The coronavirus pandemic is threatening to claim yet another victim.
Indeed, it’s causing an economic crisis for congregations throughout the U.S. Roughly 350,000 churches and other places of worship are scrambling to meet not only the spiritual but also the material needs of their parishioners through social media and virtual services.
But that means a prime source of income, the substantial weekly donations that are gathered during services, have for the most part disappeared.
According to Market Watch, virtually all congregations from coast to coast have stopped holding in-person services due to the pandemic. Experts say that monies collected during Christian services amount to 78% of the revenue for each congregation. Less than half had set up online giving procedures, according to a 2018 survey. The authors of the survey also found that 39% of these congregations didn’t have enough funds to cover three months’ worth of expenses.
Rural congregations were generally better able to withstand a short-term loss of funds than those in cities and suburbs, according to the data collected. (For most Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu congregations, the impact of the pandemic may not be quite as severe, as giving occurs outside religious services, according to The Conversation.)
The study authors, who included David King, an ordained minister who is Assistant Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University-Perdue University Indianapolis, said they are hopeful that many congregations will survive the current crisis “bruised but not beaten.”
“We find religious leaders to be resilient, innovative and up to the task of leading their congregations and communities through uncharted waters in both matters or faith and finances,” they told The Conversation.
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