A new poll called "State of the Plate," involving churches across the country, shows that more than six out of 10 churches have seen a decline in offerings since the coronavirus outbreak began. The poll conducted earlier this month revealed 65 percent of churches have seen giving decrease since mid-March as churches stopped holding in-person services.
Locally, it doesn't seem many churches are fitting into the nationwide survey. Many churches are continuing to hold their services on social media, such as Facebook.
Chuck Potts, pastor of Living Waters Bible Church in Roanoke, said he will continue to broadcast services until the governor decides what to do. "I want to be back in our church, but the church is the people, and what's up on Main Street is just a building," Potts said. He went on to say his congregation has stepped up to the plate, and offerings are running more than they did before they quit meeting in the building. "They are bringing their offerings by my house or mailing them in to me."
Matt Browning, pastor at Rocky Branch Baptist Church near Woodland, is conducting his services on Facebook. "We have had a great response from doing this," he said. "I have gotten messages from all over the United States of people watching our services." Browning said the offerings are where they should be and some weeks even more. "Our folks believe in giving to their church, and they will drop it by our treasurer's house or put it in the mail." Browning went on to say he is seeking guidance on when to start having services back in the church building.
At First United Methodist Church in Wedowee, Pastor Josh Hickman said he has seen a minor dip in giving but nothing major. "We have some great financial leaders in our church, and they haven't seen any significant change. We are looking at a new online giving system that we will continue to use after the crisis is over." He said their services are on Facebook, and they are getting a good response. "We're not sure when we will go back in our building, but the Bishop has advised us to suspend in-building services and gatherings at least through May 18."
At First United Methodist Church in Roanoke, Pastor Chris Martin said he hasn't seen any real change in the giving, maybe just the pattern. "Most of our members are being very faithful and mailing their offering into the church. We make it convenient for them by sending out a self-addressed stamp envelope in our weekly bulletins, so all they have to do is mail it back to us." Martin said his members have an option to give online through the church's website. He went on to say that if things get back to normal we're all going to be fine. "If we go into an extended time of recession, I think we could all see some problems," Martin said.