When churches closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they put away their offering plates.
But at the Mount Pisgah Methodist Christian Episcopal Church in Memphis, worshipers turned to Paypal, CashApp, the mail, and the church safe, where they could deposit checks or cash in person.
The church did not have online donations before the pandemic, said Rev. Willie Ward, pastor, but they rushed to make it available even as they rushed to invest in video cameras for broadcast in line of sermons.
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And today, about 50% of the church‘s donations are made through online means – and donations are down less than 10% from the year before, Ward said.
“One of the pleasant surprises is sometimes that people living outside of town were affiliated with the church, have a family member affiliated with the church, sometimes we see one-time donations from these people and every now and then. time we become anonymous giving, “Ward said.” Sometimes it’s big donations that help our income stay stable. “
Nationally, donations fell in 65% of churches in April 2020, according to the “Plate condition”Survey of 1076 main Protestant, evangelical and independent churches.
Donations are said to vary during the pandemic, with just 36% of churches saying donations had declined in August 2020.
Another 27% of churches said donations had remained stable in April 2020, up from 42% in August 2020. Only 8% said donations had increased in April 2020, up from 22% in August 2020.
The “State of the Plate” poll is published by the National Association of Evangelicals in partnership with Christianity Today.
In Memphis, at Evergreen Presbyterian Church, donations were relatively stable from the previous year.
Many people in the church are retired or have had jobs that haven’t changed much during the pandemic, Pastor Reverend Patrick Harley said. Harley has been at church for about a year.
They tried to say if anyone needs help from the neighborhood, the staff or the neighbors, we want to give some extra money and put it in a fund, ”Harley said. “I was just really proud of the people and being new to the church I didn’t really know what to expect, it was really beautiful how they did it. … It came from a very sincere place.
The church lost revenue because it was unable to rent its space to groups hosting events, Harley said, but this was equalized because they were also spending less. A paycheck protection program loan helped them continue to keep staff on the payroll.
At Real Life Ministries in Memphis, Pastor Althea Greene, pastor, expected donations to be down due to the pandemic. What really happened shocked her, she said.
Giving has increased.
The church ended 2020 with the highest amount it has ever seen in its bank account, she said.
“We always keep our heads above water but I hadn’t seen a year like this,” said Greene. “People continued to trust God during the pandemic. “
At Christmas, they first gave a bonus to all musicians and church staff, she said.
People donated through CashApp and similar programs, but she also gave the church’s checking account number so people could donate directly to the bank.
Donations have increased by more than 60% from the previous year, Greene said, allowing them to give more back to the community.
“We’re just thankful that God has continued to be faithful, that the members have continued to keep the faith, continuing to give a penny for every dollar,” said Greene. “I think it was important for the church to have visibility during the pandemic to see the church also giving, not just asking.”
At Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, donations remained similar to the previous year, media pastor Noah Sidhom said.
Bellevue has been offering online donations for several years, Sidhom said, but online donations have increased 36% during the pandemic. Some church members continued to come to church to drop off their gifts throughout the week, he said.
“Although donations have remained stable over the past year, our expenses were a bit lower due to all canceled activities,” Sidhom said. “Because of this, we were able to invest more intentionally throughout our city in working days, food distribution, dental clinics, health care appreciation, etc.”
Katherine Burgess covers county government and religion. She can be reached at [email protected], 901-529-2799 or followed on Twitter @kathsburgess.