The coronavirus pandemic has left many churches unable to hold services on-site and drove them with no choice but to convert Bible into services remotely held or to hold no services at all. This has strained churches with low budgets to operate their church. This is true, especially for nonprofit organizations; many churches rely on the donations of their members (often collected during services) to finance their existence.
According to lifeWay research, 40% of Protestant pastors said they have applied for the government aid offered through the CARES Act or the Small Business Administration, and 56% said they have not.
"There are a variety of motives churches have had for applying or not applying for government assistance," said McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. "As the window of opportunity closes, the majority have chosen not to apply."
The smaller the church, the less likely they were to have applied for aid. Half of the pastors at churches that average 200 in attendance or more (50%) said their church applied for aid, with 36% of all large church pastors saying they've already been approved.
Among churches with 100 to 199 in attendance, 44% applied. Among pastors of churches with 50 to 99 attendees, 36% said they submitted an application. A third (33%) of churches with fewer than 50 in attendance applied.
A very high percentage of pastors applying for government aid is inevitable from the impact of COVID-19. Not only did church were not able to gather enough offerings because of having to hold services remotely, but also the financial situations of the people of the church had impacted the amount of offering they could gain.
The statistical data from the lifeWay research report that three in 4 pastors (75%) said someone within their church has had their income impacted by reduced hours at work. Around 2 in 5 (42%) said one of their church attendees has lost their job. And 5% of pastors said they have someone at their church who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The non-traditional method of holding services online also had an influence on the church financially. The previous research discovered that 99% of churches gathered physically at the beginning of March, but that dropped to 7% by March 29. This means that majority of churches had to shift their services online. While there are churches with the capacity to switch to online services successfully, a large portion of the churches were not ready. Research data presents that more than a third (35%) said their church does not currently have the ability to give online service.
Furthermore, this may be due in part to many churches' hesitancy to adopt to the online shift of giving. A 2017 LifeWay Research survey found 30% of churches used a website to facilitate online giving, while more than half of Americans said they paid bills online.
"Churchgoers can still mail in a check," said McConnell, "but this crisis has driven churches to technology. Many are now adding online giving capabilities when they've been reluctant to do so in the past."
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic also has given people the opportunity to support each other. From the data, most said they've seen church attendees help each other with tangible needs (87%) or meet coronavirus-related needs within the community (59%). More than half (55%) said an attendee at their church has been able to share the gospel through this time, with 4% seeing someone make a commitment to follow Christ. Many (44%) said an attendee had counseled someone crippled with fear.