Coronavirus Response

CARES ACT INFO:

Legal and regulatory developments for non-profits (including CARES Act info)  4/3/2020

US Dept of Treasury “Assistance for Small Businesses” (includes link to Paycheck Protection Program application)
 
 
Brothers and sisters of Tri-County Baptist Association churches,

The coronavirus pandemic has brought an unprecedented challenge to our churches, and a question that was unthinkable just a month ago: How should we, as Christians, respond to the coronavirus? In the light of all this, it’s helpful to remember what hasn’t changed:

Jesus is Lord.

The church has a mission in the world.

A missionary church examines the condition of the world where it is sent, and shares Jesus in light of that condition.

I think in these days, it would be wise for God’s churches to follow the Great Commandment: Love God and love your neighbor; and Acts 1:8: Be My witnesses. Three big questions flow out of these biblical mandates: 

One, How will we gather? (or, how will we worship?),

Two, How will we give? (how will we give to God?), and

Three, How will we go? (or how can we be “the church on mission”?)

 

GATHERING. As one pastor I spoke with said, this is a good time to temporarily “let go of normal.”

Gathering using technology. Most TCBA churches are pursuing online options for Sunday worship.  Churches that do not may find that this a good time to start. If you are a smaller church on a limited budget and you are unsure how to set this up, here are a few very simple suggestions:

  • Facebook Live. All you need is a smartphone, and internet connection, and have Facebook account. Very simple to set up and free. How-to video: https://youtu.be/aNcIFnx67ys
  • Purchase a Mevo Camera ($300-$400). This is what many of our local churches use for Livestream. You can find a link to purchase here: https://shop.mevo.com/products/mevo-plus   All you need is an internet connection, a Facebook account (to start a “Facebook Live” video), and a tripod or mic stand to set your camera on. 
  • Zoom.us. Video conferencing and meetings. Up to 100 people: $14.99/month. Up to 300 people: $19.99/month.
  • Gotomeetingcom. Video conferencing and meetings. Up to 150 people: $12/month.

Be aware that any music you live-stream may require a CCLI live-streaming license. More info: https://us.ccli.com/streaming-license-terms-of-agreement.

Your “service by technology” can include a link for people to give their offering electronically (see below). If you need any additional help, please contact our office. We would be happy to assist you!

 

GIVING. In a time of closings and public fear, many industries will be impacted financially and the local church is no different. We can help shepherd our people through this moment by offering creative ways for them to be faithful to the Lord’s call to be generous, even in troubled times.

  • Giving by Mail: If giving by check or cash is common in your congregation, consider mailing out 2-3 self-addressed, stamped envelopes to each household. It could be helpful to include a brief note explaining the need for sustaining the community and sharing plans for church life during the crisis.
  • Giving Online: Many churches have already begun shifting toward online giving via apps or donation pages on their websites. Here are four options for getting started with online giving, along with their related credit card transaction fees:
    • Generosity by Lifeway: 2.69% + $0.30 per donation fee
    • Square: 3.5% + $0.15 per donation fee
    • Givelify: 2.9% + $0.30 per donation fee
    • PayPal: 2.2% + $0.30 per donation fee
  • Giving through on-line banking. Many church members pay their bills using their bank’s on-line bill-pay feature. They can give to their churches in the same way.
  • Giving through Tri-County: If you would like to give your offering to your church electronically but your church doesn’t have on-line giving capability, you can make your donation to Tri-County Baptist Association’s website (via PayPal) and mark your donation “In care of (your church name)” and we will forward your offering to your church. https://tcsba.com/give. In addition, the Missouri Baptist Foundation has giving options for churches. Call 800-776-0747 for details.
The following information comes from the United Methodist Church website article

“10 Ideas for Church Financial Leaders Amid the COVID-19 Crisis” by Ken Sloane. https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/10-ideas-for-church-financial-leaders-amid-the-covid-19-crisis

  1. THE DIGITAL GIVING DEBATE HAS HEARD THE LAST WORD: CORONA.

If you have already set up for people to give electronically to your church, you have a head start in weathering whatever the COVID-19 storm brings. If you haven’t found a vendor and signed on, there is no time better than today. Start comparing providers, talk to other churches about their experience, and read reviews online.

If you’re not ready to make a commitment to embrace online giving options, consider setting up something to get you through this difficult time – PayPal, just one example, will offer charitable organizations an online donation service with a low fee of 2.2 percent and .30 per transaction. Some of your members may already have PayPal accounts.

  1. ENCOURAGE MEMBERS TO LOOK INTO BILLPAY

Ask your members to see if their banks offer a “BillPay” option. They can set up the church as a regular payment they make, and the bank generates an electronic check and sends it via USPS (United States Postal Service). The bank I use doesn’t charge for this, and it even covers the postage!

  1. GIVE PASSING THE PLATES A BREAK. POSITION BASKETS IN CONVENIENT PLACES.

Because of the COVID-19 virus outbreak, people need to be conscious of what they touch that has been touched by others; and in churches, that includes offering plates. During this time of heightened virus awareness, you may want to consider placing boxes or baskets (or the offering plates themselves) in convenient places, so people can leave their offerings without handling an offering plate that others have handled.

