Pastors raise concerns as some churches see drop in giving, reports say

In this file photo, a collection plate containing envelopes specifically for the victims of hurricane Katrina is passed during church service, at the Jersey Baptist Church in Pataskala, Ohio, Sept. 4, 2005. | AP Images/Paul Vernon)

Pastors across the United States are finding it difficult to pay bills and salaries, according to reports, and a new survey suggests that 65 percent of churches have seen a decline in giving since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

A new “State of the Plate” poll, released by the National Association of Evangelicals  and involved more than 1,000 churches across all 50 states, shows that more than six out of 10 churches have seen a decline in offerings since mid-March.

In the survey, 34 percent of churches reported that giving had fallen by 10-20 percent or more; 22 percent reported a decline of 30-50 percent or more; 9 percent said they’d seen a drop of 75 percent or more.

And 27 percent reported that offerings were steady, and 8 percent reported giving had increased.

“Having been a pastor myself, with three children and a wife who needed major medical treatments, I understand the financial struggle so many pastors and their families face and the tremendous difference it makes when a congregation shows their pastor they are there for them all the way,” Brian Kluth, who originally launched the State of the Plate research following the 2008 financial crisis, was quoted as saying in the survey.

J. Artie Stuckey, the pastor of a 65-member evangelical church in Mississippi, Restoration Baptist, has lost more than 50 percent of its weekly offerings, according to The Washington Post.

“I made a commitment to God, to my people. We’ve been teaching and preaching faith. Anyone can be a leader, but if you’re a faith leader, what do we do?” he was quoted as saying. “Do we fold, or do we become a living example of what we’ve preached for so many years?”

“This is much worse than the [Great] Recession was,” Kluth told The Washington Times. “This is more across the board and deeper.”

Kluth is also the national spokesperson for the NAE’s annual Bless Your Pastor campaign, which encourages congregations to “show and share God’s love” for pastors and church staff. The NAE says preparations are on for the campaign’s 2020 launch.

While other reports also point to a decline in weekly offerings in churches, it’s not clear if the NAE’s survey verified all the participants who filled out the questionnaire claiming to be pastors.

Patrick Markey, executive director of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, told The Washington Post that about 8,000 parishes applied for aid made available by the Small Business Administration to help with paying salaries. About 20 percent of them got federal aid.

The Archdiocese of New York has said its cash donations have gone down to 50 percent, and the Jewish Federations of North America reported last month its groups will need at least $650 million in donations to continue, according to The Washington Times.

However, the bigger concern is the longer-term financial crisis that is coming, Markey warned.

President Trump on Friday signed a $484 billion bill, which sets aside $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure that small businesses can continue to pay employees and cover costs during this global health crisis.

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