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Is COVID-19 Causing a Church Crisis? Almost Two-Thirds of US Churches Report Drop in Giving

07-17-2020
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ABOVE: Brian Kluth, the national spokesperson for the NAE Financial Health and the Bless Your Pastor Movement, spoke with CBN News' Faith Nation about the financial challenges faced by congregations across the country. Faith Nation is seen weeknights on the CBN News Channel

America's churches could be facing a critical COVID-19 financial crisis.

The emergency government financial assistance keeping some churches afloat is about to run out in 4 out of every 10 churches across the country.

This news comes as two-thirds of churches nationwide have experienced a drop in giving.

Older Americans are among the most faithful in church attendance and in giving to their local congregations. But many seniors are reluctant to go back to church to be around others during the pandemic, and they're not always comfortable with online church services and digital giving, according to the Religion News Service

According to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), 80 percent of America's churches have fewer than 200 people, and tens of thousands of these smaller churches will be forced to reduce staff, hours, and compensation over the next few months.

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During an interview with CBN News' Faith Nation on Friday, Brian Kluth, national spokesperson for the NAE Financial Health and the Bless Your Pastor Movement, said it's going to be challenging for churches because many churches are still not back in session. 

"A lot of large churches across America will not get back live until 2021. In a lot of smaller churches, some people are uncomfortable, because they are older congregations. So these next several months are going to be very challenging for churches. And it's just going to be important for people to be faithful to their local church," Kluth explained. 

"Be a faithful giver. Go online if they have online services. If you're comfortable going to onsite service, do that. Reach out to the people around you," he suggested. "Your loved ones in that congregation. The people you care about. It's just a very important time for Christians to step up and really be the church even though we can't meet in a church.

Kluth said he recently spoke with the Congressional Budget Office about continued help for churches.

"There are things being discussed for late July legislation," he noted. "But they (CBO) said there were no guarantees and they don't know if there's going to be any more payroll assistance for churches. So there's nothing for sure on the horizon. So churches are really going to have to deal with what they have from the people that give to their church and also any reserves they may have."

Kluth told CBN News he thinks churches in the future will have to be prepared to present worship services both onsite and online. 

"It's not going to be one or the other, it's going to have to be both for the foreseeable future," he said. "And a lot of churches that really ramped up their online activities from Bible study groups to women's groups to men's groups even youth groups to presenting children's material all online.  And as churches get back in session, some are not going to be comfortable coming."

"Even digital giving, a lot of churches have enacted that in the last several months, so more and more churches are able to receive gifts online," Kluth continued. "And other people can mail in a check if they want to do that. But it's just going to be important to be faithful to your local congregation.

Kluth also noted that the local pastor is probably under more stress than he's ever been.

"Normally, pastors are stressed anyway," he explained. "They work 50 to 70 hours a week. Many of them are not paid very well.  So it's going to be more important than ever for pastors to be loved by their congregation, especially with October Pastor Appreciation Month coming up in just a few months. Churches really need to get ready to bless and care for their pastors."

The national spokesperson for the Bless Your Pastor Movement said their website had a lot of free information on how congregations can bless their pastors. 

"Every congregation that participates, we will send your pastor a $250 gift card," Kluth said. "We have grant money to do that. 

Go to BlessYourPastor.org for more information. 

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