FROM THE STATES: Finances OK at many Kentucky churches; Missouri associations provide financial help

Many Kentucky churches report 'better than expected' finances

By Mark Maynard/Kentucky Today

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Even with 40 percent of Kentuckians filing for unemployment, the financial outlook for Kentucky Baptist churches appears to be positive, according to reports from throughout the state.

"I have talked with church leaders, pastors, and associational mission strategists (directors of missions) across the western region, as well as several that are friends from outside my region," said Larry Purcell, the West Region consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC). "I consistently hear that financially they are doing better than expected. Anecdotally, because I have not taken a poll, I am hearing most are around 80 percent of their budgets."

Don Spencer, a financial consultant for the KBC, said pastors have told them him finances are holding up "better than expected two months ago" when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"Generally, they have indicated there has been some drop in giving, but not nearly as severe as anticipated," he said.

Spencer said many have reported rough estimates that giving has equaled 80-90 percent of normal amounts.

"A few have even indicated their giving was actually up as some of their people have increased their giving to help the church through this period," he said.

Both online giving and high-quality online worship services have made a difference.

"The churches who used tech are seeking to improve with better equipment and others with no previous use of tech are stating they will continue its use," Purcell said. "They have all expressed excitement in how many are viewing the services. This has allowed them to reach more and see more coming to salvation."

Churches have been creative in using social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube and their own website portals. Some have seen success with drive-in services.

"The quality of services is wide-ranging," Spencer said. "I sampled several churches on a recent Sunday morning. Some really do it well and it's obvious they have thought through making the online service better. Some have just done their regular thing and set up a camera."

Some are low-tech with only a smartphone broadcasting on Facebook.

"Even though they may not have had the technical resources, at least they were doing something to provide the message for their folks," Spencer said.

Purcell said some churches have delayed filling staff positions, and some hourly support staff may face reduced hours in the days ahead.

"Those that I talk with say they have reduced budgets to better secure salary for the ministry staff," he said. "The limited use of the facilities is hopefully a budget-saver. I have not had anyone say to me they are reducing CP (Cooperative Program)."

Custodial staffs have been hit hard because church facilities aren't being used as normal. A few churches applied for the government's Paycheck Protection Program.

Churches with daycares may have had the most difficult time, Spencer said.

"With no income there, they have had to furlough those workers. Putting a freeze on new hiring is often mentioned as well -- this even applies to calling a new pastor," he said.

Pastor David Wilson of Annville Baptist Church said giving has been strong through the pandemic.

"I praise the Lord that our church has been financially stable during this time of pandemic, and we are financially at a similar place as we were when we stopped in-person gatherings two months ago," he said. "I have been very proud of our members because they have continued to faithfully give. Several members have even given above and beyond their regular giving to support benevolent needs and mission offerings, including support for a NAMB church planter we have partnered with."

Wilson said their primary mode of giving was passing the offering plates on Sunday mornings, but other methods obviously had to be used. Along with mailing in envelopes and dropping off gifts in person, the church worked with Generosity by Lifeway to help with online giving on the church website, the pastor said.

"Our church is scheduled to resume in-person worship services on May 31," he said. "There is an excitement about meeting together once again, but I also know there will be a certain level of disappointment for members until we return to a more 'normal' way of worship and ministry. On a similar note, I think it has been and will continue to be difficult for people to discern how to show love to one another and faithfully share the Gospel in a social-distancing world."

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Missouri associations provide financial help amid COVID-19

By Richard Nations

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) -- The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) allocated $120,000 in early March to be distributed to Baptist associations to help with benevolence and other ministry needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Associations received varying amounts based on size. Funds were put to work quickly.

Directors of missions have been able to assist in a variety of creative ways, from families struggling with decreased employment to churches needing technical equipment for online worship services. Some of the money went to pastors who had unexpected financial emergencies.

The Crossroads Association in Moberly, Mo., received the funding and made it available immediately to their churches upon request. Director of Missions Mark Carter said he knew of a church that was struggling financially as Missouri's stay-at-home order took effect.

"The churches who have received some of the funds were very appreciative of the effort of the MBC," Carter said. "The monies for the families really helped them as they purchased groceries."

Mineral Area Association in Park Hills, Mo., received $2,000 from the MBC. One pastor received funds to put toward a food ministry. Some churches received funds to help staff members. Director of Missions Bob Curtis said the association was also able to send some money to a local prison ministry and to students staying in dormitories at Mineral Area Community College. The association also sent gift baskets of fruit to staff in hospitals in nearby Farmington and Bonne Terre.

Alan Earls, director of missions for the Concord Association in Jefferson City, Mo., said the funds his association received went five directions: 1) food for international students staying at Lincoln University; 2) to a church providing lunches and support to emergency medical staff and health care workers; 3) for a church to purchase a wifi extender to provide for people needing internet access while completing schoolwork or working from home; 4) for a church to set up a "blessing box" in its community to provide free food; and 5) for a church to purchase an FM radio transmitter for drive-in worship services.

Phillip Shuford, director of missions for Tri-County Association in Nixa, Mo., sent a letter and a check to each of the association's churches, saying: "I've been praying for you personally and for your church. We know that the God we serve is 'behind the steering wheel' in all of this. I love the words of that old Moravian hymn, 'Our lamb has conquered -- let us follow Him!'" The association supplemented the MBC money with its own funds to provide $250 to each church.

Pastor Bob Smith of First Baptist Church of Queen City, Mo., received a few checks from Thousand Hills Baptist Association in Kirksville, Mo., so the church could provide financial help to people struggling with reduced income or unemployment.

"Although our church is rather small, we try to take care of those in our community that are suffering during this pandemic," Smith said. "With the help of our association, we have been able to touch the lives of several families that were adversely affected. ... Intercessory prayer has proven to be the best gift so far. Many across the country are looking for answers, and God's Word has those answers."

Bob Curtis said the gifts "show the cooperative nature between the convention, the associations and the churches."

The MBC funds were provided from the Missouri Mission Offering and from MBC world hunger relief funds.

Mark Maynard is managing editor of Kentucky Today (kentuckytoday.com), the news website of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Richard Nations writes for the Missouri Baptist Convention's newsjournal The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com).
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