution, I feel like it may hurt the church a little, but most members love the church and believe in what it’s doing and are going to send in their contributions.”

Some local churches have pages on their website where members can make a monetary contribution with a click of a button. A few churches will allow members to be buzzed into the church lobby or entryway where there are tithing boxes or a place to drop off their church donation. 

Senior pastor Dr. John Purdue at First United Methodist Church said, “Most churches, ours included, are deeply integrated into the economic life of their community and enjoy the benefits of a strong economy and suffer when the economy suffers. So, to a certain extent, giving moves up and down with the economy. But the greater issue remains doing our best for God, our community, and our congregants.”

Dr. Purdue added, “Our concern at First United Methodist is being faithful and doing our best for God, our community, and our congregants. At First United Methodist, we have moved to limit discretionary spending in order to increase our missions, outreach and pastoral care funds. We expect these to be the areas impacted by increased needs in our community. We are fortunate to have a strong core of volunteers within our congregation and they are working to position our resources strategically once critical needs appear.”

Churches around the country are feeling the sting. In Baltimore, Friendship Baptist Church preacher Alvin Gwynn Sr. said weekly donations have dropped from about $15,000 to around $5,000.

In New York City, an area battered by coronavirus, preacher Paul Egensteiner of the Lutheran Church predicted many of the 190 churches in his region are unlikely to survive due to a two-pronged financial hit: 1) regular contributions are dwindling without regular services, and 2) church preschools have been forced to close, a service which provides vital income.

When asked if the current situation will impact mission work here in Warren County, Dr. Purdue said, “Money follows mission, not the other way around. The real issue is faithfulness to God and being led to do His will.” 

Bailey added, “The people and/or congregations that are supporting mission work I feel like will still continue to do this because their love for lost souls is greater than the temporary effect this virus may have caused. The part about this that is the most saddening is many people find themselves in a catch-22 situation. The government and every citizen is deeply concerned with blunting the force of this virus. As a result, some businesses have slowed down or stopped altogether and that has hurt people’s jobs. While this may affect the church some, we feel that in times like these Christians should band together in love and help each other through the difficulties. We are praying for a speedy end to this situation, and just maybe times like these will cause people to look back to God and the things that are most important in their lives.”

With church services currently canceled, check your church’s website or call to find out the procedure to give at your church.