While the pandemic brought about high amounts of uncertainty for individuals and organizations, churches and nonprofits still found reasons to remain optimistic. Researcher, writer, and co-author of Next, Pastoral Succession That Works, Warren Bird, conducted a study that started at the end of 2019 and continued through various parts of the pandemic in which he asked churches and nonprofits how they were feeling about their financial situation. The overwhelming majority of answers reported they were optimistic, even amidst the economic downturn due to the pandemic. I sat down with Warren Bird to discuss these findings and share the reasons churches are feeling optimistic as we look to the future.
Optimism Outweighs Uncertainty
As 2019 was ending, various churches and nonprofits were asked if they felt optimistic, pessimistic, or uncertain about the future regarding their financial position. Most churches and nonprofits reported they were optimistic about the future at that time. When 2020 began and the world was faced with the Coronavirus pandemic, churches were asked once again how they felt. While it was expected that churches and nonprofits would be worried given the overwhelming uncertainty of the future, they surprisingly once again reported that they were optimistic.
The study went on to ask churches and nonprofits how long they believed the pandemic would have a negative impact on their finances. The majority of organizations reported that they believed the financial impact would only last 12 months. Of those organizations, ⅓ reported that they were no longer feeling the negative financial impact at all. Almost all organizations were able to make the necessary financial cutbacks that put them in these optimistic situations without having to cut any staffing expenses.
3 Reasons For Optimism
In a time of such uncertainty, we would expect Christian organizations to experience fear surrounding their financial health. However, the responses we received were more geared towards optimism.
- Giving has not decreased. Many churches and nonprofits were concerned that giving would decrease after the initial gifts at the beginning of the pandemic. Thankfully, however, this was not the case. Donors have been fortunate enough to continue giving throughout the pandemic. In fact, 93% of people who reported giving large donations said they plan to continue giving as long as they are able. Furthermore, several churches have not had to worry about a decrease in giving during the “summer slump” months by implementing online giving systems.
- The church has consistently done well, even during times of trouble. Throughout history, churches and religious nonprofits frequently see donations continue when times of financial hardship arise. While giving to the arts and other organizations often fluctuates, this is not always true for religious organizations. This historical pattern of faithful giving helped Christian organizations feel hopeful that God would provide as he has in previous times of struggle.
- The local church is more important now than ever before. As people have had to remain socially distanced, they are remembering the importance and impact of in-person worship and the value of gathering together. Community has become more important than ever to churchgoers during COVID-19. While technology allows us to stream any worship experience in the world, people want to see and be a part of a ministry that is relatable and speaks to their specific context.
This deep desire for community allows churches to be confident that their congregations will return and with a new fire and excitement for the church’s mission. Pastors are also feeling passionate about serving their immediate community. This shift allows the church to refocus on living life together and building relationships that serve the Kingdom. There has been an enormous influx of creativity and unity as churches made the abrupt switch from in-person to online that is another reminder of God’s ability to bring good from any situation.
Outlook For The Future
Although we don’t know when the pandemic will end, and we know we will be living with some of the impacts of COVID forever, there are significant reasons churches and nonprofits should continue to be optimistic about the future. Even as organizations face changes and transitions from making new hires, to rearranging services, to gathering in-person once again, there’s hope in knowing that the local church will return stronger than before. There are many things ahead for churches to look forward to and we are excited to be able to share the many reasons to be optimistic with you as we continue to trust God’s plans for the future.
If you’re looking to hire new staff to meet the needs of these shifts, we would love to walk alongside you through the process. Reach out to us to find out how we can serve you.