Half of the pastors in America say the economic downturn resulting from the response to the pandemic is hurting their church.
Forty-eight percent of Protestant pastors tell LifeWay Research that the current economy is negatively affecting their church; that includes 5% who say the impact is very negative. Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says the effect is quite real.
"Just a month or so ago on a survey, we saw that about 6% of churches have had to lay off a staff member – about 6% had had to institute some kind of pay cut or benefit decrease," he shares.
McConnell explains it usually takes the better part of a year for an economic boon or bane to show up in the offering plate, implying it's likely those numbers will get worse before they get better. But other factors can have a lot to do with a church's economic situation, such as where it's located – in a highly COVID-restricted state like California, for example, or a permissive one like Texas – or if it's willing to shrug off restrictions.
"The churches that have fallen behind last year's budget … tend to be churches that have not yet met together again in person since things closed down earlier this year for COVID," McConnell adds.
And although the LifeWay Research leader was unwilling to say if a Joe Biden or Donald Trump administration would be better for American churches, he did say churches fared particularly well under the Trump tax cuts.
"Definitely, tax policy can impact giving," he acknowledges. "I think we saw that in 2018 [when] there were a lot of people with some extra money in their pocket – and that did find its way to churches."
As for how to navigate the negative economy, McConnell says the Church, as a whole, needs to keep its eye on the ball.
"I think the best thing churches can be doing is to be doing the work of the Church itself," he tells OneNewsNow. "And that means connecting with people and sharing the love of Christ. As they do that, we expect Christ-followers to be generous."
According to that recent survey, 15% of the pastors felt the economy has had a positive effect; a very small percentage (4%) described the impact as very positive. More than a third (35%) saw no impact.