As Christians are uneasily adjusting to worshiping online, in virtual spaces, in drive-in services, and in other creative ways, some leaders are having to retool to become adept at ministering without a congregation present. Mishaps in learning about Facebook filters and open flames have shown the foibles of being live.
While some of these stories are humorous, the financial impact is worrisome, especially for smaller churches in the United States and other countries. These congregations are facing lower receipts and the ripple effects they have upon staff, ministry, and mission support.
Church-state separation issues have concerned some congregations with whether to apply for loans available through the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) and to, in effect, receive government funding.
In the United States, a relief fund set up by the Churches Helping Churches Initiative is offering $3,000 grants to churches at risk of closing in the next three months due to a decrease in financial giving. The initiative is led by the AND campaign, with support from other organizations like the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and the Pinetops Foundation.
The “no strings attached” grants are targeted to smaller congregations in low-income communities and in urban areas that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 economic shutdown.
While noting that the government has helped to provide assistance for nonprofits, Justin Giboney, president of the AND Campaign, stressed to Religion News Service that other churches should be first in line to provide assistance.
Globally, Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Elijah Brown released a statement Tuesday (April 7) and video message to announce a different grant program for Baptists around the world.
“Anxiety, fear, hunger, and grief are gripping communities,” noted Brown. “How can you and I respond in this time of need as people of faith?”
BWA has launched a “Standing Together” Global Response Plan, a four pronged effort of prayer, giving, learning, and serving. The organization recently concluded a global prayer marathon, involving more than 600 people from 44 countries.
As part of the plan, BWA is offering a quarter-million dollar total in emergency grants to the 240 BWA Baptist conventions and unions in 125 countries and territories. Brown asked Baptists to join in raising a matching fund of $250,000 to the BWA emergency grant.
“These are truly difficult times financially.” Brown shared as he challenged Baptists. “Imagine if all 47 million Baptists gave – and you gave with them. A little will become much through the miracle-working hand of our God.”