In the age of COVID-19, individuals and businesses are struggling financially. Families are having trouble making ends meet and small businesses are being forced to close their doors. Many churches are having a hard time as well. In some areas, church members are not allowed to meet in person and must only have online services. In areas where in-person attendance is allowed, many people are still choosing to stay home, rather than subject themselves to large groups.
It’s not just church attendance that has been impacted; charitable giving to churches is also down. In a nationwide poll by State of the Plate in April 2020, 65% of churches reported that congregational giving was down. While that percentage improved to 36% by August 2020 as more churches established online giving options and others went back to in-person gatherings, substantial damage was done to the balance sheets of many American churches. They are being forced to make serious budget cuts and some tough decisions, including laying off staff and eliminating programs that benefit their communities.
But what happens to churches that have experienced reduced levels of giving, and are then subjected to another type of crisis on top of it, such as the death or unexpected resignation of a lead pastor? Where can they turn for help?
VitalChurch Ministry is a nonprofit organization that has been helping struggling churches for many years. They provide interim pastors to churches that find themselves in a season of transition or crisis, without a lead pastor. They help churches heal and find a new or renewed sense of purpose. They also help churches prepare themselves for their next permanent pastor.
In the past, if a church came to VitalChurch with a great need for their services, but was unable to pay the fees charged by VitalChurch, VitalChurch would sometimes agree to reduce their fees. However, with many churches now struggling financially due to COVID-19, VitalChurch is anticipating that even more churches will need help affording their services. In response, VitalChurch has established a Compassion Grant Fund.
According to the VitalChurch Ministry website, this fund is designed to help “…bridge the gap between what it costs [their] organization to send [their interim] pastors to churches and what the churches can afford to pay.” By establishing this fund, they are making their interim pastor services more accessible to churches in need. Their website also explains, “We do our best to keep our fees as low as possible for everyone, but some churches are just not able to afford what we charge without the help of a Compassion Grant.”
VitalChurch Ministry is currently undergoing a fundraising campaign to increase the amount of money in their Compassion Grant Fund, and therefore increase the number of struggling churches they are able to assist in the next year. Their fundraising page states, “As an organization made up of pastors and others with a heart for struggling churches, we never want to turn away any church that needs our help because they can’t afford our services.”