By Chris Corum
Thirty days – thirty days is all it took to undo everything I thought I had learned in almost thirty years of church administration and finance experience. In the space of 7 days we went from having services and encouraging our people not to shake hands or hug to a fully virtual platform.
Eight years ago – I faced a cancer diagnosis and the more I prayed for healing, the more I would pray that I would learn everything God had for me in that experience. I kept telling my Heavenly Father that I did not want to miss one lesson or experience that He had designed for me. The same can be said for where we find ourselves today – “never waste an experience”. We truly have an opportunity as church management leaders to reassess everything we are doing. As our world is determining what is “essential” and what is “non-essential”, we can do the same.
What are some takeaways that our church has already learned and where are we going from here?
Never underestimate your congregation. God has blessed me to serve in a church where people believe in and practice “storehouse” giving. Our pastor has also ingrained into our church DNA that “the more we give out of this ministry, the more God will give in to this ministry.” Early on, we began emphasizing in all of our communications the ways that were available for people to give. Online through the church website, through your financial institution’s “bill pay” feature, mail or drop off your offerings to the church office. We have had employees in the office daily and we often go out to cars and receive the offerings in person to keep people from having to come in. The way our congregation has readily adapted to this has been miraculous. We are communicating these victories to our church family and commending them for their faithfulness regularly.
Spend money where it matters. In addition to our virtual services on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights, we are having “drive-in” church every Sunday morning at 9:30am. We are hosting “drive-thru” Wednesday night dinner pick-up. We have had a “chalk the lot” event (parking space decorating), “drive-thru” Easter egg hunt and have plans for “drive-in” bingo. Our student pastor did a virtual D-Now event with our students and their families. Make the resources available for any events like this. “Freeze” all other spending in areas where future planning is just too uncertai
What about the future? Now is a great time to “zero base” everything. All of our summer trips, retreats and mission trips have been cancelled. We will be concentrating on “in-house” events as soon as we possibly can. We will be having “spend the night at home” student camp – with activities here during the day. The cost will be 25% or less of what away camp would have been for our families. We realize and you should too that the effects of this financially for our families and conversely for us will go on for many months. Also, our culture has changed – how quickly will parents and even adults want to participate in “travel’ events. I anticipate that our budgeting process will look very different in 2021. We will be focusing on the “essentials” and capitalizing on a renewed sense of community that we are sensing from our people. We sense that our people just want to be together again and maybe all the “extras” don’t really matter – at least for the foreseeable future.
Be generous. I know this is hard given all the uncertainty but commit to maintaining your support to the missionaries, church planters and mission organizations that your church supports. Continue to give to the Cooperative Program and to the work of the JBA. Don’t just assume that the “missions” category of your budget is the first place to cut. Our goal is for that to be the last area.
Above all, remember what I said earlier, “don’t waste this experience”. My wife and I have been claiming Mark 4:39 in prayer where Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace be still”. Our prayer is that God will speak peace over the lives of everyone we love during these uncertain times but I can’t help but think if the storm had never been allowed, the disciples would never have learned of Jesus’ ability to immediately bring peace to their situation. If COVID-19 hadn’t come our way, we never would have had this opportunity to rethink everything that we are doing.
Chris Corum is the Associate Pastor of Administration and Finance at North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL.