What is happening with the review of your church’s finances to recover from any pandemic negativity?

I’m guessing you may also be tired of hearing about the pandemic and you are probably tired of church people talking about how the church should recover.

Recovering from anything is tough, whether it’s a sore toe or an addiction or the old life pre-Christian or even from bad food at a meal. People have been dealing with all these tough things for years. Until recently most people had not had to deal with such a tough thing as this pandemic.

The reason for opening this conversation like this is to help us reflect on “recover and recovery”. As a treasurer involved with the finances we have often had to recover from some form of disaster such as a bad financial year, downturns in income and extraordinary increase in expenses.

How do we normally deal with such significant events?

In the wake of significant events people generally have a review in some form – even if  informally. We review the numbers, we look back at the last time or times it happened, we ask others what they are doing or have done and so on – there is a cross reference. 

In these current circumstances many people have tended to think that we don’t have any comparable precedents or reference points.

There have been events like this in the past that church leaders have had to deal with – plagues and pandemics have occurred throughout history. Martin Luther had advice based on his experience of plague in Europe and we know it was the same for some of the early church leaders like Cyprian of Carthage. We can be encouraged by their advice. They all the highlight the priorities as prayer, pastoral care and helping with people’s practical needs.

We are reminded in the Bible, for example, in Philippians 4:19 and 1 Timothy 6:17-19 that it is God who supplies all our needs. This means we are stewards not owners or providers. So our review must start with our focus on God and He will guide our deliberations and lead us into what is next. A really good example of this in in Habakkuk – he starts with a lament calling out to God and in ch 2 God instructs Hab to write down the revelation of what he hears and sees so that all the people will know the way ahead.

One role model we have always appreciated for treasurers in times such as this is Joseph (Genesis 41), managing the finances and administration. His wisdom and insight, leadership, and how he cooperated with the Pharaoh

Our processes for recovery are spiritual and strategic.

There are significant pieces of the recovery for the attention of the treasurer and it is not all about the finances

1. Pause and Pray pray pray

One of the key starting points for us has always been, “God already knows the answer, the next steps, where we’re meant to go – so why not ask God!”. This may seem obvious for Christians, however, how many times do we jump straight into react and response mode instead of pausing?

2. Transparency

We need to be open and honest with the people of the church. Explain the situation both financial and ministry/pastoral – how are the finances and the results of the impact of the pandemic, both positive and negative. Remember some churches have increased income whilst others have drastically reduced. Explain what we are doing to recover. Such transparency grows trust and enables decisions to be shared openly amongst all the people.

3. Involve the team and where appropriate the people/congregations.

The treasurer can take the lead on the financial aspects of the recovery. It is essential that it be part of the whole church team being involved and understand the financial implications of the status as well as possible plans to recover.

4. Continue praying – a reminder that in the midst, we all pray.

Involve the people through special occasions of prayer and reflection. This is will help the people individually and the whole church as people will been encouraged by your model of how to deal with crises.

5. Treasury – work on:

a. the accounts and analytics – what has happened?

b. research – what is happening in other churches, nearby, in the denomination, across you comparable demographic

c. projections, budgets, scenarios, lessons to learn, and practices to update 

d. requires liaison with pastoral ministry. Give significant attention to the people (givers), be pastoral and caring – some are still hurting or recovering, mental health, employed and lost employment, grieving for all forms of loss.

This process is almost obvious for a treasurer. It is necessary to go through the finances in detail – each income and expense account, department and ministry. We have found that many church accounts/systems have not been setup to identify the detail that  is helpful in this way, without having to go back to the transactions. Lesson learned, so that setup and procedures are changed for the future.

In your review consider these points:

        • How is the online giving recorded and reported?
        • How are the other income items managed – rentals, hire, events?
        • Are expenses clearly identified as fixed or variable and other appropriate sub-categories? What causes variations?
        • Identify the impact on departments and ministries and review with the leaders of each

While this process maybe obvious remember that it is not the only thing.

6. Develop a plan to move ahead including monitoring processes

This includes a plan to recover the finances while including all aspects of the church life, ministry and witness. 

Will the plan be an expression of the faith of the leadership and people or just another business-type plan? 

How are you exercising faith and hope in God as you put the plan to the people and lead them forward?

Has there been transparency throughout all these processes so that the people will trust the leadership, including the treasurer?

7. Be creative

God is creative and wants us to be creative. This means new ways, changes in the old ways and expectancy in the life of the people and the church. 

How the treasurer and leaders manage this movement is encouraging for the people and a model for their own hopes to recovery from the impacts of the pandemic.

In God’s creativity is our hope for the future – for ourselves, our churches and our communities. People are hurting badly from the impacts of the pandemic and so we have a significant role to lead the way ahead.

It is time for us as treasurers to look for the best ways to recover from any disaster and especially the current pandemic negativity. 

Tell us what you have done that has enabled your church to get through the Pandemic, that you can share with others? – Put a comment below.