From a ban on large gatherings to virtual Easter Sunday services, COVID-19 has drastically changed how people worship, and how they give back to their churches.
“We’ve been blessed that people have continued to give to our church,” pastor Reginald Fletcher of Living Word Baptist Church said. “We’ve employed our electronic giving, and they’ve been sending offerings online.”
In addition to caring for congregants, pastors must also consider the long-term financial impact the pandemic will cause.
Fletcher said while the amount of offerings the church receives varies from week to week — just like before the pandemic — the money goes toward maintenance, the mortgage payment and salaries for church employees.
And while churches and other houses of worship aren’t considered “essential,” many are still working to support their communities. Living Word still conducts its food pantry, but now, it looks a little different.
“Instead of doing a regular food pantry, we do a drive-thru food pantry,” Fletcher said. “This past week, we were able to feed about 425 people. We put together food baskets and as people came, we distributed the food to their cars. We’ve been doing some prayer and work in the community as much as we can. Because of social distancing, they don’t really like for us to be out in the neighborhood, so we’re doing the food pantry and using social media to give words of encouragement every day.”
Pastor Keith McQueen, who leads Powerhouse Church of Deliverance, said his church has also changed the way it works in the community. Before the pandemic, Powerhouse served the community through a food pantry twice a week. Now, the church has a mobile service, where church staff delivers food to members’ houses by van.
McQueen said Powerhouse has seen an increase in offerings during the pandemic, which he said is unusual for many churches. However, he said donating money to churches isn’t the only thing church members can do to help their pastors and other members.
“Pastors are really struggling mentally, emotionally and financially,” he said. “No pastors today have had to pastor during a pandemic. We haven’t seen anything like this since 1918, and most of us weren’t pastoring back then,” he added with a laugh. “Be sensitive to your shepherd’s time, they’re pastoring an entire group of people and trying to create a blueprint to keep the church sound during this.”
While Fletcher remains optimistic about how his church will hold up during the pandemic, he is aware of the risks that lie ahead if it goes on for much longer.
“Just like everybody else, the financial toll will eventually catch up to us,” he said. “We’re working with what reserves we have now, and eventually that reserve will run out. We’re confident that people will continue to support us and we have a pretty good base in our membership. … They’re really a blessing.”
Despite the economic and social hardships the pandemic has caused, Fletcher sees this time as an opportunity to reconnect, and a chance to remember why he worships.
“The biggest thing is to not forget [churches] financially,” he said. “But also, stay connected with one another, encourage one another with prayer. … I believe this pandemic is giving us an out-of-the-box opportunity to think differently in terms of just not the way we worship, but why we worship. It’s not enough just to come together for the sake of coming together. Now, there’s a sense of appreciation and a sense of curiosity for those who have not had a relationship with God. They ask ‘Who is this God that you are serving in spite of what we’re going through?’ … There’s a lot of questions being raised, and it’s an opportunity to share our faith and be a vehicle to let people know you can see God in different ways.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.