Navigating the Economic Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Navigating the Economic Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic
May 21, 2020 ARC Churches

10 Steps to Survive the Dip of a Financial Crisis

The landscape of ministry for churches has shifted dramatically and suddenly due to the recent COVID-19 Pandemic. How churches care for their members and how members donate to their places of worship will have to change as well. It is possible to navigate these transitions successfully. Here are some practical steps pastors can take to lead their church through this financial dip.*

  1. Prioritize essential and non-essential ministry operations.
    1. Trying to do everything you have always done when times are lean will keep you from doing the most important things at all.
    2. Begin cutting back on your non-essential ministry operations now before you have to also begin minimizing your core ministry functions as well.
  2. Create a contingency plan before the decisions have to be made.
    1. If you have not already, then now is the time to look at your budget and prioritize. Things may be able to stay the same, but if not, then it is good to know in advance of what needs to change. This will allow you to not be pressured by the urgency of the moment to make a decision. It will also prepare you to communicate changes in the best way.
    2. For example, Jason Laird of Sozo Church has planned ahead by making three potential budgets based on things changing by 10% 25% and 50%.
  3. Practice what you preach.
    1. It is important to keep your focus on others. It can become easy to focus on your own needs, but we must practice what we preach. Find a way to give to others who are hurting.
    2. “Instead of spreading your financials over many charities, focus on one or two. Check in on your members and see who has a need the church can meet.” Dino Rizzo (Executive Director, ARC)
  4. Communicate in tiers.
    1. This is a good plan for any changes in general that need to be shared, not just financial ones. The more committed and involved someone is, the more details they get and the sooner they get them. You may roll information out over the course of a weekend, but even communicating to your core the day before or before a meeting will help them feel valued. It will also prepare you to answer questions from those most invested in your church’s vision.
    2. For example, have a meeting with your core team, then communicate to staff, and then volunteers, and then your church members as a whole. 
  5. Reach out to lenders.
    1. If you are going to have an issue making a payment do not be afraid to reach out to lenders in advance. “A lender would prefer to hear from you instead of being in the dark and wondering what is happening. Lenders are willing to work with you, but they need to know about your situation in order to do that.” Craig Dunn (Chief Executive Officer, Wesleyan Investment Foundation)
    2. Before you ask someone to make an adjustment on their end you need to be able to communicate what cuts you have made. How have you made changes so that you can best honor your commitment to them even in a tough situation?
  6. Adjust your lease.
    1. Many portable churches are finding themselves without a place to meet but may still be obligated to a lease. Reach out to make an adjustment if this is the                                                        need to thrive when giving is lower than normal.
    2. Derek Neece, Director of Operations and Finance at ARC, gives the following strategies to adjust your lease: ask for a pause of payment while you are not able to use the space, reduced payment during the effects of the pandemic, or adding time on the back end of the lease if an adjustment is made now.
  7. Give people the opportunity to say yes.
    1. Do not assume that people know your needs or how best to meet them. Now that many are not able to gather in person it has become important for people to know how to give online and about recurring giving.
    2. Send an email or letter explaining the process of giving online. You will want to share what you would like them to do, the why behind, and how to do it simply. 
  8. Start at the top.
    1. Pastor Jim Wilkes of Journey Church suggests that if payroll adjustments have to be made, then we should be willing to start at the top. Consider reducing higher salaries before completing cutting lower salaries. This will make sure that those who are most dependent on their next paycheck to provide food, clothing, and shelter to their family are least impacted. 
  9. Tell the story of what their giving is doing.
    1. Use social media and email to let your church know what difference is being made during this time with their giving. 
    2. “You have to tell people what they are doing, and really what their giving is doing.” Dino Rizzo (Executive Director, ARC)
  10. Operate with margin.
    1. This is something that has to already be in place to benefit you now. Our current economic reality shows us why it is important to always put some seed in the barn. 
    2. It is ok if you are not already operating with margin. This difficult time can be a reminder of the importance of implementing this financial principle moving forward. 


“We need to remain hopeful and remember God is in control and can meet the needs of the church in any situation.” Greg Brooks (VP of Business Development, Wesleyan Investment Foundation)

Circumstances like what this pandemic has presented us with remind us of the significance of prayer. Our security is not rooted in a bank statement, but in the hope we have in Jesus. Instead of knee-jerk reactions to surprising news or changing finances, we should continue to be anchored in the leading of the Holy Spirit. This has not taken God by surprise, and he will lead us through it.

*This information was compiled from two ARC Webinars: “Navigating Financial Crisis” with Jason Laird, Jim Wilkes, and Derek Neece; and “Finance Conversation with W.I.F.” with Dino Rizzo, Derek Neece, Greg Brooks, and Craig Dunn. To view those webinars in their entirety, visit