Over $150,000 was raised to help churches struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic during a charity simulcast event Friday co-sponsored by Right Now Media that featured Christian leaders, celebrities and athletes.
The Churches Helping Churches Challenge announced Monday that its May 15 benefit simulcast drew over 258,000 viewers and raised $153,187 from 716 donors.
Christian artists Lecrae, Lauren Daigle, Kirk Franklin, Toby Mac and the band for King and Country were among those who performed at the benefit event.
The event was also attended by St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, retired longtime NFL tight end Benjamin Watson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Sam Acho, retired pro-bowl linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, as well as Fox Sports Radio host Chris Broussard and several Christian leaders.
“It has been great to see so many brothers and sisters in Christ come together to bear each other’s burden and be the church,” said Watson, a spokesperson for the challenge who announced his retirement from the NFL earlier this year.
“I want to thank the hundreds of donors that stepped up to support smaller at-risk churches, and now we want to urge Christians to keep this spirit of reconciliation going. As the impact of the pandemic will be felt for months, it’s important that Christians and churches look for ways to support congregations that are hurting in their cities.”
The Churches Helping Churches Challenge was launched in April by a coalition of Christian groups led by the AND Campaign as a fundraising opportunity to encourage financially stable churches across the U.S. to support churches at risk of closing due to economic struggles.
So far, the initiative has raised over $649,620 from 1,371 individuals and ministries for its COVID-19 Church Relief Fund.
The COVID-19 Relief Fund was created to award $3,000 grants to assist congregations in need financially during the pandemic. The entirety of the funds are “going directly to churches,” organizers assure.
The initial goal was to raise $500,000 by the end of April. So far, over 121 churches have received the grants. According to the campaign, an additional 95 churches will be able to receive grants from the fund. In total, 1,325 churches applied for assistance from the COVID-19 Church Relief Fund.
“We have seen that low-income Americans, especially in urban centers, have been more likely to lose their job during this coronavirus economic shutdown,” AND Campaign President Justin Giboney said in a statement.
“This has greatly impacted the small churches in these communities and many of them could be forced to close. When we first thought of this initiative, we could’ve never imagined that this much money could be raised to help so many churches. It’s amazing to watch, and I look forward to seeing this challenge continue with more affluent ministries across the U.S. seeking to serve at-risk churches.”
One church that has received a grant from the challenge is Redemption Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
“COVID-19 has had a great impact on not just our church but for the community-at-large. Employees have lost their jobs. Employers have become unemployed. It resulted in our tithes and offerings decreasing between 45% and 50% on a weekly basis,” Executive Pastor Samantha Westbrook said in a video.
“That is why we are so grateful for Churches Helping Churches. The grant has allowed us to be able to pay our staff and portion of their salary as well as aid an underserved and undiscussed demographic: single fathers.”
According to the challenge organizers, the Churches Helping Churches challenge was launched out of a “spirit of Gospel-focused racial reconciliation" since most of the churches at-risk of closing are “minority and immigrant congregations” in urban communities.
In a press release, challenge organizers announced that at the end of May, the initiative will transition “from a national campaign to empowering local ministries to support at-risk churches as the ramifications of COVID-19 will be felt for months to come.”
Throughout the end of May, the COVID-19 Relief Fund will award the remainder of its funds to churches.
The COVID-19 Relief Fund is administered by the National Christian Foundation. Challenge organizers say the fund will continue to accept donations through the end of May. Churches that are not able to receive assistance from the fund will be referred to larger ministries in their cities that might be able to assist.
Challenge organizers advise larger ministries that want to learn more about at-risk churches in their area to contact challenge organizers at ChurchRelief.org.
“While there are many examples of division around us, the Church can tell a different story because Jesus is our example and leader,” said evangelist Nick Hall, founder of Pulse and a visionary for the Together 2020 gathering in Washington, D.C.