  1. COUNTERS HANDLE DIRTY DOLLARS – TAKE PRECAUTIONS

Unfortunately, offering envelopes and cash provide an effective vehicle for transmitting this very hardy virus. Provide your counters with hand sanitizer and gloves (be conscious that some people are allergic to latex) as they do their work of counting and recording. Make sure counters space themselves at a distance from one another. The image of a counter licking his or her finger before counting a stack of bills should set off alarms from your church to the CDC. Take precautions!

  1. SUNDAY GATHERINGS MAY BECOME A PROBLEM – HAVE A PLAN C

We hope that your church leaders have already discussed and put in place some steps to minimize the exposure of Sunday attendees to a highly contagious virus (see the link above). However, if your plans have not included what you will do if you are not able to open your doors for worship on Sundays, you haven’t planned far enough. Being prepared to have a worship experience via video streaming or Facebook Live (make sure you have proper licensing permissions), or through video or audio-conferencing technology to keep your congregation connected is essential.

  1. SCHEDULE GIVING REMINDERS FOR SUNDAY DELIVERY

If you are already using email for the delivery of newsletters and other church communications, it’s OK to set up a scheduled email to go out Saturday night or early Sunday morning to remind people that the need for their giving and support continues, even if the church has cut back or has had to cancel gathering and corporate worship services.

  1. BE CONSCIOUS OF THE INCOME IMPACT ON MEMBERS

For some of your members, the present Coronavirus crisis will not affect their incomes. Some will be offered the opportunity to work at home, which will be a savings opportunity. Not everyone, though, will be in that situation. Some will see their income seriously affected by the social distancing that is attempting to slow the spread of the disease. Things like traveling, going out to dinner, cutbacks in entertainment, reduced hours, or overtime all carry potential hardships for people who were already just getting by. Make sure your church is conveying this sensitivity in all its communications.

  1. OLDER MEMBERS SEEM MORE AT RISK – REACH OUT REGULARLY

We have been hearing through media accounts that older people are more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. Be sure that you are taking extra care to keep in contact with older members. Just as you develop a plan for worship alternatives, a strategy for pastoral care is important in these days. This does not have to fall totally on the pastor and staff, but laity who have the gifts can be recruited to call and check in on a list of older members on a regular basis. It’s not hard to imagine that fear of going out to even the grocery store may put some people in need of basic food supplies. Just because other programming may be affected by the virus precautions, your church needs to continue—and maybe even strengthen—these basic caring connections through this crisis.

  1. CONSIDER A CORONAVIRUS ASSISTANCE FUND

It’s a fact: in a time of hardship, people look for a place to give. Consider offering your congregation (or the community as a whole) an opportunity to provide designated giving to a Coronavirus Assistance Fund. A scarcity mindset may tell you that people will divert money they would give to your church operating budget, but this is rarely the case. Setting up such a fund will require a meeting of your finance committee to organize the fund and set guidelines; your church council may need to approve it. Both meetings could be done by phone or video conference, if necessary. You will be impressed with the generosity of people, and you will remind your members and community that you care and are ready to be in ministry no matter what comes your way!

 10. SEND MESSAGES OF HOPE, ENCOURAGEMENT, AND IMPACT

It seems clear that church life is going to be affected by this crisis. As you communicate with your congregation, be a voice of hope and encouragement – we will get through this. Knowing that one of the main reasons people give to any charitable organization is “belief in the mission,” try to celebrate in your communications that the church continues to make an impact. Tell stories of people your congregation has helped, of lives that they have nurtured and shaped by their giving. You can share stories of impact that have resulted through connectional giving – lives that have been touched across your conference and around the world, thanks to the part of their offerings that are used beyond the boundaries of your community.

 

GOING. The present crisis gives us believers a unique opportunity to witness to our great God and Savior.

  • For example, school closings mean that entire families will be affected with respect to childcare and feeding children. Contact local school officials for how your church can be a blessing in this time.
  • Emergency operation and health care workers are on the frontlines of this very different kind of battle, and need ministry as well.
  • No church should say “We can’t afford to do ministry.” Tri-County Baptist Association is committed to assist our churches financially to assist churches at this time. The Missouri Baptist Convention has committed to provide some benevolence funding to churches through their local Baptist associations as well. For more information, please contact me at phillip@tcsba.com.

Here are some very good on-line resources that help give guidance to churches as we navigate what it means to be a witness to Jesus as we love God and love our neighbor.

 

PRAY! One other thing to think about: now, more than ever, we, God’s people, need to pray. Pray for each other. Pray for our pastors. Pray for our communities. Pray for our nation. Pray for our governmental leaders and health-care professionals. And remember God’s promise:  “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
 
Here’s a prayer guide for the coronavirus age , that we encourage you to use and pass along.
 

Brothers and sisters, one day (hopefully soon), we’ll be “back to normal.” And, with God’s help, the “new normal” will be a stronger church, and stronger connections between God’s churches and the communities where He’s planted us.

I love you. Jesus loves us more. Let’s shine brightly for Him.
 
Phillip Shuford
Director of Missions, TCBA