By Cheryl Patterson
Chaos in the household
The last few months have been chaotic for the Patterson household, mostly related to unexpected health issues for Wayne. This included two different five-day hospital stays followed by two weeks of dialysis due to kidney damage by the antibiotic administered to treat the infection of his prosthetic heart valve; plus, all the related follow-up medical appointments.
All of this was accompanied by tremendous anxiety and uncertainty about what the next steps would or should be, as well as the expected outcome. Then, in the middle of all that, along came the COVID-19 pandemic.
Physical distancing and other effects on the medical systems brought even more complications. When you add in the recent tornado that devastated much of Seneca, SC, (just a few miles from our house) and caused power outages and other issues across the area, life became even more complicated for so many people.
Cheryl Patterson is moderator of CBFSC, a former treasurer for CBFSC, and a member of First Baptist Church in Pendleton. Both she and her husband Wayne are retired professors of business, Cheryl from Furman University and Wayne from Clemson University. They live in Clemson.
Chaos with church finances
Not only have individual lives been affected; church life has been tremendously affected by the pandemic. Like our church, FBC Pendleton, many churches have implemented virtual “gatherings” of various types. This has been very helpful for those who have been able to join the virtual activities. It has helped many of us to maintain contact and to share what is going on in our lives, as well as continuing to participate, although in a new manner, in many of the various aspects of our church family life.
However, one aspect of church life that has suffered is the inflow of financial offerings. There are many reasons for this, stemming not only from the impact of closings and business restrictions on many people’s income. In my opinion, the disruption in routine and the uncertainty about how long all the disruptions will last has likely caused many people to be more cautious in the area of financial generosity.
The disruption in routine and the uncertainty about how long all the disruptions will last has likely caused many people to be more cautious in the area of financial generosity.
Questions we should ask (as yet unanswered)
There are a multitude of unanswered questions regarding the pandemic. Let’s focus on a few questions related to church finances. Virtual discussions of our church’s financial situation have raised several questions. The following are some examples of those questions.
- Just what is our current financial situation? That is, how much have our revenues declined over the last couple of months?
- What is the best way to remind and encourage people to continue their practice of financial generosity if they are able?
- How can we continue to provide service to those in our community who need assistance while still meeting our own financial obligations?
- Should we study our Annual Ministry Plan (Budget) and consider how we might revise it by identifying areas where we might adjust expected spending?
- Via electronic communication we have already encouraged those who are used to giving on-line to continue to do so. In addition, those who have typically given through the offering plate have been encouraged to give on line or to mail their offering to the church office.
- One question to consider is “Should the church leadership compose a letter to all of the church family commending them for their faithfulness and generosity, reminding them of ways in which our church family serves and helps those in our community and beyond? Should we ask them to continue supporting our demonstration of God’s love through monetary gifts?
What scripture says
As I consider these questions and others, I am reminded of several scripture references that speak to me about such issues. In Acts 20:35, as Paul is getting ready to board a ship headed toward Jerusalem and an unknown future, he tells the Ephesian elders that Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
In James 2, the author tells his audience several times that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
In 2 Corinthians 9 Paul discusses the topic of generosity as a way not only to serve others; but also as an expression of thanks for what God has done for us. So, how do we as a church live out these ideas and others in God’s Word during one of the most puzzling, frightening and trying times in history?
This question brings to mind another scripture reference: Proverbs 3:5-6 which says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path.”As individuals and as a church we must focus on God, seek and listen to his direction, and trust that he will be with us; no matter what we face. Thanks be to God.